By Melanie Mathieson
The Gardening Guru
Is the daylily the perfect perennial? They can grow in a wide range of soil and light conditions, have few insect problems, can tolerate drier conditions, and come in hundreds of varieties.
Daylilies can be planted in a variety of landscape settings—positioned to make wonderful background plantings, naturalized in ditches, property lines, or slopes, planted to camouflage unsightly areas, or just be a focal point in a garden.
The plant has numerous leaves that resemble thick grass and leafless stems that each produce numerous flowers. The flowering period usually covers a few months in the latter part of the summer.
With literally hundreds of varieties to choose from, I’m sure you will find something that suits your needs.
When planting daylilies, consider the following:
•For maximum flower production, daylilies need sunlight for at least half of the day, with morning sun preferable while avoiding the scorching afternoon sun, especially with the darker shade of flowers.
•Most varieties will grow quite well in partial shade, but check the tag first.
•They are adaptable to most soil conditions, obviously preferring a rich fertile soil but can adapt to drier (sandy) or moister soils.
Just do not let them sit in waterlogged soil as they will rot. And when in drought conditions, supplement with watering.
Daylilies are available in hundreds of varieties. Most plants are the tall variety, growing up to 36 inches tall. My favourites are the dwarf varieties, which grow between 12 and 18 inches tall.
Although harder to find, I prefer the dwarf varieties as they stay more compact and look neater in the late summer after flowering.
When planting daylilies, set the plant so that the point where roots and foliage meet (the crown) is no deeper than one inch below the surface of the soil. Your planting hole should be a little larger than the root mass.
Cover the roots with the soil, water immediately, and then continue to water until the plants are well-established.
Planting too deep may stunt daylily growth, which can cause poor flowering and yellowing or browning of the leaves. The recommended planting distance is 18-24 inches apart.
Generous watering is necessary if you wish to have increased growth in plants, as well as produce excellent scapes and flowers during the blooming season. Water every couple of days during the blooming season, which keeps the blooms large and the plants green and healthy.
Most gardeners transplant daylilies soon after the flowering period has ended. But unlike many other perennials, daylilies can be moved or divided during their flowering season.
The advantage of moving during the flowering season is that colour groupings can be made more easily. However, it is recommended that excess foliage and scapes be cut off, allowing for quicker plant growth with the least amount of transplant shock.
Vigorous daylily varieties respond to division every three-four years. If allowed to remain longer, the vigour of the clump may be reduced due to competition.
Considerable force often is usually necessary to pull old clumps up and apart, so cutting into sections with a knife or sharp shovel is recommended.
Before dividing, cut back the foliage to six-eight inches. As well, roots should be pruned of broken and extra long roots to about six inches.
You will notice that different cultivars may have different-looking roots. Some have enlarged roots and others very thin roots (this is a varietal characteristic).
If planting is done during a hot, dry period, it is advisable to water the plants until good growth resumes.
The great thing about daylilies is even if they are not crowded or overgrown, you still can divide the plants to create more plantings around the garden.
Daylilies do much better when fertilized twice a year. Once in early May (for our area) and again in August/September after flowering or you are finished dividing and replanting in fall.
You will have best results using a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10.
Daylilies look best if you give them some grooming throughout the season. At the beginning of the growing season, remove any old, damaged foliage from around the clumps. Also remove spent blooms and seed heads after flowering to keep your plants neat looking and to encourage re-bloom.
When all the flowers on a scape (flower stalk) are finished, cut off the scape close to ground level. Remove dead foliage from daylilies as they die back in the fall.
The daylily just may be the perfect perennial.