The mention of daylilies usually brings to mind the multitude of orange blossomed flowers that are commonly seen growing along Wisconsin roadsides in mid to late summer.  Although the mass of color is quite striking in this setting, these common daylilies are rather invasive and certainly would not be welcome in your home garden.  Daylilies are actually a species that has well over 40,000 cultivars with more being added each year. The hybrid plants are exceptionally beautiful and are a superb addition to any garden due to their durability and low maintenance.

Hemerocallis, or daylily, actually comes from a Greek term that means “beautiful for a day.”  The bloom on most daylilies, as its name indicates, lasts for one day.  Each flower stem can produce up to 30 flowers, with some cultivars producing 100 flowers per stem.  Now that is impressive!

Daylily cultivars come in a wide range of colors. Bloom time is noted on the plant identification tag as early, mid, or late and the bloom period may last up to 4 weeks.  Height in bloom can range from 6 inches to 3 feet, depending on the selected cultivar.  Again, this would be noted on the plant tag.  Some cultivars may be marked as a tetraploid, which means they are more vigorous in growth. The flower will be larger and more vividly colored.  If a cultivar is tagged a rebloomer this simply means the plant will bloom more than once in a season, maybe late spring and again in late summer.

Daylilies grow best in soil that has been amended with compost, peat moss, rotted manure, or leaf mold.  Peat moss and rotted oak leaves are especially beneficial as daylilies prefer a slightly acidic soil.  Good soil drainage is necessary for success with this plant.   Daylilies are very adaptable to a variety of soils but compacted clay soil may lead to root rot during the winter months.

The clumps get larger as the plant matures and usually need to be divided about every 4 or 5 years to ensure optimum blooms.  Plant divisions should be done in early spring or right after flowering.  Spring divisions may result in lack of blooms during the current growing season. Ideally each division will have at least three shoots, although I have been successful with a two shoot division. Adequate moisture is needed which enables the plants to successfully take root.  Mulch will help keep the soil cool and moist as well as inhibit weed growth, which competes for plant moisture and nutrients.

With so many cultivars to choose from, you will surely find one that is just right for your garden. Daylilies like the sun, although a morning sun exposure with some afternoon shade is also suitable.  I planted a variety of daylily cultivars in my garden this spring.   I will certainly enjoy their bountiful blooms for many years.

Until next time…happy gardening.

Nina Binkley, UW Extension master gardener volunteer