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Dazzling Summer Color is Easy - With Daylilies!

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Dazzling Summer Color is Easy - With Daylilies!

Daylilies - Dazzling and Easy Care

Daylilies are among the most popular and easiest perennial plants to grow. Abundant blooms in a wide array of colors and forms fill the summer garden with color with such little care, it can be tempting to take daylilies utterly for granted.  Let's take a good look at why daylilies are considered the "perfect perennial" and why your garden should include these easy bloomers.

Daylilies bloom in a wide range of colors

The botanical name for daylily is Hemerocallis. From two Greek words meaning Beauty and Day, the scientific term for daylily can be translated as "beauty for a day". While it is true that a single daylily bloom lasts for just 1 cycle around the sun, the plants pack many blooms per stem, and many blooming stems per season to each daylily plant for an extended time of beautiful blooms in the garden.

Daylily Autumn Red

Native to Asia, daylilies originally bloomed in just a few shades of yellow, orange or a dull rust color. Extensive hybridization has led to a vast kaleidoscope of colors,  ranging from a nearly pure white, through pastels, to true red, vivid purple and nearly true blue. Daylily flower forms have also been developed and expanded to include double form flowers, elongated, narrowed “spidery” petals, triangular, circular, star, flat , trumpet and much more.

Are Daylilies Invasive? Not Anymore!

Daylilies are not true lilies, this is the common name for hemerocallis plants. Another common name is "ditch lily" and refers to the original hemerocallis fulva plants brought to America in the 1790s. Vigorous growth and an abundance of colonizing 12-inch roots caused these plants to escape the confines of the garden and naturalize in any location, often filling the ditches beside roads. These hemerocallis fulva have been identified as invasive plants.

Hemerocallis Fulva - an invasive daylily identification

Hybrid daylilies purchased online, at garden centers or nurseries are all clump forming, seed setting plants that will not become invasive. Most daylilies grown in gardens are not going to become invasive. If your friend offers to share some daylilies from their garden, and the flowers are any color but orange, you can plant them with confidence.  Most orange blooming daylilies are safe, too, but get a determination before adding it to your garden if you do not know its name. The orange daylily image above is the invasive hemerocallis fulva.

Daylily the Perfect Perennial

The American Hemerocallis Society describes daylilies as "the perfect perennial", and lists these reasons for this honor:

  • Daylilies bloom in a wide array of colors and forms
  • Daylilies thrive in a wide range of climates and conditions
  • Daylilies are well suited to a wide range of planting conditions
  • Daylilies are drought tolerant once established, but can handle plentiful rain
  • Daylilies are relatively free of pests and disease
  • Daylily varieties bloom from late spring into autumn.

From winter in Wisconsin to summer in Florida, daylilies thrive in an extraordinary range of climates and conditions, with little care. 

Should I Plant Daylilies in My Garden?

While it is nice to know how great a plant is for gardeners in other climates, to add it to your garden, you need to know the benefits it will bring to you. With daylilies, begin this evaluation at the roots.

hillside of daylilies great for erosion control

Daylilies form a network of fine roots in addition to thick, tuberous roots that embrace the surrounding soil matrix, and resists soil erosion. Daylilies are a perfect choice to plant on an embankment to hold it in place. This network of roots also forms half of the weed barrier a well grown daylily provides. Weed seeds and roots have a hard time rooting in a bed of established daylilies. Once established, this network of roots keeps the plant healthy even without regular irrigation.

The fountain of slim, sword shaped leaves remains lush and green from spring through fall, with some evergreen varieties available.  These leaves also help to prevent weeds from establishing among daylilies.

The many blooms of daylily plants are attractive to butterflies and bees, and add color and sometimes fragrance to the summer garden with very little care.

Easy care color for summer, drought tolerant, weed resistant and soil erosion resistant - if these qualities appeal to you - plant daylilies!

How to Plant Daylilies

Daylily Inwood Daylilies are easy to plant and grow to beautiful results.  Plant your daylilies where they will receive 6+ hours of direct sun for the best bloom production.  

Be sure the soil where you plant your daylilies is well-drained. Work in some organic matter into the soil, like compost, worm castings, fully dried out leaves or grass clippings.

Plant with the junction between the roots and the top growth just at the soil line, spreading the roots out and down.



Water your newly planted daylilies deeply. Once established, your daylilies will be impressively drought tolerant. 

Daylilies may be planted in spring or fall, and in mild climates in summer.  If your climate is bitterly cold in winter, be sure to plant your daylilies a full size weeks prior to your first hard ground freeze.  

Companion Plants for Daylilies

Daylilies are beautiful as specimen plants, container plants, or grouped en masse for a dazzling display along a walk way, fence or driveway. Daylilies also grow beautifully planted with other sun-loving, flowering perennials like butterfly bushes, echinacea, rudbeckia, liatris, salvia, phlox, lavender, Asiatic lilies, coreopsis, baby's breath, yarrow, hardy geraniums, carpet roses, dwarf cannas and more. 

Special Use Daylilies

Daylily rushing delightThere are more than 70,000 daylily varieties in cultivation, ranging in price from free to hundreds of dollars per individual bare root plant! How can you narrow down the list to make your choice? We'll leave the high price tags to the cutting edge new varieties and the hybridizing enthusiasts. But that still leaves a lot to choose from! As valuable as daylilies are in the garden, making your selection might be easier if you look for daylilies with additional, special characteristics.

Fragrant Daylilies - A small sub-set of daylilies produce a lovely, floral scent that is a welcome addition to any garden.

Daylilies grow and bloom in different sizes, from just 12 inches to over 5 feet tall! Select dwarf daylilies (20" and under) for containers, or to grow and bloom in front of larger daylilies and perennials to ensure a full display.

Stella de Oro was the first "ever blooming" daylily ever released, in the 1970s. An instant hit, Stella De Oro is still the single most popular daylily in cultivation. Wide, golden yellow blooms are produced in abundance on the dwarf, reblooming plant. Reblooming daylilies can produce hundreds and hundreds of blooms in a single summer with some careful deadheading.

Deadheading Your Daylilies for More Blooms

Diagram of daylily bloom for dead heading

To extend the blooms in your garden, plant reblooming or everblooming daylily varieties, and dead head them. Dead heading is a way of grooming your daylily plants to keep them looking their best and to stimulate more bloom production. Like dead heading any other plant, you want to remove spent blooms to remove the seed producing part of the plant, so it feels the need to produce more blooms for reproduction. In the case of daylilies, it is important to remove the swollen section just below the spent bloom, before it juoins to the stem. This is the seed-producing ovary of the daylily plant. Snap the spent bloom with the ovary using your fingers, or a sharp pair of pruning shears. This keeps your daylily plants looking their best, and producing the most blooms.

If you are new to daylilies, this will give you all you need to grow and enjoy these beautiful plants in your garden. But if you are a daylily enthusiast, there is so much more to learn! The Daylily forum on Garden Web is an excellent resource created by gardeners for gardeners, to explore, share and discover the many wonders of daylilies.

Will you be planting daylilies in your garden? I would love to learn what you think!  Please take a moment to leave a comment, or let me know if you have questions!

Happy gardening!

All about growing daylilies 

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  • Kathleen McCarthy
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