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Day Lillies - Brief Beauty of the Day Lilly


Day Lilly Tom CollinsWhen I was a youngster, one of the joys of summer was to enjoy all the so-called wild flowers back in the ditches, fields and ravines where we played. One we’d see with absolute reliability to this day was the tall orange daylilies with their masses of leaves. Yet, it wasn’t my favourite flower, probably because the flower lasted only one day and it was ‘just orange’.

Hybridizers must have thought so as well, and eventually came up with a yellow daylily. True, it was yellow, but it still only lasted one day. Within several days, all the flowers were gone for the season.

Modern Daylily

You can’t say that now about daylilies. There are literally thousands upon thousands of colours of daylilies, a considerable range of plant sizes and bloom times, diploid and tetraploid blooms, dormant, semi-evergreen and evergreen foliage, nocturnal bloomers, rebloomers, higher bud counts, prices, and most wonderfully, fragrance. It almost hurts to say that now there is almost too much selection in daylilies. I pickup a daylily catalogue or visit a daylily website, and I am almost overwhelmed at what is available, and that there is very little repetition of varieties among the sellers.

Daylily Varieties

And the daylily names are so compelling that you can’t help but check them out: Bela Lugosi, Eye of Newt, Chicago Knockout, Buttered Popcorn, Transylvanian Cocktail, Romeo is Bleeding, Her Best Bloomers and Beloved Deceiver to name a mere few. I can safely say that if you have any sort of addiction problem, then a daylily catalogue is not the place for you.

However, if you must take the plunge, I’ll skim over some of the above terminologies. Diploid flowers contain 22 chromosomes, Tetraploids contain 44. These determine the appearance of the forward 3 petals. Dormant leaves literally die back for the winter season, handy for an area that might get lots of winter foot traffic or snow dumping. Nocturnal bloomers open only in the evening. A few varieties will rebloom later.

Higher bud count is a major improvement to my mind. The earlier daylily hybrids flowered on Y shaped stalks and the bud counts weren’t always high, anywhere from 8 to possibly 20 per plant. More recent hybrids bloom on candelabra-shaped stalks and some varieties boast up to 60 flower buds per plant. With careful selection to bloom time (early, mid, late) you can have daylilies blooming from June to frost.

Suppliers commonly sell daylilies by the fan count, usually one or two. A fan is essentially one vertical leafing stalk.. The lovely thing about daylilies is that they usually reproduce quickly, and a modest purchase of one or two fans will give you an attractive clump in about three years. By the fifth year, I find most clumps need dividing and the soil replenished with some fresh composted manure, bone meal and a thorough pre-planting watering. And that’s it for daylily care. Almost nothing wants to eat them and diseases pass them by.

In the garden, the flowers are veritable attention grabbers and the leafy clumps fill in empty garden spots beautifully. Since I moved to my current home in town, a great many more people slowly stroll past my house when the daylilies are in bloom.

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