Daylilies are just the ticket if you want a perennial that's hardy, easy-care, and lavish with color in midsummer.
With thousands of named cultivars, you'll find it hard to choose just one. Color selection ranges from nearly white to yellow, pink, red, lavender, purple, and dark maroon. The trumpet-shaped blooms appear when there's a shortage of color in the garden--after spring-flowering plants are finished and before late summer perennials parade their colors. The sword-shaped foliage is attractive all summer. (Pictured here: ‘Chorus Line', a winner of the All-American Daylily Selection Council.)
Common name: Daylily
Botanical name: Hemerocallis spp.
Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Zones: 3 to 10, depending on species
Height: 6 to 42 inches, depending on species
Sun: Most daylilies do best in sun to light shade. In heavily shaded spots, they flower less vigorously. Most of the newest cultivars do best in full sun.
Soil: Moist, well-drained soil.
Moisture: Daylilies like consistent moisture for top performance. Excessively dry soil reduces flowering.
- Mulch: Apply a thin layer of compost or shredded leaves for weed control, if desired.
- Pruning: Deadhead spent flowers. Cut back foliage and seed heads in fall or early spring.
- Fertilizer: In spring, apply a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) every two to three weeks.
- Sow seeds in containers in fall or spring.
- Divide daylilies in spring or autumn, except evergreen cultivars, which should be divided only in spring.
Pests and diseases
- Daylily rust causes rusty-looking spots and yellowing on leaves and bloomstalks. Fortunately, it doesn't affect the roots or crown of the plant, and it doesn't spread to other perennials. Rust appears most frequently when there's high humidity, poor air circulation, and nighttime overhead watering. Some cultivars are more susceptible than others, and it's less of a problem in colder regions. Remove rust-infested foliage to encourage new, healthy foliage, or treat infected plants with a fungicide labeled for rust prevention.
- Crown rot may occur in high humidity and when temperatures exceed 90°F.
- Aphids, spider mites, and thrips may attack daylilies.
- The botanical name Hemerocallis means "beauty for a day." Each flower lasts for just one day, but new buds open each day and provide vivid color for weeks.
- Newer cultivars flower in early or late summer, extending the bloom time of the plant.
- A few cultivars start blooming in the afternoon and stay open into the evening.
- There are both single and double-flowered daylilies, and a few cultivars have evergreen foliage.
- Tetraploid daylilies have an extra chromosome that gives the blooms richer color and sturdier petals.
- To keep plants healthy and blooming well, divide every three to four years.
- Dwarf cultivars are attractive in containers.
- Daylilies thrive in low-maintenance areas and help prevent erosion on banks and hills.
- ‘Bela Lugosi' is a newer cultivar noteworthy for its deep purple, ruffled flowers and contrasting yellow and green throat. The 5- to 6-inch blooms appear in early to midsummer. The plant grows 30 to 33 inches tall and is hardy in Zones 3 to 9.
- ‘El Desperado' has soft yellow petals rimmed and centered with deep maroon. Considered one of the best daylilies from Holland, it grows 28 inches high. Hardy in Zones 3 to 9.
- ‘Garnet Slippers' has stunning ruby-red blooms with a tiny green throat. The 6½-inch blooms appear in midsummer on 28-inch plants. Hardy in Zones 3 to 10.
- ‘Stella d'Oro' is a smaller daylily reaching 18 to 24 inches tall. Its 2½-inch blooms are one of the earliest to open in spring, and it continues to flower through summer. Extremely durable in the perennial bed, it's hardy in Zones 3 to 9.
- ‘Strawberry Candy' is an award-winning daylily (the Stout Medal, 1998) with a rose-red eye and yellow throat. It provides color through the summer, blooming first in June and July and again in August. The foliage is semi-evergreen and the plant reaches 26 inches tall. Hardy in Zones 3 to 9.
All in the family
- Daylilies are from the same family as the Oriental and Asiatic lilies, and while their flowers look similar, their foliage does not. The arching, straplike daylily foliage is 30 to 48 inches long, while lily foliage is arranged in whorls, spirals, or alternately up the flower stem. Some familiar lilies include the American turkscap lily (L. superbum), Madonna lily (L. candidum), and martagon lily (L. martagon), also called turkscap lily. The garden tiger lily is the Oriental species L. lancifolium, and the white trumpet lily (L. longiflorum) from Japan includes the Easter lily, the popular greenhouse lily.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of All-American Daylilies.