Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

Fancy Daylilies

by Dorothy J. Pellett

Whether single-colored or intricately patterned, day-lilies (Hemerocallis) are practically unmatched for their adaptability and versatility in the garden. Their genetic heritage contains traits from species native to habitats ranging from bogs to rocky mountainsides. Now, thanks to the work of devoted breeders and the enthusiasm of passionate gardeners, choices include a vast range of flower colors, sizes, shapes, and patterns. And because daylilies vary also in height, foliage, and bloom season, they complement any garden.

Creating color harmony is easy once you determine your requirements. Does your garden need a loose constellation of bright, bold stars, or a tranquil pool of pale, creamy blooms-- Modern daylilies are perfect for tying together many color themes. Besides the traditional golds and oranges, they come in reds, pinks, purples, and whites with hints of color.

Some of the most interesting new varieties have a zone of different color or a darker shade of the same color located between the throat and the tips of the flower segments. So-called eyed daylilies have a zone of color on both petals and sepals (modified leaves around the base of the flower). In addition to the striking eyed daylilies, there are many other patterned daylilies, each with a band, halo, or edging of color on the flower. Nearly all eyed daylilies have been developed within the past 25 years, and they include hundreds of named varieties with distinctive patterns.

Selecting Daylilies For Your Climate

Daylilies are loosely grouped by their foliage habit as evergreen, deciduous (often called dormant), or semievergreen. Although cold-hardiness is not strictly determined by foliage habit, the groups provide a basis for choosing varieties.

In general, evergreen daylilies are well suited to USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through 9, where they grow throughout much of the year. Some evergreens are also cold-hardy (to zone 4), but their foliage dies back.

Conversely, the foliage of deciduous types (zones 3 through 8) dies in winter even in mild climates. Some deciduous varieties depend on a period of cold weather to stimulate vigorous spring growth, while others grow and bloom well in both the South and the North. However, most are not well suited to zone 8 and warmer gardens, or wherever summers typically include more than 90 days above 86° F.

Semievergreen comprises varieties that don't fall neatly into the other groups. Many of these are hardy in zones 4 and 5.

Wherever you live, there are many eyed daylily options. Because of my cold winters (zone 4), I choose deciduous and semievergreen varieties that tolerate the occasional open winter (one with little snow for insulation). But one evergreen has earned its place here after six winters: 'Pandora's Box', a fragrant cream-colored beauty with a bright purple eye, grows in nearly all parts of the United States.

Selecting For Your Garden

Look for flowers with unusual color combinations, a long bloom season, and well-branched bloom stalks, so flowers are not closely bunched. Other features that add value to plants include vigorous foliage and flowers that tolerate summer sun and moderate wind and rain.

Flowers should have uniform petals and sepals that form a pleasing symmetrical shape, whether circular, triangular, or starlike. To learn about the possibilities for your area, visit local gardens.

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