- Greg Graves
Hemerocallis is a genus of hardy, long-lived perennials related to Lilies. Each plant produces several flower stalks with up to a dozen buds. The buds open in series, but a flower lasts only a day, giving the plant its common name, Daylily. By growing different varieties, you can enjoy blooms from mid-June until frost in a rainbow of colors (except blue). Daylilies grow vigorously, help suppress weeds, and are generally free from pests and disease. Lately there have been a few fungal diseases in our area but we haven’t had much trouble. They can be treated with a fungicide on the affected plant or removing that plant. They thrive in full sun or light shade and tolerate many types of soil.
Hemerocallis ‘Neon Gold’
OK, so those are the facts. Now you either love ’em or hate ’em. There are Daylily Societies across the country and hybridizers that come out with new varieties every year. Some people just can’t get enough of them. Other horticulturalists don’t have much use for them and find them rather passé. They point to fact that the blooms only last a day but there may be 20 to 30 blooms on a plant so the bloom period is usually 2 to 3 weeks. Next they point out that the spent flowers are unattractive. Many of the new cultivars are self deadheading but I don’t mind pinching off a few while I’m enjoying my morning coffee and walking in the garden. Not a bad way to spend a little time on a summer morning. Some of these same people don’t mind Roses or Rhodies which also don’t always fade gracefully. I would much rather deadhead a daylily than a Rhodie. Don’t even get me started on Rhodies.
Hemerocallis ‘Charles Johnson’
I think one of the things that detractors of daylilies really don’t like is the color of the old standard, orange. This also has the common name of ditch lily because in many parts of the country you can find them growing in ditches and they are considered kind of weedy. At any rate we have about 60 different cultivars here at the farm and yes a hand full are shades of orange. Haven’t you heard, Orange is the new Black? Most of what we grow cover the shades of the rainbow. They work well in mixed borders and when not in bloom the foliage which is narrow, strap shape leaves makes for a nice textural contrast with other perennials.
We probably have a few too many to comfortably work into the beds so we have created a few areas just for the daylilies. In the vegetable garden we have two rows of just daylilies, one in front of the bird-run/chicken coop and the other along the opposite side. This time of year as they are blooming it adds a lot of visual interest at a time when the veggies are still quite small. As the veggies grow and take center stage the foliage of the dayliles blend in nicely with all the foliage of the veggies. I refer to this as our Daylily ghetto just to keep in touch with my horticultural roots. I can pretend to be a plant snob with the best of them.
Hemerocallis ‘El Desperado’
We also found out that day lilies are chicken proof. We had a few extra that we hated to throw away so we planted them out in the field. Not only are they drought tolerant, getting almost no summer water out there, but the chickens don’t particularly care for the foliage. They also don’t bother the blooms because the blooms are on stems that are 2 to 3 feet and that is taller than the chickens reach.
Now, since this was one of Gary's favorite plants, they all remind me of him and makes me smile.
So love ’em or hate ’em, when you come across some of those big beautiful blooms this time of year you just have to love ’em, if just for the day.
Hemerocallis ‘Ferry Rings’
Hemerocallis ‘Little Grapette’
Hemerocallis ‘Stella De Oro’
Hemerocallis ‘Neon Gold’
Hemerocallis ‘Dragon Fire’
Daylily with variegated foliage