Daylilies: Cornerstone of the Perennial Garden
I recommend growing Daylilies to every gardener and potential gardener I know. They are great to start out with because they are a hardy perennial, require very little special care and will be happy and flower abundantly in bright sun to partial shade. If you develop what I call a “daylily plan” they can become the cornerstone of your perennial garden. Daylilies don’t make the best cut flowers since the flower blooms last for only a day, but they bloom in such profusion a single plant can have a succession of blooms that can last for weeks. The buds of the flowers can be cooked and eaten.
As much as I like to see the old fashioned orange daylilies on the side of the road or in a field, I steer clear of orange Daylilies for my garden. Mostly because modern hybridization techniques have created Daylilies in almost every color of the rainbow and I like to take advantage of that. Modern hybrids can rival the beauty of Orchids.
When trying to figure out what kind of daylily you want, the variations are so great you need to think about what you like. The variables are color, bloom shape, height, price and bloom time.
Daylilies now come in almost every color you can imagine. I say almost because they are still having a hard time with blue, and if you see a Daylily described as blue, chances are it’s more a shade of lavender. They are getting close to blue, but the bluer the daylily the higher a price you will pay for it. There are also color combinations. Some come in a contrasting colored “rim” (called picotee) or have a colored “eye” in the center. Even this eye can have another colored rim. Also ribs running down the center of each petal can have a different color. The colors and combinations will astound you.
The flowers are composed of three petals and three sepals. The sepals form the outer protective sheath of the bud. When the flower opens the sepals become part of the flower and generally recurve back toward the stem. Petal variations usually define the shape of the flower. Petals are generally wider than the sepals. Sometimes so wide they can cover the sepals. When they are long and narrow they create a flower form that looks like a spider. Some hybrids have heavily ruffled petals. Double varieties can just have a few extra petals, or look like a pom-pom. The size of the average flower is 4” to 6”. But diminutive types can be as small as a few inches and large flowering varieties can be as large as 9 inches.
The stems the flowers bloom on are called scapes and they can vary in height as well. Make sure you take note of this when purchasing a plant so you know where to place it in the garden. The strap-like leaves also vary in height, but their sizes is less of a concern than the height at which the flowers bloom.
I only mention price because trendy new hybrids can literally be hundreds of dollars when they are first introduced. As years go by the price falls quickly and you can find amazing hybrids in a price range from $2.00-$12.00.
When purchasing Daylilies from catalog or online, you will notice a bloom time is generally specified, usually in shorthand that is defined by the site. Generally early blooming is from June to early July, Mid-blooming is from the end of July to August and late is from late August to September. Although I have a variety that has bloomed as late as October.
Finally, much is made about diploid and tetraploid Daylilies. Normally, Daylilies are diploid, or having two sets of chromosomes. Many hybrids are tetraploid, having an extra two sets of chromosomes. Although both have their advantages, tetraploids tend to be stronger, hardier and more vigorous. However I would not pass over a Daylily I liked simply because it was diploid.
Now that you know all this you can create your daylily plan. Ordering from a website or catalog, I choose the colors I want and order one plant in that color that is early, one that is late and one that is mid-flowering. That way I have a profusion of Daylily flowers in the garden from June to the beginning of October. The only flaw in this plan is that late flowering varieties tend to be in shades of red and rust since they are developed from a late blooming species type that have these color characteristics.
Daylilies are rarely bothered by pests. I think mine may have a type of thrip, since the older leaves yellow and die. Plants with long strap leaves like Daylilies, Gladiolas and Crocosmia are often bothered by thrips. I don’t really do anything to prevent it, and the plants thrive. Deer don’t generally eat the leaves but will eat the buds. Every four years the plants should be divided by root division which is easy to do, and an easy way to cultivate varieties that you like, give to friends or trade.
A good site for more information on Daylilies is : http://www.daylilies.org.
“Pink Attraction” has an almost Orchid-like beauty with a green throat, pink petals and a pale center rib.
Like many Daylilies in my garden, the name of this variety is long gone. A pale yellow, its heavily ruffled recurved petals are wide and showy.
A deep pink variety puts on a nice show in mid-summer.
A consistent performer, “Hyperion” puts on a good show and occasionally reblooms.
“Catherine Woodbury” blooms profusely with the palest of pink flowers and a nicely contrasting chartreuse throat.
This deep red variety has large flowers. The profusion of buds show how a plant can produce their daily flowers for weeks at at a time. Many red types such as this one bloom later in the season.
This is my latest blooming Daylily called “Autumn Red.” This picture was taken in early October.
Date: October 25, 2012