Daylilies, day after day

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Daylilies, Hemerocallis, deserve your attention, day after day

A plant, whose flowers come and goes in the span of one day, does not sound like a plant which makes a solid impact in the garden. And yet daylilies are one of the mainstays of the perennial garden.

Daylilies, when in bloom, provide for a mid summer's worth of flower displays because of the production of three, four or six flowers per flowering stem. The original orange daylily that has successfully colonized along roadways or ditch banks will have as many as six to 12 flower per flowering scape.

Start early and stay late

From late spring to late summer, daylilies grace our gardens with color. The daylily season can begin early in your garden if you introduce the lemon lily, which begins flowering in June.

Whether you have a large garden or one the size of a postage stamp, there are daylilies suited to your needs.

The miniatures may be depended on to start their blooming cycles earlier than the standards.

The mid season can be filled with their flowers by choosing a variety of cultivars. Space, not choice, will be your deciding factor.

Growth requirements

Daylilies, once called the "outhouse lilies" because of their use around outhouse foundations, enjoy sun or light shade. These plants are well mannered and are not terribly aggressive in the perennial border.

Some of the newer cultivars may need dividing in three to four years because the flower scapes become too crowded to produce their lovely colors freely. Some of the older varieties of daylilies will be happy if left to themselves for up to five years.

Transplanting

Daylilies may be divided in early spring, just as their shoots begin growing. For the best floral display, divide your plants in August, once our hot weather breaks and things cool down (low 80s). Your plants need time to reestablish a root system, so don't divide past early September.

Hide deteriorating spring bulb growth

The fountain type growth of these flowers enhances the border even when not in bloom. The daylily can do double duty when planted in the front of a bulb bed. The bulbs bloom in early spring, and the daylily growth will hide the dying foliage of early summer.

Daylilies do well in either alkaline or acid soil.

Feeding daylilies

When preparing a site for planting, work compost, humus or rotted manure into the soil about ten-inches deep. You may add bonemeal to the mixture.

Avoid using excessive amounts of fertilizer with a high nitrogen content. The high nitrogen will cause excessive foliage growth at the expense of the flowering. If you want to fertilize them in the spring, use a fertilizer with a high phosphorus content just as the new shoots appear.

Spacing

Miniature varieties should be planted 18- to 24-inches apart. The larger varieties should be planted two- to three-feet apart. Spread the roots out in a large hole at planting time. The growing crown should be placed an inch below the soil level. Many varieties of daylilies are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 4 and 3.

Daylilies offer a wide variety of colors to choose from, but you may need to order from a catalog, if your favorite garden center doesn't offer the colors you are looking for.

Plant breeders now offer a wide range of daylilies in pinks, melons, reds, burgundys, yellows, oranges, cream and white.

The real show stoppers are the tetraploid hybrids. Their petals are thick and lush and their pie crust frilled edging particularly beautiful.

Daylilies are relatively free from insects or diseases. If it is a season for aphids and thrips in your garden, check your daylilies too. Use a rose food and insect systemic to control these garden pests.

Daylilies do not require any kind of staking to keep their flower heads held high. The older varieties drop their spent blooms, but newer varieties require deadheading. Once the flower scape has finished blooming, remove the stem at ground level.

Like most perennials, daylilies will appreciate a deep watering with longer intervals between, rather than shallow, frequent watering.

Increase through proliferation method

If you purchase some of the more expensive varieties of daylilies, you may want to try increasing the number of your plants before they are ready for dividing in three or four years. Some varieties can be increased through the proliferation method.

The flower stalks, if you leave them on the plant, may produce small rootless plants along the stems. Cut off the plant with about two-inches of stem and plant them in pots. Put these plants in a protected area and treat them like you would any other plant that is sojourning outside in a pot. Make sure they have adequate water.

As soon as the plants are rooted, they may be moved to a bed. They may produce flowers during the following season, depending on how early they rooted during the current season.

Transplanting

If you want to share a start of your daylily with a friend, you may remove a pie shaped piece from the plant. The plant in your garden will fill the space within a year or so. If you need to divide the plant, lift the clump and then use two spading forks, back to back, thrust into the center of the clump and push them apart. This will split the plant without doing damage to root system.

Published Ag Reporter 05-07