Garden Topics: Designing with Daylilies
By Elise Ford
No flower offers more variety, versatility and vigor than the daylily. Of the 40,000 varieties registered since 1900, 13,000 are still for sale. Good daylily varieties will bloom continuously for 3 to 4 weeks in every color except blue. By carefully choosing plants that are early, mid and late bloomers, gardeners can enjoy daylily flowers from late spring through summer. Some daylilies are 'rebloomers', flowering for a second time after a brief rest. Ask to see our wonderful Happy Ever Appster collection of reblooming daylilies.
Daylilies easily combine with other plants in every landscape style from English Country to woodland scenes and formal beds. They are stalwarts of the perennial border. Their vigorous growth enables daylilies to choke out most weeds, making them an excellent, low-maintenance groundcover when planted in mass. Daylily roots also hold the soil on steep slopes. Plant daylilies on banks, along roadsides and beside water features. Use dwarf varieties in rock gardens and containers or for edging flower beds. Accent foundation plantings and island beds with brightly colored-daylily blooms.
When planning a garden, select a few daylily varieties and purchase more than one plant of each variety. Group at least three clumps of each variety together for a more natural look and greater impact at bloom time. If you cannot bear to choose just a few varieties, limit the color range. Pastels, such as pinks, peaches and creams suggest tranquility. Lemon yellows, golds, oranges, reds and deep purple bring excitement to the garden. Keep in mind the bloom and foliage colors of other perennials and shrubs in your garden and arrange daylilies to reinforce or contrast with these plants. For instance, the purple eye of the daylily may match the foliage of a purple barberry, or pink daylily bloom may repeat the color of the purple coneflower or a rose planted further down the bed. A bright yellow daylily will contrast with the deep lavender-blue blooms of salvia ‘May Night', increasing the intensity of both.
Even when plants are not in bloom daylily foliage adds form, texture and variety to the garden. The strap-like leaves of the daylily contrast with the fleshy texture of the sedum 'Autumn Joy', the clover-like foliage of the baptisia, and the fuzzy gray-green of lamb's ear. The upright daylily foliage moves the eye to the sword-like foliage of croscosmia "Lucife" in the back of the border, and the arching blades of ornamental grasses.
We like to plant daffodils between our daylilies for early deer resistant color. In June as the daffodils die back, the daylily foliage has grown to hide them. By the time the daylilies bloom, the daffodil foliage has faded away and the bulbs have stored food for the following year.
Daylilies like full sun, but they can thrive in partial shade. Deep red and pastel blooming varieties hold their color best in partial shade. If your soil is acidic, add lime. Daylilies should be planted 2 feet apart. Daylilies multiply quickly, and may be divided by digging and dividing the root, a rhizome. Some plants may not need to be divided for years while others, such as rebloomers, need division every few years. Dividing and transplanting daylily `fans' is best done in the spring or immediately after flowering. Fall planting should be completed by mid September, which is about one month before the first hard frost. Mulch fall planted daylilies to prevent winter frost heaving. Fertilize either in the spring or fall with a slow release organic fertilizer, such as Espoma Plant-tone, or your own compost.
While plants are flowering, remove spent blossoms, old flower stalks and yellow leaves to keep plants neat. After flowering, do no cut foliage back. Plants need to manufacture and store food in their roots to ensure vigorous blooms the following year. Besides, cutting may remove buds on reblooming varieties.
Daylilies are often called the perfect perennial because they are drought resistant, disease and insect free, long-lived, and easy to grow... they are a wonderful and easy way to brighten your landscape.