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Daylilies By Wes


Located here are some frequently asked questions that many people ask when starting out in daylilies. If you have a question that is not covered here, please feel free to contact me and I will do my best to help answer your question. Note: some of the links below are direct links to the American Hemerocallis Society web site. The reason for this is that many of the terms used below are simple in nature and the AHS site does a good job of explaining it clearly. Other links will go to my page of terms and definitions. This is done either to help explain things in a bit more detail, or because that particular term does not appear on the official AHS site.

Click a question to jump directly to it.

Q: What is a daylily?

A: The scientific name for the daylily is Hemerocallis. The name in greek means "Beauty for a day." It gets this name due to the way it blooms. A daylily is a herbaceous perennial that is native to Asia, but also grows in many other regions of the world. The most recognized daylily is the orange "ditch lily", or "tawny daylily". It is commonly seen growing on road sides or by abandoned home sites. The true name of this particular plant is Hemerocallis fulva. Individual blooms last only 1 day (though there are exceptions), but the daylily creates multiple buds. So when one flower fades, there is usually another one ready to takes it's place the next day. Daylilies come in a wide variety of colors. Some colors include pink, red, purple, lavender, pale green, and cream to name just a few. It should be noted that daylilies do not come in a "true" blue color. Many breeders are trying to develop it, and have made some progress, but a majority of the "blues" today are really a lavenderish-purple color. In addition, daylilies can also have markings such as eyes and edges.


Q: Is a daylily a true lily?

A: The daylily is not a true lily. Many people get confused with this due to "daylily" having the word "lily" in it. Another confusing aspect to this is that many writings place the daylily in the Liliaceae (Lily) family. For many years this was the "correct" classification, but around 1982, the daylily (Hemerocallis) was placed into it's own family, Hemerocallidaceae. The classification of the daylily is still somewhat an area of debate among some. It is this authors opinion that placing the daylily in it's own family was indeed the right thing to do. Due to the way the daylily blooms, it can be seen why it was placed in the lily family to start with. (The bloom of the daylily has many similarities to the blooms of members of the lily family.) However, the daylily lacks 1 major feature that true lilies have: a bulb. Daylilies do not grow from bulbs. Daylilies have fibrous root systems. While daylilies do produce some "bulb-like" or "tuber-like" structures on their roots, they are not recognized as such.


Q: How many types of daylilies exist?

A: While this is a simple question, the answer is a bit more in depth than you might think. To start with, there are about two or three dozen species daylilies that grow naturally in the wild. It should be noted that the exact number of species daylilies in unknown. Some believe there are no more than two dozen, while others think there is more. In the early 1900's, Dr. Arlow Burdette Stout acquired some of these species daylilies and began a breeding program with them. From this humble beginning, there are now over 40,000 different daylily cultivars in existence today. It has been said that the 40,000+ daylily cultivars that we have today came from a breeding pool of roughly 12 species daylilies. Daylilies have been heavily hybridized in the last century. I've been told that daylilies are one of the most intensely bred plants anywhere. Another thing to think about is this: all of the species daylilies were either orange or yellow in color, with the exception of 1 "red" one. From these colors we now have whites, purples, greens, pinks, bright vivid reds, and many others. Pretty neat huh?


Q: Do daylilies require a lot of care?

A: A good thing about daylilies is that they do not require much care at all. You can plant a daylily and pretty much let it take care of it's self. Most people though like to give their daylilies a little food and water now and then to help them grow the best they can, but it's not absolutely necessary.


Q: Will daylilies grow in areas where winters are very cold?

A: They sure will. Daylilies are common all across Canada and other northern climates. They will however benefit from a layer of mulch before winter sets in, but other than that, they will do just fine. It should be mentioned that there are some cultivars of daylilies that do not perform well in cold climates (And there are some that don't perform well in hot climates. This is due to the individual traits in each cultivars.). But the majority of the time they will do just fine. Daylilies that are available at your local plant nursery should be suited to your growing environment.


Q: When is the best time to plant daylilies?

A: The best time to plant daylilies will vary depending where you are located. Spring is generally the best time to plant daylilies. I prefer to plant in spring once the danger of frost is gone. Early fall is also a good time to plant. In northern climates, spring planting is probably ideal as it gives the plants the longest amount of time to get settled in before the hard winters. In the south, fall planting should be done about a month before first average frost.


Q: How much do daylilies cost?

A: Daylilies can cost anywhere between a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. The ones that you find at plant nurseries will typically not be more than $10 to $15. If you are the type that has to have the latest and greatest daylily introduction, then a daylily can cost you upwards of $200 or even more! But if a few hundred dollars is a bit too expensive for your tastes, don't worry! There are many great daylilies available at any price range.


Q: Where can I buy daylilies?

A: A local plant nursery is a good place to start. Most nurseries carry an assortment of daylilies. If however you find that the selection at the nursery isn't to your liking, you can always buy them directly from a grower. There are many daylily growers out there that will be happy to send you their catalog for free, or for a small fee. An easy way to get many catalogs from a wide selection of growers is to join the American Hemerocallis Society(AHS). Be sure to check out the AHS site for more information about joining the society and about daylilies in general!


Q: How much light should daylilies get?

A: Daylilies do best when given at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. The more the better! In southern climates, daylilies do appreciate some afternoon shade from the blistering summer sun.


Q: What type of soil do daylilies prefer?

A: Fortunately, when it comes to soil type, daylilies are not that picky. While they grow their best in loose, well drained soil with a slightly acidic pH, they will grow well in just about any other soil type. However, heavy clay soils can be problematic from time to time due to their nature of holding a lot of moisture. Excess moisture can cause "daylily rot", which is a nasty disease that can decimate entire clumps of daylilies. Unfortunately, once you notice the signs of this disease, there is very little you can do to save the plant. Fortunately though, this disease is not a major wide spread issue, and can be easily prevented by good cultural practices. So if you have heavy clay soils, it's well worth the time and effort to work organic material into it to help loosen it up. It's not advised to mix sand into heavy clay soil. Sand and clay mixed together doesn't make looser soil, it makes concrete!


Q: What fertilizer should I use on my daylilies?

A: This is another one of those simple questions that has a "complex" answer. The type of fertilizer you use is completely dependent on your gardening needs. What works for me, may not work for you, and vice versa. In one of my gardens I only fertilize with a weak solution of 46% nitrogen fertilizer because soil tests performed on the garden in question showed that my phosphorus and potassium levels were high. Therefore, there is no reason for me to apply nutrients that I don't need. Going overboard on a nutrient can become toxic to the plant, and once some elements hit toxic levels, it can be very difficult, if not impossible to remove it from the soil. I've been told zinc can take hundreds of years to leach out of the soil. With that said, if you want to know EXACTLY what your soil needs, you'll need to perform a soil test and then base your fertilizing campaign on that. Many local state ag extension centers can perform this test for you, and can also give you information on how to collect soil to be tested. However, if this is a little too much work for your liking, you could apply composted organic matter to the plants a few times a year.


Q: How often should I water my daylilies?

A: Daylilies for the most part are pretty drought tolerant and can hold their own in dry weather, but they do appreciate a nice drink every now and then. How often should you water? Well that depends. When people ask me how often they should water their houseplants and such, I can only tell them "water them when they need it." You can't really set up a schedule to water your plants. Sometimes they may need water, other times they may not. If your daylilies are newly planted, be sure to keep them moist (but not soaking wet) until they get their roots down. Once they get settled in, they can hold their own.


Q: All the leaves on my daylilies have turned brown after a hard freeze, should I cut the leaves off?

A: This is up to you. Some people like to trim off all the dead leaves to make the plants look neater, others leave them on and never worry about it. I usually leave them on until spring and then remove them once new growth has started.


Q: I've noticed some of my daylilies try to keep putting up new growth even in winter, is this normal?

A: Yes this is normal. Some daylilies possess a trait known as "Evergreen". This trait is what causes you to see active growth even in the winter months. Not all daylilies exhibit this type of growth.


Q: I've noticed that some of my daylilies loose all their leaves in the summer if it's been hot and dry.Then once a good rain comes, they come back up. Is this a normal behavior?

A: To answer the "is it normal" question, it depends on who you talk to. This behavior is known as "Summer Dormancy", and is considered a flaw by some breeders. This behavior isn't "good" or "bad", it's just a trait that some daylilies have.


Q: How big do daylilies get?

A: Typically, when you see the height described in daylilies, it refers to the height on the plant when it's in bloom. The height of daylilies can vary greatly. You can find them from under 1 foot all the way up to 6 foot or more! However, you will usually find them in the 15 inch to 36 inch range.


Q: How big are the flowers on daylilies?

A: This too can vary greatly. You have some that are barely an inch wide, and you have some that can reach almost 10 inches across! The average you'll typically see is in the 4 to 6 inch range.


Q: Do daylily flowers have a smell?

A: Yes and no. Some have a very nice fragrance, while others have no noticeable fragrance whatsoever. Some have a very nice lemon fragrance. Probably the most popular one with this type of scent is the species daylily Hemerocallis citrina.


Q: How many flower buds do daylilies have?

A: This varies from daylily to daylily. You can find anywhere between 10 and 60+ buds, with the average in the upper 20 range.


Q: How long does a daylily bloom for?

A: This too varies from daylily to daylily. While each individual bloom lasts only 1 day, the overall period of bloom for a particular daylily can range from a few weeks, to a few months.


Q: My daylily has finished blooming, will it rebloom?

A: Maybe. Yet again, this varies from daylily to daylily. Some will rebloom, some will not. This tends to be controlled by inherited traits the plant has received from it's parents. Some daylilies will rebloom for several months, while others will not.


Q: My daylily has finished blooming, should I remove the bloom spikes?

A: This is a personal preference. I let mine stay on the plant until they are completely brown and brittle. When they are at this stage, they pull away easily from the plant. The official name for a daylily bloom spike is called a scape.


Q: Is there an "official" name for an individual daylily plant?

A: Yes, a single individual daylily plant is called a fan. A collection of these fans forms a unit called a clump.


Q: I've noticed a growth on my flower spike (scape) that looks a lot like a new daylily fan. What is it?

A: Your right! It is a new daylily fan. This is officially called a proliferation. Some daylilies will do this, while others will not. This new growth can be removed from the scape and rooted to create a whole new plant identical to the one it came off of.


Q: How do I go about breeding (hybridizing) my own daylilies?

A: To answer that question, you should head on over to my hybridizing page. There you will learn step by step how to create your own daylily hybrids!


Q: Does the daylily have any pests?

A: Fortunately the daylily does not have many pests, but there are a few you should be aware of. The most common insect pests are aphids, spider mites (spider mites aren't actually an insect, but an arachnid like spiders.), and thrips. Aphids are the easiest to spot as they can be seen with the naked eye and are typically found in the center of a daylily fan. They are typically green in color, but not always. They like to hang out here and feed on the plant juices. This can cause the new growth to appear misshapen and weak. Control of aphids is pretty simple, and there are many options available.

Spider mites can be a bit tougher to control due to the fact that they hang out on the underside of the leaves. These guys are very tiny and hard to see. If you hold a piece of white paper under a leaf and thump the leaf, you will be able to see them a bit better. They look like tiny red specks running around. Most people will not know they have spider mites until the damage starts becoming visible. The damage they cause looks like stippling all over the leaf. These guys can really make a plant look bad if left unchecked. There are several options available on the market to help control spider mites.

Thrips are even harder to spot. While they are a bit bigger than spider mites, they make it a point to stay hidden. These guys are typically noticed when the daylilies start to bloom. If you've ever had a dark colored daylily bloom, and noticed it had stippling on it, chances are thrips are to blame. Thrips love to get inside of the unopened flower buds and chow down and the color pigments in the petals. Controlling thrips usually requires the use of a systemic insecticide.


Q: Do daylilies come in other colors besides orange and yellow?

A: Why yes they do! Daylilies come in a wide variety of colors such as: white, pink, red, green, purple, lavender, dark pink, and brown just to mention some. There are many more colors and different shades of colors. For example, the reds can range from a dark "brick red" color to a very bright and vivid red.


Q: I keep coming across the terms "Diploid" and "Tetraploid". What do these mean?

A: The terms diploid and tetraploid are used to refer to the ploidy or number of chromosomes a daylily has. To the average gardner who has no interest in breeding daylilies, this is of little importance. If however, you are interested in breeding daylilies, then this is of a great importance. You can only breed a diploid to a diploid or a tetraploid to a tetraploid in order to get viable seeds. There is however the very rare exception where a "dip" and "tet" cross will produce some viable seeds, but that gets into unreduced gametes, and that's a bit too in depth to discuss here!


Q: Which is better to grow, a diploid or a tetraploid?

A: This is one of those questions that can get you into an argument real quick! This is an area of debate among many daylily growers and breeders. Some say diploids are better, others say tetraploids. I say neither are better than the other. There are some traits are seem distinctly "tet", such as very large edges, and multiple edges. However, these same traits can be accomplished in the "dips" if the breeding effort that has been put into the tets was applied to the dips. I've heard and agree with the saying "The tets ain't got what the dips didn't already have. " I believe this to be true due to the fact that tetraploid daylilies do not occur naturally, meaning that none of the original species plants were tetraploid. Tetraploids came to exist when some diploids were treated with a chemical called Colchicine. This treatment basically doubled the number of chromosomes of the plant. This allowed breeders to pull out hidden traits in the plants faster (such as an edge). In order for the tetraploids to gain truly "new" genetic material, more diploids must be converted to a tetraploid. New traits developed in the dips equals new traits for the tets. If no effort was placed on diploid breeding, the tet gene pool could run into the danger of having no new genetic material.


Q: What is a triploid?

A: A triploid is a daylily that has 33 chromosomes. From this aspect, a triploid is "between" a diploid (22 chromosomes) and a tetraploid (44 chromosomes). A few triploids occur naturally in the species plants. Triploids are considered sterile for the most part, and very little work is done with them today. If your just growing daylilies for fun, this is of no concern whatsoever.


Q: Can I plant daylilies with other plants?

A: Sure!


Q: Will a daylily take over my flower bed?

A: Very doubtful. Most daylilies tend to grow in a clump, and stay in one general area. However, there are some available (particularly some species daylilies) that will send out rhizomes and spread across the flower bed. Very few of the modern daylily cultivars will do this though. I personally have never seen one show this behavior.


Q: What is the taxonomic classification of a daylily?

A: I have found the daylily to be listed as such:

Kingdom: Plantae

Division: Magnoliophyta

Class: Liliopsida

Order: Asparagales

Family: Hemerocallidaceae

Genus: Hemerocallis

Species: fulva, minor, altissima, etc.



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