Q: Every summer I notice those pretty orange flowers blooming en masse along the highway. What are they? Do they only come in one color? Will they grow in my yard? I am new to gardening and need all the helpful information I can get.
A: You have just mentioned one of my favorite, easy-to-grow, tough-as-nails plants – the daylily. If you are a beginner gardener, this is a great plant to help break in your newfound green thumb.
Daylilies belong to the genus Hemerocallis and are not true lilies. This Greek word is made up of two parts: hemera meaning day and kallos meaning beauty.
The old orange daylily and the yellow “lemon lily” are the most famous wild daylilies. There are 20 daylily species worldwide. From those 20 plants, more than 20,000 hybrids have been created.
The best time of year to plant daylilies in the far South is early spring or very late fall. It is best to stay away from the months of July, August, and September or when temperatures and humidity are extremely high, potentially causing the plants to rot.
Daylilies are perennial plants that adapt easily, grow vigorously, and can even survive winter. These plants grow best in full sun. They will tolerate light shade, but flower best with a minimum of six hours of direct sun. Light shade during the hottest part of the day keeps the flowers fresh.
Daylilies should not be planted near trees and shrubs that are likely to compete for moisture and nutrients. Although daylilies are adaptable to most soils, they do best in a slightly acidic, moist soil that is high in organic matter and well drained.
When planting daylilies, the soil where you intend to plant should be worked into a good loose condition to a depth of at least one foot.
Dig a hole larger than the root mass. Make a mound in the center of the hole. Set the plant in place with the roots spread on all sides of the mound.
New plants should be planted about as deep as they grew originally. The original depth can be determined easily by the band of white at the base of the foliage which indicates the part of the plant that was underground.
Do not set the crown where foliage and roots join more than one inch below the surface of the soil. Work the soil around and between the roots as you cover the plant.
Firm the soil and water well. Make sure there are no air pockets; this can cause the plant to grow poorly.
When all the water has soaked in, finish filling in the soil, leaving a slight depression around the plant.
Bloom time varies quite a bit depending on the cultivar. Some daylilies bloom early in the season and then rebloom later on.
The reblooming daylily craze began with the “Stella d’Oro,” which blooms once during late spring then again in late August and into fall. There are hundreds of re-bloomers, from dwarfs to full-size beauties.
Daylilies can be purchased from nurseries, reliable online sources, and if friends are growing varieties that make you green with envy, ask if they will share.
This column includes research-based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to O’Rear at Bethany@aces.edu or call 205-612-9524. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.