Daylilies form the backbone of summer flower gardens. Their large, bold flowers attract everyone’s attention, even if each bloom only lasts a day.

H. ‘Barbara Mitchell’

Colors come in every hue between yellow and red from palest ivory to darkest burgundy. The only colors daylilies don’t come in are pure white and pure blue, but breeders are getting closer to these elusive colors every year. A self colored daylily has all six petals (actually the under petals are technically sepals) in the same color, although the throat or slight tube at the base of the petals, may be a different color. From there, the flower may be classified as bicolors, blended, eyed, banded, edged, picoteed, tipped, dotted or dusted and the flowers come in triangular, circular, star, ruffled, flat, trumpet, spider, recurved and double forms. Thousands of cultivars have emerged from these genetic possibilities. You don’t need to worry too much about this unless you plan to hybridize flowers; just pick the ones that appeal to you. Most daylilies are very reasonably priced, but newer cultivars, and those that have won awards, are usually more expensive.

Besides their wide variety of color combinations and flower shapes, different cultivars extend the blooming season from early summer to first frost. They can withstand neglect and drought, grow in many different climates, soils, and light conditions and are almost insect and disease free, although grasshoppers are fond of them.

Originally daylilies, or Hemerocallis (Greek for day beauty), came from Asia and Eurasia. The common orange daylily, also called ditch lily, escaped from early gardens and often grows along roadsides, notably in ditches. The yellow ‘lemon lily’ is another daylily species that has escaped cultivation. Since hybridizers started working on daylilies in the 1930s, the many changes in color and form listed earlier have occurred, but changes also include the number of chromosomes in the plant’s cells.
Daylilies come in diploid, or with the normal two sets of chromosomes, and now, tetraploid. Breeders developed tetraploid daylilies, which may have three or four sets of chromosomes. These daylilies with the extra chromosomes tend to have larger flowers, more intense colors, and heavier substance, or thickness of stem, leaf, and petal, than diploid daylilies.

H. “Nanuq’

The daylily flower opens for a day, and most are diurnal, or opening in the morning and closing at night. There are also nocturnal blooming daylilies where the flower opens in the late afternoon and closes early the next morning.

Once you’ve purchased a daylily, or received one from a friend, plant it in rich, well-drained soil where it will receive at least six hours of sun. While daylilies can withstand drought and neglect, they bloom more profusely when adequately watered and fertilized once or twice during the summer growing season.

Of all the plants a gardener can grow, daylilies are one of the easiest to grow and give rich rewards for many years. They forgive common gardening mistakes and take little care, demanding only to be divided about once every five years. During those five trouble-free summers, each bloom’s day of beauty is a sight to treasure. More photos of daylilies from earlier post.

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