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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. Since 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.
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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.
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!)
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
'Catherine Woodbury' daylily
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.
'Little Grapette' daylily
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.