These easy-to-grow perennials just got better—with a wider-than-ever range of colors, shapes, and sizes
Daylilies are a gardener's dream come true. Their robust disposition makes them easy to grow, trouble-free, and quick to multiply. These midsummer bloomers can survive under the most unfavorable conditions—poor soil, drought—and there are varieties that bloom in both sun and partial shade from Zone 3 (Maine) to Zone 10 (Florida), covering all of the U.S. and parts of Canada. Since they can tolerate a half-day of shade, massed daylilies will even grow under a tree.
Here are some Hemerocallis varieties with notable characteristics that will work in many gardens. If you question whether a particular variety will be hardy in your own yard, ask gardeners in your area for their recommendations and to order plants from local growers, or from one whose climate is similar to your own.
Breeders of daylilies have produced wonderful results: More flowers bloom over a longer period (some even stay open through the night), and more varieties rebloom during the growing season. The color range has been expanded from yellow and orange to include melon, pink, red, lavender, and purple in single-color blooms or bicolor ones.
Beyond the common orange or yellow daylily, new shades include 'Strawberry Candy,' a strawberry pink with a rose eye; 'Chicago Rosy,' a ruffled rose red; 'Strutter's Ball,' a black purple (shown here).
In addition to changes in color and bloom times, the flowers are also larger, some up to 9 inches in diamenter, with doubled, ruffled, or twisted petals. Their stems, too, have been streched up or shrunk down so there are sizes to suit every garden. Eighteen-inch hybrid dwarfs can be planted in one part of the garden while stately five-footers can claim another corner.
'Rainbow Gold' has showy, deep-gold 8-inch blooms with creped petals that are ruffled, flat, and wide open. 'Dark Star' has 6-inch flowers that are reddish violet with a golden star in the center. It is one of the unusual bloomers that daylily fanciers call a spider, with six long, tapered petals that curve backward (similar to the 'Red Landscape' shown here).
Daylilies are a family that typically isn't very fragrant, but there are choice varieties that blare sweet scents from their trumpets—not many, but enough to make them worth searching out. Scent tends to be present in many yellow varieties, like 'Margaret Seawright' (shown here), but fragrant daylilies can be found in the full range of colors from apricot to deep red.
Many yellow varieties such as 'Hyperion' (as well as its cousins, 'Hyperion Elite' and 'Hyperion Supreme') have a fragrance reminiscent of citrus. Other colors with a soft, sweet scent include 'Charles Johnson,' a cherry red with a deep-green throat; 'Lime Frost,' nearly white blooms; and 'Lullaby Baby,' a ruffled light pink with a green throat.
Once daylilies are established, they have the ability to grow together and crowd out weeds. In a few years, the long, arching, fountain-like foliage fills in and provides cascades of willowy green that are handsome enough even when not in bloom. The foliage is dense enough to keep weeds at bay, too. Since they can tolerate a half-day of shade, daylilies like the dense Hemerocallis shown here, are perfect massed around the trunk of a tree to serve as a colorful barrier to keep the lawn mower from banging into young tree trunks.
An exceptional dwarf, 'Stella de Oro' is an 18-inch hybrid whose golden yellow flowers bloom continuously from June through September. Its compact size means it can grow in a container, line a path, or edge a border. 'Stella' has related varieties in other colors, such as 'Happy Returns' in a soft lemon yellow.
Yellow with a faint red eye, 'Autumn Minaret,' bred for height, blooms on a graceful 5-foot stems. Agile and tough, it withstands summer storms and never needs staking. Similarly, 'White Temptation'—with its ruffled, creamy white flower (shown here)—grows to 3-feet-tall. Placed at the back of a border, these flowers dance above shorter daylilies and other perennials.
Prime flowering season for daylilies is July and August, although it is possible to seek out types that bloom earlier and finish later. The best time for division is either in early spring or in the fall.
By combining varieties that are labeled early, mid, and late bloomers in a border, you can have blooms from June into September. In most parts of the country, even bare-root plants can be planted as late as May without inturrupting their summer show.
'Peach Magnolia' (shown here), a double-bloom with two layers of petals, is a mid to late bloomer that can grow to 32 inches.
With more than 50,000 types of daylilies to choose from, you'll have a wonderful time making your selections. You'll find the greatest selection through mail-order catologs. Of course, local nurseries carry these ever-popular perennials too. To locate specialty growers in your area, the American Hemerocallis Society is a good place to start.
'Elegant Candy,' the clear rose-pink blossom shown here, has a red eye and a pronounced green throat. It's available on the Web, along with other varieites mentioned in this gallery, at Wayside Gardens.