I have a deep interest in nature, gardening, and sustainability. The local arboretum is my universe of learning, and my garden is my lab!
The Big World of Daylilies
Daylilies are found under the botanical name Hemerocallis. They are not considered true lilies, which can be found under Lilium. Originally from China, they are a rhizomatous flower found in all temperate parts of the world. The reason I am such a fan of daylilies is you can just never get bored with them. Daylilies are available from the deepest burgundy-red-black to the most delicate lilacs and whites.
The five recognized forms for show are double, spider, single, unusual and polymerous forms. All have large strappy leaves, which makes them look almost tropical, but many are winter hardy and deceivingly sturdy flowers. They only bloom for one day, but because there are so many flower buds on the scapes, you can have continuous blooms from summer through fall.
The Happiest Flower
Daylilies are for everyone. Many varieties bloom from spring to fall. The novice gardener will enjoy their success the first year. Experienced gardeners will soon find their favorites and discover new ones. There are currently about thirty thousand varieties of daylilies. These are adaptable flowers that are happy and pest free if given a place in the sun. But give them plenty of room because snails tend to take advantage of their good nature and eat holes in their pretty petals when they're crowded in with other foliage. Their growth comes from a central crown which sends out shoots and roots in search of water and food. They are not grown from bulbs. Those are the asiatic lilies. Daylilies have a starchy swollen root system. The roots are elongated but swollen in the middle. The roots kind of look like miniature sweet potatoes or yams.
Recognized Forms and Sub-forms Found in Daylilies
Recognized Exhibition Forms
- Spider: One of my favorite types. They have elongated petals that have a length-to-width ratio of four to one that makes them look a bit on the wild side. They are very elegant in their simplicity of form. Some of the spider types are 15 inches wide. They are also available in solids, bi-colors and some tri-colors.
- Unusual Form: This form is based on the contour of the sepals and petals. These different shapes include crispate, spatulate and cascade. Under the crispate category the sub-categories include quilled, twisted or pinched.
- Single Form: A single daylily has three petals and three sepals, one pistil and six stamens.
- Double Form: This form contains peony like doubles and the stamens have petal like flares on them. They also include the "Hose in Hose" types that have extra layers of petals.
- Polymerous: These types of daylilies have more than the expected amount of sepals and petals - petals would be the inner part of the flower and sepals would be the outer part of the flower. Each section of sepals or petals is considered a whorl.
- Multiform: Can have two or more form types of spider, polymerous, unusual or double forms in one flower.
- Re-curved Shape:
- Circular: These form a rough circular shape, the segments tend to be on the short side and look like they are of a similar length, giving a rounded appearance.
- Triangular: In this interesting variation the petals do not curve under, but the sepals do, strengthening the triangular shape seen in these cultivars.
- Trumpet: If you look at these daylilies from the side they resemble true lilies. They are lovely and elegant.
- Star: With petals that taper to a point, these strongly resemble six or three pointed stars. A beautiful sub-form, they could easily be a showstopper in your garden.
- Flat: These actually do look flat if you look at them from the side, but they are not truly flat because the throat of the flower has some depth.
This is not a complete list of all forms or sub-forms. There a few forms I have not mentioned, not because they are not important, but because this is a general overview of daylilies. I think there is a daylily for every taste.
Nature and Chagall
Some daylilies look like they have been painted by an artist such as Marc Chagall. Glorious, pure colors are the hallmark of daylilies. Some lilies look like a silk painting and if you have ever painted on a piece of silk you will know what I mean. Some varieties look like they have been carefully designed. I am more partial to the seemingly random patterns.
Nature is pretty brilliant herself. Many daylily varieties have complimentary colors. Look at all the varieties of daylilies with a green compliment. What is really extraordinary to me is that depending on the lightness or darkness of the red the complimentary green color w/not be garish but will be of the same warm or cool tone and light or dark value.
I think some of the most beautiful daylilies are the yellows and purples and in particular the cooler toned purples with compliments of yellow. Some to consider are:
- Lilting Belle Daylily: More pink than lavender, but I have to include this. Graceful and subtle with long spider style sepals and petals. Not quite a spider. Don't miss this beauty. A star shaped lily with light yellow green in the throat moving towards the pinky-lavender.
- Out of the Blue Daylily: Just three inches across, this is one beautiful daylily. The outer petals and sepals are peachy-pink then the middle splotch about two thirds down the petals is outlined in a thin line of fuschia. That's where the excitement begins. This thin line then moves to brilliant purple indigo blue then delights you with the light green throat.
My favorite daylilies tend to run to the less fancy and more straight forward. I am a fan of some of the spiders and some of what I call star form; semi-long sepals and petals with no fancy edges, just a flower doing what it does best, putting it's best face forward. One I haven't planted yet but intend to try is the Dallas Star. This daylily has a chartreuse green center star with mid veins radiating from it. Beautiful, elegant sepals and petals in lrightlavender about 28 inches tall and books are about 6
Some of my favorite spider lilies have purple stamens, rust colored, nutmeg and yellow stamens. Everything about these lilies is interesting. One spider lily has markings on it that look like three purple spiders on the petals. This one is called Winter Fantasy. Some have the pattern of a beautiful starburst.
One other favorite you may want to consider for your garden is the star shaped single form daylily, Puzzling Prize. This is listed as a single form daylily with recurved sepals and petals. From photographs I have seen the edging looks yellow but is listed as white per AHS Cultivar Info. This is a prodigious bloomer with true red blooms, a lovely light green throat and a thin perfect edge of yellow. These blooms sparkle in the sun and there are many blooms on each scape so your garden will just shimmer with these flowers. The blooms are five inches across and these grow to a height of about twenty four inches. Happy gardening!
Care of Daylilies
Daylilies are an easy care flower, but that doesn't mean you can ignore them. They like fresh water and sun like many plants, but I would say the main thing with daylilies is they really like to spread out. With that said if your daylilies have been blooming reliably and then seem to peter out, this is an indicator they will need to be divided. It's pretty easy. Just dig up the clump. When you look at the clump you will see a swollen root system. If you take a garden fork and pry the clump apart you will probably discover you have about five plants or more. Dig a new hole for each plant in an open sunny spot. Daylilies don't like to be crowded and do not like shade. The new spot should be about four inches deep and three to five inches wide. Spread the roots out in a fan formation, cover with garden earth and compost, water deeply but don't drown them. You are almost done.
So that this newly separated clump can direct its energy towards establishing a strong root system, cut the leaves to about two inches high. Give the transplant about three weeks and you will see new shoots. Very rewarding and pretty easy.
Please note that some gardeners like to build a little mound of dirt for the roots to drape over which directs the roots outward and downward. In my personal experience, I have not found this necessary. Daylilies find their way and develop strong roots on their own. This method won't hurt them, though.
Below I have included a video showing how to divide daylilies; daylilies are in the second part of the video. Please note some gardeners prefer to not cut the leaves off. I have tried it both ways; cutting the leaves, leaving about two inches and not cutting the leaves and I have found the daylilies will still grow beautifully either way. Some gardeners find it is easier to see the fans (the set of leaves from the individual daylily plants) if they cut the top part of the leaves off.
Examples of Daylilies for Every Taste
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you have any experience with daylilies in rock beds? Success or not?
Answer: Rock beds are great for daylilies as long as the lilies are situated in full sun. The weight of the rocks helps keeps weeds at bay and the lilies' roots cool.
Question: I bought some daylilies for mid central Florida, will they grow successfully in this region?
Answer: Because Florida is one of the hotter states and most daylilies love the heat, I would say yes, you will be successful. According to the American Hemerocallis Society, you are in AHS Region 12. Please note this is not your growing zone. You may be in zone 8 or 9, check with your daylily society. I have included a link for you: http://www.centralfloridadaylilies.org/. I know Orlando is more towards the east, but they do have a garden club for the CFDS. I think your daylilies will do fine in Florida. It is always good to connect with people in your area who know the growing conditions in their area and can provide you with insight.
Question: Are day lilies good for zone 6?
Answer: Yes, daylilies or their proper name hemerocallis grow easily in zone 6, most are winter hardy and come back annually.
© 2017 Claudia Smaletz
Claudia Smaletz (author) from East Coast on May 24, 2019:
Hi Brian, I must have mixed up this photo, this does look like an asiatic judging from the stamens, many of the daylilies I have seen have more curved stamens, but according to the AHS Daylily Dictionary "A flower stalk without leaves. The daylily flower scape has no leaves except some modified leaves called bracts. The scape is the entire flower stalk above the crown. Also see: Bract, Crown, Stalk."
Claudia Smaletz (author) from East Coast on February 03, 2019:
yes, they are beautiful flowers!
Claudia Smaletz (author) from East Coast on September 09, 2017:
Sorry for the late reply, but believe it or not with the new layout at hubpages, I didn't know where to reply. Daylilies are great aren't they? They were my first flower that I planted in my garden. I am glad the article was of help to you.
Claudia Smaletz (author) from East Coast on September 09, 2017:
Hi there, Chitrangada,
What is a mud pot? I am glad you found some useful information in the article:)
Aldene Fredenburg from Southwestern New Hampshire on September 04, 2017:
Excellent article. I inherited some daylilies from a previous tenant, and I love them! Thank you for all the great info; someday when I have my own place, I'll be sure to put in some daylilies with the help of your article.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 31, 2017:
Wonderful hub and interesting information about Day lilies! I love this flower, how they spread out and their lovely colours.
I don't have lot of space for gardening but I do plant some of them in mud pots in my balcony.
Your article taught me a lot more about these beautiful flowers. Beautiful pictures and a well presented hub!