Daylilies are perennial plants, whose name alludes to the flowers which typically last no more than 24 hours. The botanical name, Hemerocallis, means “beauty for a day.” The flowers of most species open in early morning and wither during the following night, possibly replaced by another one on the same flower stalk the next day. The stalks typically have at least a dozen flower buds, so some plants stay in bloom for several weeks. Most daylily plants bloom for 1 through 5 weeks, although some bloom twice in one season. Seasonally, some varieties will bloom in early spring while others wait until the summer or even autumn.
The daylily plant is often called “the perfect perennial,” due to its brilliant colors, resistance to disease and pest, ability to tolerate drought and frost, ability thrive in many different climate zones, and generally low maintenance. It is a vigorous perennial that lasts for many years in a garden, with very little care and adapts to many different soil and light conditions. By choosing early-, mid-, and late-flowering cultivars, you can have daylily flowers blooming through most of the summer. If you also mix various heights, flower colors, and flower shapes, you can enjoy new and different flowers each day. The shorter, more compact varieties work well planted directly into perennial borders, where their blooms provide a welcome mid-summer boost. In groups of 3 or 5, daylilies are ideal for landscape plantings, especially when paired with ornamental grasses and small shrubs. Daylilies are also the perfect plant for mass plantings along a fence or walkway, where they’ll form a dense, weed-proof display.
Daylilies flower best when planted in full sun (6 hours/day), on moist, yet well-drained soil. In hot climates, dark-colored cultivars should receive some afternoon shade to help them retain their flower color. When planted in the correct location, daylilies will flower for years with little care. Amend the soil with compost before planting. Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart and plant so the crown is about 1 inch below the soil surface. Water well and add a layer of mulch to conserve moisture and prevent weeds from growing. Although resilient once established, young transplants should be kept free from weeds and well watered the first year. Daylilies do not require fertilization other than a yearly addition of compost. Newly planted daylilies can be re-mulched in late fall. This will help the plant from being heaved out of the ground from freezing and thawing temperatures during winter.
One of the few routine maintenance chores needed when growing daylilies is dividing them. Depending on their growth, your daylily clump will usually become crowded after four to five years and flowering will diminish. In our area, late summer or early fall is the best time to divide daylilies. Dig up individual clumps and put them on a tarp. Use a sharp knife or spade to separate healthy young plants (fans) with strong root systems. Cut back the foliage and replant immediately in compost-amended soil or plant in containers for holding. You’ll have many extra plants from each clump to give away to friends and neighbors. Discard any small or diseased plants.