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How Does Your Garden Grow? Daylily a gardener's dream

Published: Saturday, July 13, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

The daylily plant is often referred to as “a gardener’s dream.” It is easy to grow with great adaptability to almost any garden situation. Daylilies bloom from summer to frost. With 20,000 registered varieties, this plant produces a wide range of size and color options.

Hemerocallis, a Greek word meaning beauty for one day, is the official, botanical name for the daylily. Daylily stalks contain many blossoms. Each flower only blooms for 24 hours, but it is then followed by each of the other flowers on the stalk for several more days. Some modern daylily hybrids can produce as many as 32 blooms on one stalk. Awesome “bang for your buck.”

Since the 1950s, daylilies have been one of the most popular perennial plants in the United States. The early daylily plant usually came in the standard issue colors of orange, yellow or red. Today, there are thousands of varieties in colors including white, yellow, lavender, purple, salmon, peach, pink, burgundy and red. Many varieties are available in local nurseries. If you can purchase your daylily locally in July or August, you will be able to see the flower in bloom. An even larger selection of daylilies will be available to you in catalogs. Prices range from very reasonable to more expensive types that are either new or unusual.

Daylilies are available in a variety of sizes ranging from 6 inches to 5-foot giants. They can be naturalized in an informal woodland setting or used in a more formal, structured perennial border.

In addition to the traditional, single petal daylily, they can present in the form of ruffled, double, re-blooming or eye-zone types.

Ruffled and double daylilies are extremely attractive and dramatic in the garden giving a larger and more spectacular flower display.

Re-blooming daylilies have become very popular in recent years. They come in a variety of sizes and are valued because they extend the bloom season. Some of the smaller or mini re-blooming daylilies make great front-of-the-border plants.

If a daylily is the eye-zone type, it means that the center portion of the flower is a different color than the main part of the flower. This daylily also is often very dramatic due to the color contrast.

(On a personal note, even with all the many types of daylily varieties that I grow in my garden, my favorite remains the common lemon daylily that has been growing here on the farm for more than 50 years. It is a beautiful pure yellow with a wonderful fragrance.)

Daylily care can be fairly simple. They prefer a sunny location but will accept light shade. They are tolerant of heat, humidity and poor soil conditions.

However, there are steps to take to help your daylilies really thrive. More hours of sun, more frequent watering and an application of 5-10-5 fertilizer before bloom will greatly enhance both flower size and lush foliage growth.

Daylily maintenance includes pinching off flowers as they fade and removing the entire stalk to the base plant once all flowering on the stalk has finished. Brown foliage may be removed at any time but leave green foliage as it will continue to nourish the underground bulb. While most daylilies can remain in the ground for many years before division, re-blooming daylilies would appreciate being divided every two to three years.

From their humble beginnings growing wild along country roadsides to the 20,000 varieties now available, the daylily family is destined to maintain its rightful place in our home landscapes. Just when our gardens start to look a little bit tired in July and August, daylilies will begin to burst forth. Whether you are a beginning gardener or an avid collector of daylily varieties, consider introducing or adding some daylilies to your garden landscape. They will make your July garden pop with exciting mid-season color.

• The Master Gardeners are available to answer your questions from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday at the University of Illinois Extension DeKalb County office in the Farm Bureau Center for Agriculture, 1360 Prairie Drive in Sycamore. Call 815-758-8194 or email DeKalb_mg@extension.uiuc.edu. Walk-ins are welcome.

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