In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
August, 2011
Regional Report

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My daylilies are always dependable, but inevitably, earwigs show up to nibble the blooms.

Amazing Daylilies Tolerate Summer Heat

When it comes to easy-to-grow perennials that are pest free, except for those voracious earwigs that nibble the flowers, daylilies are at the top of my list. I've got some blooming now that are magnificent in form and color despite the summer heat. As for the earwigs, traps are going in today.

My grandmother had the old-fashioned tawny daylily growing out by the outhouse and along the irrigation ditches. The orange flowers didn't last long, but the flowering season went on for weeks. Despite their humble beginnings, brought to the New World by immigrants, modern daylilies have become one of the mainstays of summer gardens. They are drought enduring and tolerant of most types of soil.

Daylilies are not true lilies, which are in the Liliaceae family and genus called Lilium. The daylily's genus is Hemerocallis, coming from the Greek words for day and beauty. The flowers open at sunrise and wither at night, usually being replaced by another flower on the same stalk or scape the next day. A single plant can produce over a hundred flowers, extending this perennial's bloom time for several weeks.

There are more than 58,000 cultivated varieties registered and over 12,000 available commercially for the home garden. You can find varieties with periods of bloom ranging from very early to late in the growing season. Daylilies can be found blooming with iris in June and continuing on into fall with the garden mums.

The upright, leafless flower stalks (scapes) rise from the base of the plant and extend above the leaves. These scapes can range in height from twelve inches to five feet tall. Five or more flowers are present on each flower stalk. The blooms can range in size from diminutive ones less than two inches across to over 12 inches. Flowers come in all the colors of the rainbow, except blue and true white. Among my favorites are those with handsome eyes (centers) and throats. Others are polychromes with blends of related or contrasting colors. Extensive hybridization programs have brought about many colors and forms.

Although they are tolerant of poor sites, I find it best to prepare the soil by adding organic matter like homemade compost to improve drainage and release nutrients. Daylilies grow best in full sun and will tolerate some light shade. Avoid over-fertilizing, as this will result in lots of foliage but few flowers. I work a complete organic-based fertilizer into the soil around the plants in spring to meet their needs for the growing season. Water deeply once a week and more often during prolonged drought periods. To keep weeds at bay and retain moisture, apply mulch such as cedar shavings or pole peelings.

Grow daylilies and you won't be disappointed. Now is a good time to buy potted plants already in bloom. They may be on sale at your local garden center or nursery.


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