The Chinese have found a use for every part of the Hemerocallis plant. Some species have fibrous roots while others have narrow swellings which can be eaten; some are made into medicine; and some are used to heighten awareness and cause hallucinations! For gardeners they are hardy, reliable and one of the easiest plants to grow. Although each flower lasts only a day, in a couple of years a plant will make a large clump which will produce a succession of flowers for weeks. Many of the early ones are remontant, reblooming most of the summer, given plenty of water and a low nitrogen fertiliser.
The first of the modern crosses were bred by Chinese and Japanese hybridists but newer American cultivars have greatly increased the colour range and the patterns on the petals and sepals. The flower consists of three inner petals and three outer sepals giving the hybridiser the opportunity to produce different colours for each. There are hundreds of varieties and the colour combinations are endless with ruffles, frills, single, double, and with spots, diamond dusting and gold dusting, having a halo, a band or a watermark not to mention different overall flower shapes. Flowers are now larger and come in every colour hue except a true blue. The height of scape (flower stalk) varies but is nearly always held well above the leaves. Some scapes carry one bloom and others are branching with many flowers. There are varieties in flower from mid June through to the end of October.
Daylilies prefer well drained, neutral to slightly acid soil but aren't too fussy and will tolerate alkaline conditions. They like a moisture retentive soil but not any closer than the edge of a bog garden. Tall grasses make good planting companions in the border or free range, mulched by gravel and stones in open garden sites. Not requiring support themselves, they are useful to buttress up to other perennials. Small special ones could be planted in pots but will require water in dry weather. A bright sunny site produces the best flowers but they don't mind some shade for part of the day - ideally midday for the darker reds. Dead head as and when!
Slugs and snails are the main pests although aphids and thrips can cause damage to the developing flower heads. Keep the plants growing in a strong and healthy condition to avoid problems.
Hemerocallis require very little attention apart from an annual spring dressing of fertiliser, higher in phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen, so that more flowers are produced than foliage. They produce a wonderful display from an initial good planting and a drop of water in a very dry summer. Allow them to form large clumps for a striking blaze of colour for many months.
First published in the Scottish & Northern Borders Group Newsletter Spring 2007
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 25
© Copyright for this article: Brita Carson
This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2010. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.