(Our guest in The Neighborhood Garden today is Pat Underwood.  Pat was Plant Manager of Sam Hill Gardens in Malcolm, NE until 2009 and is a former Master Gardener.)








            “If you want to cover a lot of ground, include daylilies in your landscaping plan," she said. "But I don't like daylilies," I said. 

          You've seen them, haven't you?  They're those tall orange flowers that grow everywhere in country ditches.

          I saw nothing special about daylilies 30 years ago, but my husband, Dan, and I were taking a landscaping class, trying to figure out what to do with our 7+ acre weed patch besides just planting a wind break.  Our acreage seemed to own us back then instead of the other way around so I was willing to try just about anything to make my country life easier--even daylilies.

          I knew daylilies were a perennial--plant once and forget.  I knew daylilies were relatively low maintenance--water during dry spells.  I knew daylilies had few pests--even grasshoppers like other things more.  And I also knew daylilies were orange.

                    I've learned a few things since I started growing daylilies.  Myths do exist.  Let's see if you have heard any of these.


MYTH NO. 1:  All daylilies are orange.

          How many people do you know who think all daylilies are orange?  Or orange and yellow?  I did.

                   Somewhere (my memory fails me here) I got a flyer from a grower/hybridizer in Missouri who was having a clearance sale on daylilies.  I read the brief description for each cultivar.  The names alone were enough to intrigue me--Abstract Art, Aglow, Naughty Marietta, Emerald Isle, and Brass Cup.  And guess what?  What was even more intriguing was these daylilies weren't all orange.

                    So no, it is NOT true.  Not all daylilies are orange.  The fact is there are over 60,000 DIFFERENT registered cultivars (varieties) of daylilies.  The fact is they come in a rainbow of colors including mauve, fuchsia, pink, yellow, purple, lavender, yellow, gold and every shade of red from burgundy and wine to cherry and raspberry, even near black.  About all you won't find are a pure white or a blue.  And, yes, you will find daylilies in orange, every shade of orange. 

                    Besides variety in color, you will also find diversity in the flower form (round, triangular, star, spidery, flat, unusual forms), the texture and finish (smooth, velvet, diamond-dusted, creped, heavily veined), the edging (wavy, ruffled, crimped, twisted), the size of the bloom (1-2" to 8-9"), the height of the flowering scape (6" to 40") and even the time during the growing season each blooms. All of these characteristics give us unlimited options making it possible to find a cultivar for most any spot in our gardens with blooms from June through August.  At the Gardens, we grew over 350 hybrids including some with orange blooms, from 6" scapes (the flower stem) to 56" scapes; and a range of bloom size from 1.5" to 9".

                    The diversity can be overwhelming.  In fact, I always say that hardest thing about growing daylilies is choosing what you want for your garden.


MYTH NO. 2:  Daylilies take over.

                    When I was selling daylilies at the Farmers Market in Lincoln's Haymarket, I will overhear folks talking with disdain about daylilies much as I use to "Oh, daylilies.  You can't get rid of them.  I pull them out and throw them away.  They're everywhere."

                    Are daylilies invasive?  Not true.  Okay, sorta not true.  Those orange guys in the ditches do grow everywhere.  But the "modern" cultivars--the hybrids--are clump formers like hosta and iris.  Each clump increases in size each year (some faster than others) but no sprawling here.

                    What makes the difference?  The orange dudes have underground stems (stolons) which allow them to spread like some grasses.  However, the hybridizing of the "modern" daylily has suppressed that characteristic.  A real plus for those of us who want daylilies amongst our other perennials.  Hybrids know their place.  You decide when and where they go next.


MYTH NO. 3:  Daylilies are Lilies.

          Absolutely not.  Daylilies and lilies are in the same family (Liliaceae) but daylilies (notice it's one word) are in the genus Hemerocallis and lilies are in the genus Lilium.  Hemerocallis, by the way, means beauty for a day.  Your Easter lilies, tiger lilies, Asiatic lilies, etc. are all true lilies but not daylilies.  Same family, different genus.  Lilies have a bulb; daylilies have a fleshy tuberous root.  Lilies have the foliage on the flower stem; daylilies have the foliage at the base.  An advantage with daylilies is that they can be planted all spring and summer long--up to six weeks before severe freeze.

Happy gardening.

Copyright 2011