Daylilies are blooming in practically every color right now. (The photos here are from our garden.)
The original daylilies were Hemerocallis flava and Hemerocallis fulva, the Chinese orange daylily commonly seen growing alongside the road. Known to have been in cultivation since 479 B.C., historically they were used for food and medicine.
The early hybrids were yellows and oranges, and then later, the lavender, pink, cream and red hybrids came from the pink-orange color in ditch lilies.
Not only are daylilies non-toxic to children and pets, their pollen is non-allergenic, making them ideal for family gardens.
A single plant is called a fan and the fans multiply steadily, requiring dividing only every 3 years or so. When the plants don’t flower as much as they did at first, it is time to divide the roots. Best done in the fall, the entire plant is dug up, cut into clumps and replanted into prepared beds.
The varieties to choose from include tall, medium and miniature (6 to 12-inches), early, mid-season and late flowering, night blooming, scented, single, double, spider and eyed. An entire flower bed could be in bloom for several months just with daylilies.
The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis grows 1700 varieties.
Some of the old fashioned plants from the 1920s are still around, including: Ophir (18-inches, yellow), Gracilis (early, 1-foot tall), Flava Major (fragrant, early, 2-feet tall), and Middendorf (shade and moisture tolerant, compact, fragrant, yellow, re-blooms).
Late blooming varieties help prolong the season. Look for Autumn King (6-feet tall), Autumn Prince (4-feet tall), Fall Fancy, Peach Mandelynne, Late Beacon, Silver Snowflake, August Flame, Back to School, Boutonniere, Autumn Minaret (5-feet tall) and Late Cream.
Re-blooming daylilies include Challenger (4-feet tall, red) and Rosy Returns (pink, 1-foot tall). Eenie Weenie. Stella de Oro and Happy Returns are yellow. A cream-pink re-blooming variety, Earl Roberts, is an award winning fragrant one that grows 2.5 feet tall. Flames of Fortune is 2.5 feet tall, with apricot, night-blooming, ruffled and creped flowers.
For drama, Cerulean Star is a good choice. It grows 3-feet tall, with 7-inch lavender flowers. Citrina is 3-feet tall, with fragrant, delicate, trumpet-shaped, yellow, nocturnal flowers – dozens on every stem. How Beautiful Heaven Must Be is described as 2-foot tall plants with wide-petaled, fragrant, peach, ruffled flowers.
Dr. Stout was a director at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
Hemerocallis is from the Greek hemera (a day) and kallos (beauty) or beauty for a day, referring to the fact that each blossom lasts only one day.
The L. Ernest Plouf Award is given to the most consistently fragrant daylilies. Their names include: Vanilla Fluff, Lemon Lolly, Frozen Jade, Raspberry Candy and Lavender Blue Baby.
Catalogs mention the terms Diploid and Tetraploid which describes the varieties’ chromosome count. Tetraploids are stronger.
Daylilies are described as dormant, evergreen and semi-evergreen. In our area the leaves and foliage die back to the root no matter what dormancy type the daylily is.
Daylily information: American Hemerocallis Society, http://www.daylilies.org/
Reference: “The New Encyclopedia of Daylilies: More than 1700 outstanding selections” by Ted Petit and John Peat, Timber Press, 2008.