In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
July, 2007
Regional Report

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Some light shade from the afternoon sun will prevent dark daylily blooms from fading.

My Dependable Daylilies

Like most gardeners, I'm always looking for plants that are dependable as well as colorful and that also offer attractive foliage in the landscape. Daylilies fit these criteria, with foliage that provides long-lasting interest and blooms that are bold in the summer garden. They are not true lilies but belong to the Hemerocallis family.

The name Hemerocallis is derived from the Greek words "hemera," meaning "day"; and "kalos," meaning "beautiful." The flowers of most types open in the morning and wither at sunset. A healthy and vigorous plant produces many buds, so faded blooms are generally replaced by other flowers on the same stem the next day. The total blooming time on a well established clump may last up to 30 days.

You will find daylilies in a rainbow of colors and in many shapes and sizes. There are daylilies in bloom from late spring until autumn. Some daylily varieties have more than one flowering period, so check plant descriptions when selecting plants for your garden.

Daylilies will bloom the same year that you plant them even if you start out with a small plant. Plants are fast growers and reach mature size in about three years. Once established, daylilies are long-lived even with a minimum of care.

I particularly like the fact that once established, daylilies are very drought-enduring perennials, they are immune to heat stress, they seem to thrive in most soils (as long as they are well drained), and they grow in full sun to part shade. Other than grasshoppers that like to nibble on the leaves, daylilies are relatively free of pests.

Making the Most of Daylilies
I have found that daylilies perform best with early morning sun and light shade in the afternoon. Since my preference is the dark-colored varieties, the blooms are less prone to fading if they receive light shade in the heat of the afternoon.

Daylilies are versatile perennials and can be used for color in shrub borders and perennial beds. Got a tough slope in need of cover? Daylilies make excellent ground covers because their roots hold soil against erosion once the plants become established. But there also are short varieties that adapt well to containers.

My daylilies get minimal care but they do benefit from some fertilizer. I apply a slow-release, granular fertilizer around the plants in spring. This application will last through midsummer when I put down another application to take them through the rest of the year. A light mulch of compost or shredded cedar around the base of the clumps will help conserve moisture in the soil and suppress weed growth.

Daylilies have come a long way from being considered the common ditch lily of country roadsides.


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