Daylilies are an often-overlooked perennial. They are considered “common” and in some cases even thought of as aggressive garden thugs. Not so! There are currently over 80,000 registered cultivars of Daylilies, all of which are beautiful and well-behaved garden plants. Let’s learn a little about the modern daylily, and its history and parentage.
The Orange Ditch Lily
This is where the bad rap originates. Any gardener who has tried to eradicate this plant is familiar with its well-earned reputation as a tenacious unwanted garden guest. The botanical name for the roadside orange daylily is Hemerocallis fulva, but it is known by an assortment of colorful common names including Ditch Lily and Outhouse Lily. Although it has escaped cultivation to become a weed, it was originally intentionally brought to this country by European immigrants from their homeland as a treasured garden plant. It was valued as an ornamental plant as well as an edible one. All parts of the daylily are edible. The tender new leaves and shoots, flower buds, and flowers can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried. The starchy tubers were eaten as a potato substitute. These showy orange blooming plants were frequently planted by the “privy” so that visiting ladies could find the outhouse without having to be embarrassed by asking, hence the common name Outhouse Lily. Being an opportunistic and aggressive grower, Hemerocallis fulva escaped from its early garden setting and has spread across much of the United States. It is included on the Invasive Species list for the state of Wisconsin. Needless to say, this is NOT the daylily being offered for sale at your local garden center. What is being sold today is a tremendous range of well-behaved great, great, great grandchildren of this plant.
The daylilies that you will find for sale at Heyden’s Gardens are clump forming perennials that, while durable and hardy, will absolutely not behave aggressively. Today’s daylilies range in size from front of the border 12” miniatures to statuesque 3’-4’ mid to back of the border beauties. Flower size ranges from tiny 1” flowers to huge 8” flowers. Flower color goes far beyond the familiar yellow and gold to include purple, red, white, and an amazing array of color patterns.
Daylily vs Lily
Daylilies (Hemerocallis) differ from true lilies (Lilium). Daylilies have tuberous roots, versus true lilies that grow from a bulb. Daylilies produce a clump of strap-like basal leaves and multiple leafless stems carrying clusters of flowers while true lilies have single straight flowering stems with minimal foliage along the stem. Daylilies take their name from the fact that each flower remains open for only one day while true lily flowers will stay open for multiple days. Even though each daylily flower only lasts one day, modern daylilies produce so many flowers on well branched, sturdy stems that the bloom season for a mature plant will usually last three to four weeks. Some northern varieties bloom in early summer and rebloom in fall but most of the showiest varieties bloom mid to late summer in our climate.
Some of the modern daylilies we will be growing in 2024