Daylilies are some of the easiest perennials to grow, filling almost any space in the garden with a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Countless new hybrids are released every year in addition to the tens of thousands of cultivars already registered. Because the flowers last only one day for most plants (hence the name), you may want to grow lots of different varieties for a long-term display of color. Or look for reblooming varieties; some bloom continuously for months and others bloom a second time in the fall.
What began as a plant with simple yellow or red flowers has changed drastically through years of breeding. Today we see daylily blooms in yellows, oranges, reds, pinks, purples, whites, and peaches, with many different shades and tints. More than just the color palette has expanded over the years, though. There are many different types of blooms, including the long, slender petals of spider-type daylilies and daylilies with ruffled double flowers. Many daylilies also boast a pleasant fragrance, especially varieties that bloom at night.
Related: A Gallery of Top Daylilies
Daylily Care Must-Knows
Daylilies are super easy to grow; they can often be found growing along the side of the road (often called "ditch weeds"). With their thick, fleshy roots and vigorous growth habit, daylilies are able to tolerate many different soil conditions. Ideally they're planted in well-drained soil with a decent amount of organic matter. Newly planted daylilies appreciate regular watering, especially when they're blooming. Good drainage is also important; when these plants stay too wet, their fleshy roots can rot. Daylilies prefer full sun but can tolerate part-sun conditions. Once established, they are very drought-tolerant. Some varieties with showier blooms may wash out in full sun conditions and should be sited accordingly.
Because they grow quickly, daylilies should be divided when necessary. The best time to divide them is in late fall after the growing season, or early spring before the growth cycle begins. Simply dig up a daylily and separate the fans to divide the plant. Because they handle division well, daylilies are easy to share with friends and neighbors. (Think of the savings: Some new cultivars can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 for a single fan!)
Related: Garden Plan with Daylilies
Pests and Diseases
Daylilies are resistant to most pests and diseases, but a few do cause trouble. The daylily aphid, which is usually found during cool seasons and hides within the fans, feeds only on daylilies. Another common pest—the spider mite—is most active during hot, dry weather. Both types of insects can be somewhat controlled by blasting them off plants with a jet of water. Horticultural soaps and oils also can help control pests.
Daylilies are also plagued by daylily rust. This pesky fungus causes orange-yellow powdery spots that resemble rust to cover the undersides of the leaves and scapes (flower stalks without leaves). Prevent daylily rust by choosing disease-resistant varieties and spacing the plants so they get good airflow.
Today's breeders are focusing on developing new flower shapes and color markings. Diamond dusting, for example, makes flowers sparkle in the sunlight. Breeders are also trying to develop additional reblooming varieties for multiseason interest. Because new daylily varieties often come from home breeders, it can take many years for new plants to become accessible to the general public.
More Varieties of Daylily
Hemerocallis 'Apple Tart' is a repeat bloomer that opens in the late afternoon with single bright red flowers accented with yellow stripes. It grows to 3 feet tall. Zones 3-9.
Hemerocallis 'Little Grapette' has single miniature flowers the color of grape juice with a greenish-yellow eye open in the late afternoon. It grows to 18 inches tall. Zones 4-10.
Hemerocallis 'Bright Sunset' offers fragrant copper-orange flowers brushed with golden yellow. Zones 3-9.
Hemerocallis 'Catherine Woodbury' is a classic with fragrant large flowers of clear pale pink. It grows 3 feet tall. Zones 3-9.
Hemerocallis 'Hyperion' has very fragrant, large lemon-yellow single flowers that open toward evening. It grows 4 feet tall. Zones 3-9.
Hemerocallis 'Mary Todd' is an old cultivar that blooms early with large, bright yellow flowers. It grows to 3 feet tall. Zones 4-10.
Hemerocallis 'Stella d'Oro' is an extremely popular variety. It reblooms freely from midseason on with single brilliant gold flowers that are slightly fragrant. This tough plant grows only a foot or so tall. Zones 3-9.
Daylily Companion Plants
Add a little sunshine to your garden with imposing ligularia. Its golden flower spikes or flattened heads of yellow daisylike flowers shine brightly in sun or part shade. The bold leaves are kidney-shape or jagged along the edges. These moisture lovers do beautifully at the edges of ponds and streams, and they must have deep, rich soil that remains moist. Position ligularia so it has a little shade during the heat of the day.
Long-blooming helenium lights up the late-season garden with showy daisy flowers in brilliant yellows, browns, and mahogany, centered with prominent yellow or brown discs. Many of the best cultivars are hybrids. All are excellent for cutting. Deadhead to extend bloom time, and divide the clumps every couple of years to ensure vigor.
Yarrow is one of those plants that give a wildflower look to any garden. In fact, it is indeed a native plant and, predictably, it's easy to care for. In some gardens, it will thrive with almost no care, making it a good candidate for naturalistic plantings in open areas and along the edges of wooded or other wild places. Its colorful, flat-top blooms rise above clusters of ferny foliage. The tough plants resist drought, are rarely eaten by deer and rabbits, and spread moderately quickly, making yarrow a good choice for massing in borders or as a groundcover. If deadheaded after its first flush of blooms fade, yarrow will rebloom. If left to dry on the plant, flower clusters of some types provide winter interest. Flowers of yarrow are excellent either in fresh or dried arrangements.