In the 1700s Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus named the daylily Hemerocallis. The name – combining the Greek words for “beauty” and “day” – refers to the fact that a daylily bloom is open for only one day. Although each bloom lasts only one day, each stalk usually has multiple buds that open over several days.
Daylilies have been called the “perfect perennial.” They grow in a variety of hardiness zones, soil types, and pH ranges. Sunlight and adequate drainage are the main requirements for daylily success.
Daylilies have been a source of horticultural study and hybridization in the 20th century with more than 35,000 cultivars on the market today. Daylilies can be found as passalong plants or as collector’s editions.
Daylilies are classified as evergreen, deciduous (also called dormant), or semi-evergreen. I have grown both evergreen and dormant varieties, but evergreen daylilies reportedly grow better in the warm Southern states.
Common Name: Daylily
Botanical Names: Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus (old yellow daylily); H. fulva (orange daylily)
Hardiness zones: 3-11
Type: Herbaceous perennial (evergreen, semi-evergreen, or dormant)
Light: Full to partial sun
Soil: Moist, fertile, well drained (crown will rot if drainage is not adequate)
Size: 1-4 feet
Spacing: At least 18 inches apart
Bloom Time: May to July, with some re-blooming varieties extending into the fall
Landscape Use: Excellent in a perennial border. Daylilies have more impact when planted in swaths of the same color.
When I began growing daylilies, I had two wonderful mentors who grew rows of color-coordinated, named varieties. This was their recipe for success:
Full sun: Eight hours is best.
Friable loamy soil: Add decomposed mulched leaves.
Plant the crown: No more than 1½ inches below the soil.
Mulch to minimize weeds and increase moisture retention.
Adequate moisture: At least 1 inch per week or more during the summer.
Fertilize: Twice a year with a well-balanced fertilizer (10-10-10, fish emulsion, or composted chicken, cow, or rabbit manure. The first fertilization in spring – increased amount of phosphorus to promote more blooms; then at conclusion of bloom season – increased potassium for root development.
Divide: As the plants become crowded, usually every three to five years.
A version of this article appeared in Mississippi Gardener Volume 16 number 5.
Photography courtesy of Denise Pugh.