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Tree Talk - Metropolitan Forestry Services

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February 20, 2020

Brighten Up Your Garden With a Daylily

What is a Daylily?

Living in the Midwest, most if not all of us have seen the beauty of Daylilies. Whether it be growing in the ditches along the side of the road, or in a loved ones garden. Daylilies have been around for a long time and hybridization of these beautiful plants has only recently taken off within the last century. Daylilies, also known scientifically as Hemerocallis, are not a true lily but a relative of lilies. They produce stems with flowers that last only one day, hence the name “day-lily”. Although each bloom lasts one day, multiple buds are produced that open sequentially giving you beautiful colors throughout the season. Foliage consists of arching strap-like leaves medium to dark green in color that emerge from rhizomes. They are easily divided in the early spring or fall by clean cuts between the fans through the rhizome for replanting or sharing with friends and family.

 Blue Ridge Daylilies in Alexander, NC. Photo courtesy of Jacob Henry.

Daylilies Can Grow Almost Anywhere!

Loam, clay, sand or a mixture of the three is no problem for some Daylilies to grow. While the best soil is a well drained, moisture retaining and organically rich soil, some varieties like the common ditch lily or tiger lily (Hemerocallis fulva) can grow so well in these normally unfavorable conditions it is actually labelled as an invasive species. Native to Korea, China and Japan, it was introduced as a natural way to keep drainage ditches from eroding but has started to choke out native species. They send up long spikes of sequentially-opening orange trumpet shaped blooms. It’s bloom season lasts from July to August and if you have ever visited the Midwestern country side during these months, there is a very good chance that you have seen the fiery orange displays they put on.

Hemerocallis fulva, also known as the common ditch lily.

Varieties Are Made To Thrive In Your Garden!

Hybridizers work very hard in selecting the best of the best of the seedlings they create. They select the best traits of seed grown individuals which include flower size, shape, intensity of color, patterns, flower stem height, disease resistance, etc. Many of these favorable things can be difficult to create and many take years and years to do so. When a plant is selected, it is put into a trial garden and its performance is documented. If it performs well, that variety is divided up and produced on a larger scale. Then, it is given a name and registered with the American Hemerocallis Society (AHS) before being released to the public. So with that being said, it is easy to appreciate the varieties we have now.

Let There Be Light!

One important ingredient in growing beautiful Daylilies is sunlight, and lots of it. These are one of the best plant for full sun areas of the garden and thrive in it. As a matter of fact, if they are not given enough light, they can fail to bloom at all. Normally when a plant is not getting enough light, the leaves will be a dark green and the plant wont multiply as fast. If you are having this issue, simply dig up the clump in the early spring or late fall when the plant is dormant and plant in a more suitable spot. The best thing you can do is pick varieties specific to the conditions of your garden.


Another very important aspect of growing these wonderful plants is, yes, water! They love water! As summer-blooming plants in the hot full sun of Missouri, they use lots of energy and water to produce large bloom displays. Daylilies are known to be drought resistant but the sun can be extremely hot and take a toll on the health of the plants if enough moisture is not present at the roots during the growing/blooming season. Flower buds can blast, meaning they will turn yellow or brown fall of before opening. It is important to have well draining soil so you are not flooding your plants as standing water will cause the rhizomes on most varieties to quickly rot. Also, fertilizing your plants will help establish them to produce more blooms and overall perform better for you. A balanced fertilizer of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 can be used with good results.

Five Varieties For The Average To Expert Midwest Gardener

Where Can You Buy Daylilies?

There are multiple sources to get varieties to try out for your garden. Many garden stores usually carry a wide selection to choose from with the added benefit of being able to see the exactly plant you are purchasing. Also many online shops are a great source to get healthy divisions, and there are many reputable vendors. Another option is to visit a daylily farm. Throughout the Midwest, there are multiple hybridizers that commonly welcome the public to buy directly from their property. Lastly, is to join a daylily gardening club. Fortunately, here in St. Louis we have The Greater St. Louis Daylily Society. They hold monthly meetings and sometimes put on shows and sales at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Here you can talk to other gardeners and hybridizers to gain knowledge on what varieties perform well for them!

If you ever have any questions about your landscaping and the plants that go into it, don’t hesitate to contact us by phone at (636) 394-6597 or email at mfs@metropolitanforestry.com!

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