Daylilies Are Perfect for New Gardeners

Red petals and a yellow throat make this daylily stunning.

Daylilies are Nature’s hardy plant. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an easier, less fussy herbaceous perennial anywhere.

Not only will they grow in a variety of soils and light conditions, they seem to thrive in those hot, dry, dusty corners of your yard where little else wants to grow.

Daylilies come in a wide range of colors, patterns, heights, and petal textures. They easily fit into any garden design scheme.

With a bit of planning and a tiny bit of maintenance, you can have lilies blooming from mid-May through September.

Best of all, after a few years you’ll be able to divide the clumps and make more plants for free.

Daylilies Actually Aren’t Lilies

A peach colored daylily has petals with ruffled edges.

Daylilies are in the genus Hemerocallis and not considered lilies which are Liliaceae.

They are more closely related to asparagus, lily-of-the-valley, and onions. All of these herbaceous perennials flower on leafless stems called scapes. The scapes grow from a cluster of basal leaves.

Daylilies sure do look like lilies, though.

An ivory colored bloom shows off a pollen laden stamen.

These plants originated in Asia, and it is believed that they were brought to Europe on silk routes. From Europe, travelers brought daylilies to North America.

Roots and Rhizomes

A yellow throated daylily with salmon streaked petals.

One reason that daylilies are so hardy has to do with their roots.

If you dig up a clump of daylilies, you will see what appear to be swollen roots attached to the foliage at the base of the plant.

These roots can look so thick that they almost resemble bulbs. Many are, in fact, rhizomes.

It is thanks to this vigorous root structure that daylilies can survive in dry conditions and poor soils. The rhizomes store nutrients and water that can keep the plants healthy during drought conditions.

Also thanks to these roots, daylilies are wonderful plants for hillsides or banks to help prevent erosion.

Daylily Varieties

There are so many varieties of daylilies, thanks to amateur and professional enthusiasts.

A deep maroon daylily flowers in late July.

Colors range from soft ivory to lemon yellow to deep gold, from peachy pink to maroon, and lavender shades.

Heights vary, so do flower sizes and bloom times. The one thing all varieties of daylilies have in common is that each bloom lasts only a few days. Now you know how these plants earned their name!

The Stella d'Oro daylily is named for its deep gold color.

I’ve acquired varieties through purchase from fundraising sales and specialty farms as well as from big box stores and garden centers. But the best way to get some plants is from a friend.

You can plant daylilies any time throughout the growing season in your area, just like many plants that grow from bulbs or rhizomes. The only caveat for timing is that the flower buds are somewhat fragile and if you don’t want to lose blooms this season it’s best to wait to move plants until they are finished flowering.

Daylily Companions

Daylilies make great border plants and because they come in such a range of colors you can plant them with many other perennials.

One of my favorite combinations is daylily Stella d’Oro and English lavender.

Purple lavender and gold daylilies make a striking border in front of a fence.

Daylilies also look great with blooming mints and hostas, and have similar adaptability to harsh conditions.

Peach colored daylilies are shirted by white edged hosta leaves.

Yearly Maintenance

You won’t have much maintenance to do for your plants.

I usually just cut the scapes after all of the buds are finished blooming and the stems turn brown. You can also pull out any brown leaves at this time.

After hard frost in fall or early spring is a good time to pull out the dead leaves. They will have turned brown and dry. If you wait until spring, do this early enough that you don’t damage new growth.

Dividing and Transplanting Daylilies

If you decide to dig up and divide your daylilies, be prepared to use a sturdy, full size garden shovel. You will not be able to dig up these sturdy plants with a hand trowel. You will also need the long handle of the shovel for leverage because the roots won’t want to let go.

Red lilies grown into large stands that may require division.

A sharp, serrated knife is also handy for dividing the root clumps. These are available from garden supply stores.

And if your daylily clumps have gotten large, you will need a wheelbarrow to move your divisions.

They Taste Good, Too

A chartreuse throated lavender petaled daylily reflects the setting sunshine.

Daylilies are edible, and you may see daylily flowers or buds on the menu at specialty markets and cafes.

Unfortunately, they are also a favorite food of deer and rabbits.

So be prepared to protect your daylilies in areas where foraging animal populations are dense.

Otherwise, you’ll find that daylilies are one of the easiest and prettiest garden plants around.

Author: A. JoAnn

Here is where I share the beauty I find in everyday life; and the humor, too!