Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Growing Up: Daylilies are hardy, drought-resistant perennial plants

The daylily is able to survive in many climates with very little care; it is drought-, disease- and pest-resistant and adapts easily to various soil and light conditions.

While perfection is in the eye of the beholder, the daylily comes close. Botanically known as Hemerocallis, Greek for ‘day' and ‘beauty', each individual bloom lasts for only one day. With most varieties, a flower bud will open at sunrise and wither at sunset to be replaced the next day with a fresh blossom. Each flower stem has a cluster of buds, each taking its turn to bloom, thus providing a show of color for weeks. There are varieties that bloom early in the season, mid-season or late in the season. There are even varieties like ‘Happy Returns' and ‘Rosey Returns' that are repeat bloomers and will put on a show of color more than once during a season.

Daylilies are available in a myriad of colors including all shades of yellow, red, pink, peach, orange, purple and green. The center area of the daylily blossom is called the throat and can be a different color from the rest of the flower. Some varieties with different color combinations include ‘Grand Masterpiece' which boasts a deep purple flower with a lime green throat, ‘El Desperado' with a yellow flower and purple eye and ‘Cherry Cheeks' with a pink flower with a yellow throat. Don't you just love those names? How about ‘Rocket City', ‘Prairie Blue Eyes', ‘Hearts Afire' and ‘Buttercurls'?

When choosing a place to plant your daylily, either a sunny area or partly shaded one will do. If you have heavy or compacted soil, you should amend your soil with compost or peat moss while planting. The crown of the plant, where the leaves join the roots, should only be ½ inch under the soil surface. New plantings will need a little more care and attention, but once the daylily is established, they are a very hardy plant and will be drought resistant.

Water is essential for good daylily performance and proper watering increases the number and size of daylily blooms. Daylilies benefit more from deep watering, which reaches 8-10 inches into the soil, than from a succession of brief, surface waterings. A few cautions though, overhead watering during the heat of the day or during the evening may cause spotting or wilting of the current or next day's blossom. Watering in the morning is always preferable.

Be sure to allow enough room for the daylily to grow, two feet apart for larger varieties and 12-18" for miniature varieties. Clumps may be divided every 3-5 years. If the clumps become overcrowded, they will not bloom as well.

To divide, dig up the clump and pull two, three or four fan divisions off and replant.

With the wide range of colors and sizes to choose from paired with the ease of care and hardiness, it's easy to see how the daylily can be the hero of your garden.