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How to Grow Dependable, Disease-Resistant, Carefree Daylilies

Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.

Nona's garnet spider daylily is an extended bloomer.  It has spider-like, 16-hour blooms with garnet red petals, a golden yellow eye, and a tiny green throat.

Nona's garnet spider daylily is an extended bloomer. It has spider-like, 16-hour blooms with garnet red petals, a golden yellow eye, and a tiny green throat.

Who Doesn't Love Daylilies?

I've never met anyone who didn't love daylilies. But, then again, what's not to love? You can find them in a myriad of different colors, sizes and shapes, and they are incredibly low-maintenance flowers that are suitable for almost any type of landscape. Daylilies are drought resistant and adaptable to most soil and light conditions, providing beautiful blooms all the way from late spring into fall, which (in my book) make them the perfect perennials.

Each of the trumpet-shaped blooms is short-lived, opening and fading in a day's time, only to be replaced by new blooms the next day. In a single summer, each daylily plant produces many flower stalks (scapes), which grow upwards from the center of the plant. Each one of those stalks can produce over a dozen flowers, since it carries a considerable number of buds which open on successive days. The result is a continuous display of beautiful blooms over a period of several weeks. Reblooming daylilies (Stella de Oro, Barbara Mitchell, and Dragon's Eye are some examples) repeat the cycle many times during the growing season.

Generally, daylilies are relatively resistant to diseases and pests but grown in unfavorable conditions can be susceptible to several problems, which will be discussed below. Learning when and how to plant your flowers properly, and which ones are the most reliable will certainly pay you handsomely, as you spend countless hours enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Planting Bareroot Daylilies

If you have ordered bareroot daylilies, this is the proper way to plant them:

  • Dig a hole as deep as the crown (the part where the roots meet the leaves) and create a mound of soil in the middle of the hole.
  • Lay the roots over the top of the mound (see photograph). The crown of the plant should be even with the top of the soil.
  • Fill in the hole with the loose soil, amending with compost as needed for aeration and drainage.
  • Water enough to keep the soil moist until new green growth is visible.
The fiesta flirt daylily is gold with a red eye and a prominent red band around the edges.

The fiesta flirt daylily is gold with a red eye and a prominent red band around the edges.

When and Where to Plant Daylilies

Daylilies will thrive in full sun but are able to tolerate partial or afternoon shade, actually preferring it in warmer climates, so plant accordingly in spring, late summer or early fall. Planting them in partial shade might reduce the number of blooms somewhat.

Note: If you live in the South, plant your daylilies in the spring or fall while temperatures are still cool. In the North, they should be planted in the spring so they have an ample amount of time to become established before winter. (Because daylilies are tough plants, however, in the North you could plant them any time from spring all the way through fall.

When you plant your daylilies, put them in well-drained, moderately fertile soil, and space them a few feet apart in groups of 3-4 plants of the same type. If you plan to use daylilies as ground cover around trees, be aware that they will be competing with the trees for nutrients and water, and will require additional time and attention to become established. Daylilies will eventually expand and form large clumps with a three-foot-wide diameter.

Planting Suggestions

  • Edgings: A stroll around your garden is made much more pleasant when daylilies have been planted along walkways or paths.
  • Slopes: Because daylilies have such a strong root system, they are chosen many times to help prevent erosion on a steep slope.
  • Containers: If you have a small backyard, there are countless numbers of dwarf varieties (or miniatures) perfect for small spaces or containers.
  • Background planting: If you need to fill out a flower bed, plant your daylilies behind lower-growing annuals and perennials

Preparing the Soil

  • Daylilies thrive in good garden soil, so before planting loosen the soil to a depth of 18 inches, removing any debris or rocks.
  • In sandy soil add some compost, which will help to retain moisture.
  • If your soil consists of heavy clay, adding compost will lighten the texture, allowing the roots of the plant to enlarge and grow.
The handwriting on the wall reblooming daylily blooms midsummer and again in late summer to early fall. It has 6-inch blooms that are peach with wine-purple eyes that blend to lavender-purple near the yellow throat.

The handwriting on the wall reblooming daylily blooms midsummer and again in late summer to early fall. It has 6-inch blooms that are peach with wine-purple eyes that blend to lavender-purple near the yellow throat.

The Importance of Watering and Mulching

Once you have your daylilies planted, you should soak the soil with water about once a week during the growing season. You will want to supply enough water so that the top six inches of soil are kept evenly moist. If you allow the soil to dry out completely, your lilies can become stressed, which will prevent them from reblooming. Well-drained soil will keep daylilies from rotting, while consistently moist will cause them to bloom profusely.

Once you have the moisture in the soil, it is important to retain it. So, covering the soil with a two-inch layer of organic mulch will aid in retaining soil moisture which, in turn, will prevent weeds from growing. Weeds are the enemies of your daylilies because they compete for moisture and soil nutrients. Organic mulch, although it does add nutrients to the soil in the process, will break down in the winter so you should replenish it each spring.

Fertilizer

When daylilies first begin to grow, you can sprinkle a low-nitrogen slow-release fertilizer (5-10-10) between the plants. Read and follow the manufacturer's directions carefully, sprinkling an appropriate amount of the fertilizer about six inches away from the base of the plants. Watering immediately after application will allow the nutrients to soak into the soil.

Encourage New Blooms

Once blooms begin to wilt, they should be pruned away, which will encourage new buds and reblooming. When the foliage has died off naturally in the winter, cut it back to the ground (you can remove badly-damaged or dead leaves at any time).

Those Pesky Aphids

When aphids deplete the sap, daylilies begin to weaken, leading to wilting, curling foliage, yellow leaves, and stunted plant growth. Spray plants first with water, and then with an insecticidal soap or neem oil solution. Inspect your plants daily.

When aphids deplete the sap, daylilies begin to weaken, leading to wilting, curling foliage, yellow leaves, and stunted plant growth. Spray plants first with water, and then with an insecticidal soap or neem oil solution. Inspect your plants daily.

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.

© 2020 Mike and Dorothy McKenney