Daylilies are one of the most popular garden perennials. Over 32,000 varieties of daylilies are registered, and over 12,000 varieties are sold by commercial nurseries. The scientific name for daylily is Hemerocallis Hemerocallis means "beautiful for a day" in Greek. The name accurately describes the individual flowers and their one day bloom period.
Daylilies are available in three types: diploid, tetraploid, and miniature. Daylilies normally have 22 chromosomes and are referred to as diploid (2n). This type produces 3-to 6-inch flowers in softer colors than tetraploid types. Tetraploid (4n) varieties have double the number of chromosomes or 44. Tetraploid varieties are often bigger plants with larger flowers than diploids. Most varieties with ruffled or frilled petals and bold colors are tetraploid. Miniatures are varieties with flowers less than 3 inches in diameter.
The flowers of the daylily are borne above clumps of grass-like leaves. These leaves are 1 to 2 feet long and 1/2 to 1 inch wide. Flowers are borne on leafless stems called scapes. The flowers are often fragrant and appear in every color except true white and true blue. Flower shapes vary from trumpet-shaped to star-shaped to triangular. Most blooms only last one day, but plants produce a succession of flowers during their bloom period. Early flowering varieties bloom in late spring to early summer. The greatest number of varieties bloom from early to mid summer. A third group blooms late summer to frost. Some varieties even rebloom. By selecting varieties with varying bloom times, gardeners can have daylilies blooming from late spring until frost.
Daylilies can be propagated in two ways. The first is by seed. Seed require a moist-chilling treatment, or stratification, for successful germination. Stratification can be achieved by burying the seeds in a lightly moistened medium and placing them in the refrigerator for 6 weeks. After stratification, daylily seeds germinate in 3 to 7 weeks with a medium temperature of 60 to 70 F. Daylilies propagated by seed will not be identical to the parent.
Daylilies are most commonly propagated by division. Divide the clumps in spring or late summer when the plants are not actively flowering. Separate each plant into rooted segments. Each segment should have 3 shoots. Set the plants in their new homes so that the crown is about one inch below the soil surface. The crown of the plant is located where the roots and foliage meet. Plants should be spaced at least 2 feet apart.
Daylilies are easy to grow and require little care. The plants need full sun or partial shade. Pastel colored varieties should be placed in part shade as their blooms tend to fade in full sun. Daylilies prefer a well-drained soil with abundant organic matter and moderate fertility. If the plants are given too much fertilizer, rank growth and poor flowering will result. In late fall or early spring, remove dead foliage and debris from the plants. Throughout the season, remove damaged or yellow foliage and spent blooms. Daylilies have no serious insects or disease so spraying is usually not useful or needed.
In addition to their landscape uses, daylily leaves and flowers are also edible. Edible materials should be gathered from only those plants that have not been sprayed with any pesticides. Three-to five-inch-long young foliage can be simmered or stir-fried. Flower buds and blossoms can also be eaten at any stage of growth. The tight buds can be used in salads, boiled, pickled, or stir-fried. All stages of bloom from half-open to day-old can also be eaten deep-fried with a light batter. Petals can be eaten raw right off the plant.
Some common varieties are listed below:
|Baja||Red w/green throat||26||Late June-Mid July|
|Bitsy||Buttercup yellow||14-18||Late June, repeat|
|Buttercurls||Ruffled lemon yellow||26||Mid July|
|Black-eyed Stella||Yellow w/dark eye||15||Late June, repeat|
|Catherine Woodbury||Pale pink w/yellow throat||30||Mid-Late Summer|
|Cherry Cheeks||Rose pink w/green yellow||24-28||Mid-Late Season|
|Children's Festival||Peachy apricot||20-24||July, some repeat|
|Cinnamon Glow||Cinnamon apricot, ruffled||20-24||Late June-Mid July|
|Eenie Weenie||Lt. Yellow w/green throat||8-10||Late June|
|Elfin Stella||Yellow w/green throat||10-12||Late June, repeat|
|Fairy Tale Pink||Pastel pink, ruffled||24||Mid July|
|Happy Returns||Yellow||15-18||Late June, repeat|
|Hey There||Crimson w/golden throat||20-26||Mid July|
|How About That||Peachy pink w/yellow throat||20-26||Mid July|
|Hyperion||Lemon yellow, fragrant||40||Mid July|
|Ice Carnival||Near white||28||Late June-Mid July|
|James Marsh||Scarlet outlined in cream||28||Early to Mid July|
|Little Business||Rose red w/green throat||14-16||Late June-July|
|Little Grapette||Purple w/yellow throat||12-14||Late June-July, repeat|
|Mary Todd||Golden yellow||24||Early June|
|Mini Pearl||Blush pink||16||Early-Mid July|
|Mini Stella||Yellow||12||Late June, repeat|
|Pardon Me||Wine red w/yellow throat||18||July, repeat|
|Persian Shrine||Plum w/yellow throat||24-28||Early Summer|
|Purple Water||Plum w/yellow throat||24-30||Summer|
|Red Rum||Scarlet w/yellow throat||18-24||Mid Season, repeat|
|Ruffled Apricot||Orange apricot w/gold throat||28-30||Summer, repeat|
|Stella de Oro||Gold, fragrant||18||Late June, repeat|
|Yellow Lollipop||Ruffled yellow w/green throat||12||July, repeat|
This article originally appeared in the July 17, 1998 issue, pp. 97-98.