Lee Valley & Veritas

Gardening Newsletter
  Volume 10, Issue 8 - August 2015  
Easy-Growing Daylilies
‘Strawberry Candy’ daylily
One of the most popular daylilies, 'Strawberry Candy'
First things first, daylilies are not considered true lilies. They belong to the genus Hemerocallis, from the Greek meaning "beautiful for a day"; each blossom typically lasts only that long. In France, they are called belle d'un jour. Fortunately, every plant produces many buds, so blooming can be extended for 30 to 40 days. Some older established clumps might produce as many as 500 flowers in a season. Careful selection will allow the aficionado to have flowers throughout the growing months. And what an assortment there is to choose from!

The American Hemerocallis Society has registered more than 79,000 varieties of hybrid daylilies. They come in colors ranging from creamy white to purple, lavender, yellow, pink, coral, red, orange and almost black; there are also various combinations of these colors. Daylily heights range from approximately 18" to more than 5'. Blooming times vary from early in the season to mid-season to late-season, depending on the choice of cultivars and the plant-hardiness zone you live in. Singles, doubles, miniatures and spiders are some of the common forms.
‘Winter Treasure’ daylily
Not many could deny the stunning beauty of the ‘Winter Treasure’ daylily.
To prepare the soil for planting, add compost, peat moss, well-rotted manure or other organic matter and mix deeply at the site. Dig a hole large enough to spread the roots without crowding them. Make a mound in the center of the hole and place the plant in the mound. The crown (the part where the roots and stem meet) should be no more than 1" below ground level. Water thoroughly. Daylilies grow best in full sunlight, although they can deal with partial shade. While they are drought tolerant, most flower best with adequate water and fertilizer.

Good grooming is essential. Clip stalks after flowering and dead-head (remove spent blossoms) to ensure an attractive appearance for the entire season. If your daylilies are not flowering well or if the clump is too large, they can be separated in the fall or spring. Make sure to leave each division with at least three stems before replanting. In colder zones, late-fall planting will not give the plant enough time to become established before the first frost.

Daylilies are ideal for the creative amateur who longs to hybridize. It's relatively easy to transfer the pollen from one plant to another. While a professional grower is scientific about this process, utilizing careful selection and long-range goals, the average gardener can simply have fun with it.
‘Stella’s Sparky’ daylily
The striking blooms of Hermocallis 'Stella's Sparky'
Choose the plants you want to cross. Although chromosomal differences between diploids and tetraploids mean that they cannot be crossed, it is extremely difficult for the amateur to discern between the two. For the home gardener, it makes sense to follow one hybridizer who said she just puts pretty on pretty and hopes for the best. Wait until the pollen dries and becomes fluffy, usually by mid-morning. Set it onto the tip of another plant's pistil. Label your crosses clearly, so you can keep track of them. When a tiny green pod appears after the crossed flower drops off, you'll know you have been successful. After 40 to 60 days, the pod begins to split open. Remove the seeds and let them air dry overnight. Store in a plastic bag or other sealed container in your refrigerator for a minimum of four to six weeks. Seeds can be refrigerated until you are ready to plant them.

Plant directly in the ground or start the seeds in flats or pots. In more temperate zones, spring is a good time to plant the seeds outdoors. Be patient. It may take two to three years for blossoms to appear. That's when you can evaluate your work and enjoy the satisfaction of creating and propagating the seeds of a brand new brilliantly colored blossom. What glory!

If you don't want to create your own varieties, don't worry. You'll be able to pick and choose from a wide assortment available at local nurseries and in general catalogs, as well as those catalogs devoted to daylilies.
‘Point of Divergence’ daylily
'Point of Divergence' daylily blooms display a striking color combination.
A few outstanding cultivars are:

H. 'Stella's Sparky': An early bloomer in rose and apricot hues that re-blooms throughout the summer. It grows to approximately 22" high with a blossom size of approximately 3-3/4".

H. 'Lavender Arrowhead': Another early bloomer that grows to approximately 3' high. Its huge 9" fragrant flower has a chartreuse heart deep in the base of its yellow throat.

H. 'Strawberry Candy': One of the most prized and popular daylilies. Its strawberry-pink bloom has an unusual deep-pink eye and golden-green throat that make this a favorite. It grows to approximately 26" high with a 4-1/4" flower.

H. 'Point of Divergence': This has a stunning ivory cream bloom with an indigo violet eye. It grows to approximately 30" high with a 4-1/2" flower.
‘Red Suspenders’ daylily
The graceful 'Red Suspenders' daylily adds interest to the garden.
H. 'Red Suspenders': Stands at approximately 32" high with an enormous 11" fragrant flower. The bloom's graceful petals pinch together down their length.

H. 'Winter Treasure': Grows to approximately 28" tall with a 6" bloom. When it blossoms mid-season in white with yellow fringes, it looks almost luminescent.

H. 'Taco Twister': An approximately 28" high warm-yellow spider daylily with a 7-1/2" bloom. This will re-bloom during the season.
‘A Little Fire, Scarecrow’ daylily
'A Little Fire, Scarecrow' daylily is a real show stopper.
H. 'A Little Fire, Scarecrow': A late bloomer standing at approximately 47" tall with a 6-1/2" flower. This showy bloom in brilliant red with cream edges will stand out in any garden.

H. 'Barbara': One of the latest bloomers. At approximately 38" high, its buttery-yellow blooms make the last daylily statement for the season.

The most difficult thing about adding daylilies to your garden is choosing among so many magnificent possibilities. Begin by determining your preferences as to location, size and color. Then try not to become infatuated by a particularly gorgeous bloom that doesn't fulfill your criteria. Good luck!

Text by Joan G. Hauser

Photos by Chris Petersen

Joan G. Hauser is a writer and master gardener who devotes as much time as possible to both of those activities. Her garden writing has appeared in her column in The Observer, in Asharoken News, Cooperative Extension publications, and on a local website. She instituted a Street Garden Program with her garden club that has spread to other Long Island communities. Most recently, she has published a novel, A Life of Her Own.

Chris Petersen gardens in Northport Harbor, New York, where she has an extensive collection of daylilies, hostas and other plants. She has contributed horticultural photographs to the American Hemerocallis Society's magazine,
The Daylily Journal, as well as other publications. Her work, which has won many national photography awards, is featured in the book Landscaping with Daylilies and on the cover of The Illustrated Guide to Daylilies. Her website is www.chrispnpt.weebly.com.
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