ALLEGANY CO., N.Y. — Summer is in full swing now and so are the beautiful Day Lilies. Their name alludes to the fact that their blooms only last for a day. The flowers open in the morning and have completed their lifecycle within 24 hours. Each plant has many flower buds, so you have a spectacular show for weeks, with fresh flowers each day. Don’t confuse Daylilies with your everyday Roadside/Ditch Lily (Hemerocallis fulva), which is orange and can be seen growing wild in roadside ditches or fields and are invasive in many situations.
Every garden should have Daylilies; they are easy to grow perennials with colors of every range and hue you can imagine. They can be grown in zones 3 – 9, in a wide range of soils and they are not bothered by many diseases or pests. Since they range from six inches to three feet in height you can put them almost anywhere in your garden. The stems are called scapes, each scape can have a few to a dozen or more flower buds. Since many of the plants are hybrids you also have a choice of flowering forms such as trumpet, double, ruffled, or recurved and to top it off there is a range of early, mid, re-bloomers and late bloomers. I ask you, “Could a gardener ask for anything more?” Daylilies are excellent in landscape plantings of three or more, paired with small shrubs, ornamental grasses, and in masses along fences or walkways.
Horticulturists separate them into several categories:
- Diploid have twenty-two chromosomes in the plant, they have more numerous, smaller flowers than the tetraploids with an old world feel,
- Tetraploid have forty-four chromosomes with larger more intensely colored flowers than the diploids, supported by sturdier scapes,
- Evergreen/Semi-Evergreen has foliage that stays green all winter and does well in warmer areas,
- Dormant daylilies have foliage that dies back to the ground in fall and does well in a cold climate,
- Re-blooming daylilies will re-bloom several times a season with usually a main bloom followed by intermittent blooms up to frost. Removing faded flower heads encourages re-blooming,
- Miniature daylilies are compact plants, 12-25 inches with small flowers and are excellent for small gardens or to fill small spaces.
Care: Day lilies need at least six hours of full sun in well-drained soil with 6.0-6.5 pH. Plants should be fertilized and mulched in the spring when the soil warms up –but before the weeds take over. Every three to five years you will notice your daylilies are spreading and may not be producing as many blooms. Divide them by splitting the bunch in half. Move them to other places in your garden or share them with friends.
Pests: Daylilies can have aphids, spider mites and occasionally thrips cause problems. All of these pests can be taken care of with water spraying or insecticidal soap sprays.
Diseases: Leaf streaking and Rust are two fungal diseases that affects the leaves and/or scapes of daylilies. Remove any infected leaves, fertilize and properly water the plants. Do not use a sprinkler or water from overhead as this can spread the fungus as can working in your garden when the leaves are wet. Make sure there is space between your plants for good air circulation and remove all dead leaves in the fall to control the fungus. Composting the leaves is not recommended unless you have a hot compost pile, which most of us home gardens don’t achieve. If using a fungicide for control, be sure to read the labels to make sure it will control leaf streak or rust – whichever one you have. Once an infection has become established, applications may be needed weekly because new infections are constantly beginning while plants are actively growing. Be certain any product purchased is appropriately labeled for your identified disease and that you follow the directions for applying it – this is the law!
If you don’t already have some of these wonderful plants I would highly recommend that you purchase some at a local nursery or through a catalog. Nothing adds color in mid-summer like Daylilies! You will be very pleased with the beautiful results in your own flower beds.
–Carol Sitarski, Master Gardener Volunteer
Allegany County Cooperative Extension
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