This week we are covering Daylilies, or Hemerocallis. Daylilies are an herbaceous perennial, which means they die back to the ground during winter, and have no woody stems. Hinted at by the genus name, which comes from the Greek words hemera meaning day and kallos meaning beauty, they are known for their very large, showy flowers, which open up and bloom for just one day each. Originally, the flowers only came in orange and yellow varieties, but now through lots of crossbreeding, there are many colors available, including burgundy, rust, pink, peach, red, orange, and yellow. Different varieties bloom at different points from late spring through the summer. They make beautiful, though short-lived cut flowers. Be aware though that all parts of the flowers are toxic to cats, so you may want to avoid bringing them inside if you have curious indoor cats. The flowers are not toxic to humans, and in fact are edible! Most people prefer to eat the flower buds, which can be added to a salad or used in recipes.
Because daylilies spread, they are easiest to maintain in large masses. Due to their resilience, they are popular for roadsides and medians, or planting on slopes to control erosion. They grow best in full sun, but can tolerate some shade. If plantings become too dense, they can be divided in the early spring or late fall. They are salt tolerant, so a good choice for planting near the coast.
Just like for other large flowers, mites, aphids and thrips may appear occasionally, but are not considered a major pest problem. In some areas, daylily rust can be problematic, so look for resistant cultivars if it’s an issue in your area. Although rabbits tend to avoid daylilies, the biggest pest problem is grazing by deer. The flowers are edible, and deer love them! Deer repellent or a tall fence is probably the best way to try to prevent deer damage, because the plants are usually too large to net.
Daylilies can be cut back in the fall, once the foliage has started turning yellow or brown. Prune the bare stalks throughout the blooming season after the flowers die. They normally don’t need fertilizer, and don’t require rich soils to perform well. They are tough and easy to care for.
If you’re interested in finding some unique varieties to add to your landscape, there are several daylily farms throughout North Carolina. Try searching for one near you—it could be a fun family outing this summer. Call before you go so you can make sure to follow any Covid-19 guidelines.
- The leaves are grass-like, with a fold along the center
- They grow in clumps with thick fleshy roots
- The flowers are large to gigantic, with 3 true petals and 3 sepals, which are collectively called “tepals.” You can tell the difference by seeing which tepals were on the outside of the bud before it opened—these are the sepals.
- Some flowers are narrow and more trumpet-shaped, while others are more open and bell-shaped
- The root system is fibrous, and forms small tuberous roots which store energy for the next year
- Some daylilies also have rhizomes, which are roots that spread and form new plants