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A craze sweeps through the garden every year about this time for those perennial superstars—daylilies. One look at a bed in full bloom and you, too, will be hooked on Hemerocallis. That’s the genus for daylily which is derived from two Greek words meaning “beautiful” and “day,” referring to the fact individual flowers only last one day.
While I’ve never gone completely crazy over daylilies, I have just added two interesting selections to my own garden. We’ll come back to that.
Hybridizers have been playing with this Asian import since the early part of the 20th century. Because of this, the array of flower colors and shapes is mind-boggling. If you have succumbed to the fever, join the American Hemerocallis Society (www.daylilies.org/). You can search for obscure varieties, study the plants in depth and communicate with others who are loco for daylilies.
While some plants with so many dedicated devotees are decidedly fickle, daylilies thrive in our area with minimal care. Best performance comes where you’ve amended this stuff we call soil with organic matter—lots of it. I’m sure that sounds like a broken record to those of you who regularly follow my ramblings here, but this is the best amendment for excessively drained sands and heavier clays. Daylilies prefer mildly acidic soils with pH’s between 6.0 and 6.5, just like most other plants we grow. You’ll have lots of beautiful summer blooms in sites from full-sun to light shade. The plants will grow fine in heavier shade, but you won’t get as many flowers.
If you choose the right site and prepare the soil well, daylilies don’t usually have lots of diseases and insects. Some selections are susceptible to a rust disease that damages the foliage. Aphids, spider mites and Japanese beetles can be a problem. In my own garden, slugs and snails and a fungal disease called leaf streak are the biggest concerns. Baits take care of the slugs and snails. I usually just ignore the leaf streak unless it starts to damage a high percentage of the leaves.
White-tailed deer love daylilies just about as much as humans. Scratch daylilies off the plant list of garden areas that can’t be protected these persistent plant eaters.
If you’re just starting out with daylilies, stick with the tried-and-true. Stella de’Oro is a small, repeat bloomer with golden yellow flowers. You can see massive beds of the yellow Happy Returns along the roads in North Carolina. Risky Business is a great re-bloomer with scarlet flowers. Check with your favorite garden center or nursery to see what they have available.
The two plants I just added to my own garden are selections from the “Twice as Nice” series (www.twiceasnicedaylilies.com) that is grown by Carolina Nurseries in Monks Corner, S.C. Border Lord has large, cream-colored blooms with purple edging and an impressive matching purple eye. Ed Brown is pink with a ruffled, gold edge. Both are more attractive than those descriptions.