Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 2
   April 2011
 
   The Carefree Gardener's Guide to Daylilies
 


  Hemerocallis 'Zona Rosa'
 
Hemerocallis 'Zona Rosa'

Daylilies have many favorable qualities that endear them to gardeners. They're hardy, easy to grow and require little care. They're also stunningly beautiful, available in various shapes and many colors ranging from creams and pretty pastels to brilliant oranges and crimsons. With minimal care, they will survive in a garden for years.

To call them daylilies is a bit of a contradiction; they are not true lilies. In fact, they belong to the family Hemerocallis, a Greek word meaning day (hemere) and beauty (kallos). They are native to Asia, where they were originally used for food and medicinal purposes. Written records of the plant date back as far as Confucius, who died in 479 BC.

Each daylily flower lasts just a day, hence, the name. Fortunately, each plant provides multiple stems with many flower buds, so each clump will bloom for weeks.

Varieties
When less-experienced gardeners think of daylilies, they may think solely of the old-fashioned, long-stemmed, orange-flowered type commonly known as tiger daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) that grows along roadsides. Given its fast-spreading, somewhat invasive nature, I consider this type less than ideal for the garden.

  Hemerocallis 'Watchyl Dancing Spider'
 
Hemerocallis 'Watchyl Dancing Spider'

There are thousands of non-invasive, registered cultivars available. They range in price significantly, with the newer varieties usually costing more. Every year, novel plants are introduced, including cultivars with larger blooms, frillier edges, bolder colors and longer continuous-blooming times. Early-, middle- and later-blooming types are available. There are singles, doubles and even spider types with dangling, leggy petals.

With so many cultivars in existence, the names are often playful and creative. Jack Kent, a commercial grower and hybridizer in the Niagara region in southern Ontario, Canada (Canadian zone 6), has been growing daylilies for nearly two decades. His recent introductions include 'Biker Chick', a purple daylily with a dark eye and citron throat, and 'I Wanna Be a Cowboy', an intense yellow bloom with a bold red eye or center.

 
 
           
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