Daylilies have been a staple in gardens for hundreds of years. From the old-fashioned, orange ditch lily and simple yellow daylily have emerged thousands of hybrid varieties with a diverse mix of colors and bloom sizes. These beautiful flowers are only open for one day, but with proper care, a plant can produce an abundance of blooms for months of enjoyment.
This clump-forming perennial is an easy-care plant that does best in full sun but will tolerate light shade. Once established, daylilies are fairly drought-tolerant but will perform better with ample moisture and fertilization. Leaves are grass-like, and dwarf varieties are often mistaken for ornamental grass, until they begin to bloom.
Daylilies can be planted almost year-round, but spring and fall planting is easier on both the plant and gardener. Daylily plants are tough and will grow in a wide range of soil types, but they prefer a well-drained, organic soil. Not all daylily plants are the same. There are dwarf varieties, standards and large types. Size can vary from 10 inches tall and wide to over 60 inches tall and wide. Individual flowers may be only a few inches across or up to 12 inches or more. Flowers can be single or double, a solid color or a mix of colors, with shades of yellow, orange, red, pink and purple. Flowers may have wide or narrow petals, ruffled or smooth. Know the mature size of the variety you are purchasing to avoid overcrowding.
Standard daylilies usually bloom for a month or longer. Many newer varieties are reblooming and, if spent flowers are removed (deadheaded), they can continue to bloom for months. One of the first reblooming varieties was Stella de Oro, a compact, yellow-flowering daylily, which remains extremely popular. If a daylily is not blooming, it’s probably not getting enough sunlight, or it is overcrowded. Daylily plants typically need to be divided every three to five years. Dividing plants can be done by digging down and removing side shoots or digging up the entire clump and separating, using a sharp knife or shovel to cut through the clump. Replant divisions or share with friends.
Daylilies can be purchased already growing in containers at garden centers or bare root if ordered online. Bare root plants usually feature a crown and dormant roots, packed in compost or peat moss to keep them moist during transit. Bare root plants should be planted in soil as quickly as possible once received. If you are undecided about where to plant them, pot them up in a container for a transition period.
When planting bare root daylilies, dig planting holes a bit wider than deep, and make a cone of soil or mound in the center. Spread roots out on the mound, keeping the plant’s crown as close to the soil surface as possible (but no deeper than 1 inch). If you bury the crown, the plant can rot.
If planting container-grown daylilies, plant at the depth they are currently growing in the container. It often helps to cut the roots around the perimeter at planting. Plants that have been in containers for any length of time can get root-bound, and lightly cutting the roots will help them reestablish after planting.
While daylilies are not heavy feeders, broadcast fertilizer at planting, and fertilize annually in the spring when active growth begins. Daylilies grow rapidly on their own, and too much fertilization may lead to overcrowding.
Daylilies are low-maintenance, versatile and attractive perennials, which can be planted as accent plants or mass planted on slopes to help hold soil. While dormant in the winter, they are quick to rebound in the spring. With so many to choose from, if you have a sunny garden, there is a daylily for you.