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Plant Profile: Daylily

Daylily Plant profile groton garden club flower

Daylilies, scientifically known as Hemerocallis, are vibrant and versatile perennial plants renowned for their striking flowers and ease of care. While the orange variety, Hemerocallis fulva (aka ditch lily, tawny daylily, orange daylilytiger lily) is frequently looked down upon by some, it is essential to recognize that daylilies as a whole encompass a vast array of more than 80,000 registered cultivars beyond the common roadside variety. From miniature varieties to double-flowered hybrids, daylilies offer a wealth of options and hues to suit various garden landscapes.


Native to Asia, daylilies are characterized by their graceful, grass-like foliage and captivating flowers. The plants typically feature clumps of long, strap-like leaves arising from a central crown. The flowers, borne on tall, slender stems called scapes, exhibit a diverse range of colors, including shades of yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, and bi-color combinations. Each bloom typically lasts for just one day, hence the name "daylily," but numerous buds ensure a prolonged flowering period.


Daylilies are remarkably adaptable and thrive in a wide range of growing conditions. However, they perform best in well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. Planting in full sun to partial shade encourages robust growth and prolific flowering. Adequate moisture is crucial, particularly during the blooming season, although established daylilies demonstrate good drought tolerance.


Contrary to the misconception that all daylilies are roadside "ditch lilies," there exists an extensive assortment of cultivars bred for their unique characteristics. These include:


Stella d'Oro: One of the most popular daylilies, prized for its compact size, golden-yellow flowers, and extended blooming period.

Stella d'Oro Daylilly

Photo Credit The Spruce


Happy Returns: Similar to Stella d'Oro but with a slightly larger flower size and lemon-yellow blossoms.


Many Happy Returns Daylily

Photo Credit A Growing Garden


Frans Hals: Exhibiting striking bi-color flowers with orange throats and red petal margins, adding a vibrant splash to garden beds.

Frans Hals Daylily


Pardon Me: Renowned for its deep red flowers and compact habit, ideal for small gardens or containers.

Pardon Me Daylily


A Little Slice of Heaven: A reblooming sculpted form daylily that is near white with pink undertones and a green chartreuse eye, this daylily is a good example of how different these plants can be.

A Little Slice of Heaven Daylily


Kwanso: A double-flowered cultivar featuring layers of ruffled petals in shades of orange, creating a captivating display.

Kwanso Daylily


These are just a few examples among the thousands of registered daylily cultivars, each offering its distinct charm and appeal. And you shouldn’t overlook the Barth Daylilies, the result of the longest continual daylily breeding program in the United States. Begun in 1952 by Dr. Joseph Barth in Alna, Maine; this outstanding line continues today with the ongoing work of his son, Nicholas Barth.


As versatile components in landscaping, daylilies are suitable for various garden settings. They excel when mass-planted along borders or used to create colorful drifts in perennial beds. Additionally, their adaptability makes them valuable candidates for erosion control on slopes or for naturalizing in less formal areas. Dwarf cultivars are excellent choices for edging pathways or planting in containers, adding splashes of color to patios and balconies.


Daylilies are relatively low-maintenance plants, requiring minimal care once established. Routine tasks include deadheading spent blooms to encourage continuous flowering and dividing overcrowded clumps every few years to maintain vigor and prevent overcrowding. Occasional feeding with a balanced fertilizer promotes healthy growth and flowering.


While the notion of daylilies may conjure up images of the ubiquitous orange "ditch lilies," they actually encompass a diverse range of cultivars that extend far beyond their wild counterparts. From their elegant foliage to their captivating blooms, daylilies offer an abundance of beauty and charm to gardens of all sizes and styles with relative ease of maintenance. Given their adaptability, ease of care, and over 80,000 cultivars, daylilies remain a beloved choice among gardeners worldwide, adding vibrancy and allure to outdoor spaces year after year.

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