The Daylily

Parts of the Daylily plant

Hemerocallis (pronounced hem-er-o-kal-is), more commonly known as Daylilies, are rugged, adaptable, vigorous perennials that will endure in a garden for many years with little or no care. Daylilies adapt to a wide range of soil and light conditions; they establish quickly, grow vigorously, and survive winters with little or no injury. Each hemerocallis bloom lasts one day but once established each plant produces an abundance of flower buds that open over a long period of time.

Although the origin of the daylily is in China and the Far East, the home of the modern daylily is the USA with varieties registered with the American Hemerocallis Society, the recognized worldwide authority. Daylilies in the UK have been hybridized in countries all over the world, particularly America, but the UK has some very promising work in hybridizing at present. Because they can be bred and grown in climates much different to ours it is important that they are proved in our climate and British grown before they are released for sale,

Daylilies are useful in the perennial flower border, planted in large masses, as ground cover on slopes, as single specimen clumps, or in pots and containers. There are many varieties of hemerocallis, with a wide range of flower shapes and colours and an array of bloom times that can continue from early spring on into late summer with mid ‘peak’ season occurring in July. Heights range from little mites of 8 inches to large towering scapes of 5 feet plus. Bloom sizes will vary from the ‘mini’s’ of under 3 inches to the ‘extra-large’ of more than 7 inches (see glossary). There are round shapes, spidery shapes, UFO’s (Unusual Forms), doubles, ruffles, eyezones… with more than 70,000 registered varieties there is something for every garden and every gardener’s taste.

Although the daylily is a very forgiving plant it does appreciate care and rewards the gardener with more prolific blooming. It enjoys full sun but 6 hours a day will be sufficient during bloom time. The hemerocallis is not fussy about soil pH but ideally likes to be in very slightly acidic conditions. It will do fine in sandy soils and clay alike but, like most plants, appreciates light humus-enriched soil. It is not a heavy feeder but enjoys a yearly application of compost or manure. It is very drought-tolerant (have I said yet that it’s hard to kill a daylily?) but again, blooms best with generous watering.

The daylily is a garden plant that is an investment for the future. Hemerocallis plants grow initially as a single 'fan' of leaves coming from the 'crown'. Further fans appear once the plant is established, usually beginning during the first year. They are sold as double fans or more (unless otherwise stated in the plant description as 'single fan only') which will grow into a clump and most likely outlive their owners. It is common to see abandoned old homesteads in the US with nothing left but an abundant supply of daylilies surrounding what used to be the home. Most hemerocallis varieties will bloom in their first or second year. Some are very fast 'clumpers' and some relatively slow but when too big they are easily divided (4-5 years).