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Last Update 06/03/08

Daylilies, a Perennial Delight

Surefire Lily for Any Florida Garden 

 Many Florida gardeners come to FloridaGardener.com in search of a perennial that is easy to grow, lives practically anywhere, requires little care, and gives breathtaking blooms in return for little more than being planted in the ground. You too may ask, "does such a plant exist FloridaGardener?" Yes, such a plant does exist, it is the Daylily (Hemerocallis), named from the Greek hemera (day) and kallos (beautiful).

Daylily blooms last only for a day, but the plants bloom throughout the year reaching their zenith from mid-spring through late summer. Daylily varieties bloom in colors including yellow, orange, red, pink, and bi-colors with funnel-shaped flowers ranging in size from 2 inches to 12 inches. Petals may be curled, ruffled, or spider-lily-like.

Daylilies are perfect for tough gardening situations: Daylilies are salt tolerant. The root system of the daylily forms a huge chain mail-like mat beneath the surface that helps prevent erosion on steep hills or in areas where heavy summer storms may cause soil runs. Daylilies are engorged with water and when planted in mass can stop a brush fire in its tracks. And the dehydrated buds of the daylily are an important ingredient called “Gum Jum” or “Golden Needles” in the sweet and sour soup you enjoy at your favorite Chinese restaurant. Practically all of the daylily is edible and is higher in protein and Vitamin C than most of the vegetables in popular use.

2002 Award Winning All-American Daylilies are now available in your local garden center and include:

'Bitsy' courtesy AADSC. Click to enlarge.

'Leebea Orange Crush' courtesy AADSC. Click to enlarge.

Bitsy', Tiny two-inch blooms appear very early in the season above 12 to 20 inches of grassy foliage. 'Bitsy' is equally at home in Jacksonville or Miami and blooms so long that it may be planted in color beds. With its graceful, delicate foliage and slender bloom stems, 'Bitsy' looks great combined with ornamental grasses. 'Leebea Orange Crush' is a rare daylily exhibiting handsome, uniform foliage and profusion of blooms, 'Leebea Orange Crush' is stunning in a mass planting. Up close, a darker orange throat is noticeable on the slightly ruffled orange blooms. Also obvious is the blue-green cast to its lush foliage, which makes this plant a winner, even out of bloom. This daylily commands attention.

'Judith' courtesy AADSC. Click to enlarge.

'Judith', with its profusion of glowing pink blossoms, is a large, vigorous variety, 'Judith' holds its own toward the back of a perennial bed or among roses. When featured as an accent near a pathway or porch, 'Judith's' lush foliage, intriguing color and profusion of blooms can be fully appreciated. (Gardeners should know that pink is a variable color in daylilies. Soil moisture, pH, and fertility, as well as nocturnal temperatures and humidity, can cause the blooms to range from pale pastel pink to rich salmon pink.) Whatever the color shade, a blooming clump of this aristocratic beauty will be a trophy in anyone's garden.

Daylily Growing Tips:

Daylilies need to be planted in full sun for them to bloom their best. 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day is recommended, but they will also grow well if grown in lightly-filtered shade.

Daylilies require regular watering until established, especially during droughts. Adding water-holding gel to the soil or mulching will help to conserve moisture.

Daylilies should be fertilized twice a year with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer which includes trace minerals. If you really want to spoil your plants, side-dress them with well rotted compost or cow manure.

After several years daylilies should be divided by digging and pulling crowded clumps apart by hand during the cooler months of the year. Clip the foliage back to 4 to 6 inches to spruce them up a bit and dead-head your plants regularly to encourage blooming. Spent blooms left on the stems may produce seeds depending on the variety you plant. Some varieties are self cleaning and will deadhead themselves.

Sources:  American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants; All American Daylily Selection Council (AADSC), an organization that administers a network of test sites throughout North America, which perform rigorous evaluations of daylily cultivars.

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