THE DEPENDABLE DAYLILY
Did you know you can plant Daylilies in both the spring and fall?
Daylilies are adaptable and vigorous perennials that are among our most popular flowers. The Daylily, which isn't a lily at all, is a cultivar of the genus Hemerocallis. This Greek word is made up of "hemera" (day) and "Kalos" (beautiful). Since each lily-like flower only lasts one day, it's an appropriate name. To make up for this short life-span each Daylily flower stalk has many flowers. In fact, established clumps can produce 200-400 flowers in a season! Daylily flowers come in many brilliant colors, shades and combinations. They can be full and round and have wide petals with ruffled edges, like Siloam Plum Tree. Other Daylilies have thin spidery petals like Frans Hals, and some have double the number of petals and sepals like Kwanzo. Most Daylilies have narrow and arching leaves. There are over 60,000 registered cultivars.
Why plant Daylilies? Well, many say it's the perfect perennial because they:
- can survive in a wide range of climates, from Zones 1 through 11 so everyone can grow Daylilies no matter where they live;
- provide a multitude of brightly colored flowers and a variety of sizes and shapes;
- multiply quickly, doubling or tripling every year;
- establish quickly, grow vigorously and survive winters with little or no injury;
- are low maintenance and have relatively few pests;
- are suitable for all types of landscapes;
- are very adaptable to different soils and light conditions and can tolerate a wide range of different growing conditions.
Daylilies can be used to fill in difficult spots that fussier plants reject. They are great in the border, planted in masses or as a ground cover on a slope where they form a dense mat in just a few years that will help control soil erosion and suppress weeds. Tall Daylilies like Bengaleer will color up the back of the border throughout the summer if you pick early (Breathless Beauty), mid (Catherine Woodbury) and late (Chicago Apache) season varieties. Daylilies like Stella d'Oro are perfect for planting in front of tulips and daffodils where they hide the dying foliage. Stella d'Oros, which are the single most popular Daylily, will also bloom for months, in some areas blooming from May to October.
Daylilies can be planted almost any time the soil can be worked. Before planting, soak them in a bucket of water for 24 hours to make sure the roots have plenty of water to start growing. Dig a hole 6" deep and 12" wide. Add compost and fertilizer and form the soil mix into a mound. Center the plant on the mound and spread the roots over the sides. Fill with soil, water and mulch well to retain moisture. Although they're tough and will grow practically anywhere, all Daylilies prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Plant short varieties 1 foot apart and tall ones 2 feet apart, and they will quickly fill in the gaps.
Daylilies multiply very quickly, so after 4 or 5 years your daylilies will need to be divided. A good sign is that the center of the clump has little to no flowers or foliage. Although Daylilies are very hardy and can be divided early spring to fall, the best time to divide is in early fall to give your transplants time to form new roots before the ground freezes. Dig the whole clump up - a garden fork is good for this. The clump can then be divided in two or more pieces with a spade or even an ax. After re-planting, water well, mulch and cut the foliage back to around 8 inches. Divisions should have at least 2 or 3 stems or fans of leaves with roots attached to thrive.
Finally, Daylilies have very few pests. A spring application of manure or compost will help ensure a good blooming season for your daylilies, as will deadheading the spent flowers.
With just a little care, you can count on these rugged perennials to last for many years. There's a spot in every garden for these bright and carefree beauties.