Organic gardener growing food and flowers, lovin' pollinators and birds.

Daylily primer: What you need to know to start growing

'Falling for Pink' is a modern daylily cultivar that features pink, ruffled petals. 

With bright vibrant hues, patterned and ruffled petals, the hybridized daylilies have come a long way from its ancestors: Hemerocallis flava—the yellow lemon lily, and Hemerocallis fulva, the orange daylily.

The bright orange flowers only bloomed for a day, but they signaled the beginning of summer in my grandfather's garden.

When we moved away from the city, we took a clump of his orange daylilies, which I loved for their bright, intense color. I didn't realize they were also known as "ditch lilies," and were fairly common — a plant native to Asia that grows along roadsides in the Northeast U.S. because of its adaptability to a range of inhospitable conditions and soils. 

I would learn that years later. But I still transplanted a clump of the same Hemerocallis fulva in to my first garden, making it the original daylily in what would eventually become an addicting collection. 

Orange daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) with rose campion in the garden. 

Showy and reliable summer blooms

I am a fan of daylilies for many reasons. I find them easy-to-grow, colorful, and are able to survive harsh conditions, such as under black walnut trees, which can affect plants with its juglone. (More to come on other plants that grow well under black walnut trees soon!)

As I expanded my front yard garden, I was drawn to the daylilies in bloom at the garden center each summer, and would often come home from sales with a brightly colored variety. Over time, I started finding more varieties online, even purchasing through individuals on Facebook to add to my expanding collection. 

The daylilies are in bloom now in my front and back garden, and each morning I go outside to document the showy flowers that only open for a day. (Sometimes a few varieties remain open longer, but on average it's a day of beauty). The plants form many flowers buds, so the floral display stretches out over days. 

If you time it right, you can grow varieties that bloom early-, mid- and late-season, therefore extending the show for almost a month here in Connecticut. They are interplanted with native and non-native plants along with ornamentals and edibles, in my front and back garden. They are one of the reasons my summer garden is so colorful in July.

And oh - the blooms! If I had know as a child the many varieties of daylilies that exist in a kaleidoscope  of colors and petals, I would have been even more head over heels for this plant. 

Six categories of daylilies

'Demetrius' daylily is an example of a '"single" daylily.

Single - The standard: three petals, three sepals, six stamens and one pistil. 

Spider - the flower petals are long and thin on this variety and sometimes curl under. It is a fun variety to sprinkle throughout your daylily bed.

'Worthy One' is an example of a "double" daylily.

Double - as the name implies, this blossom contains multiple petals in the center of the daylily blossom. (I have not seen insects visit this type of daylily - there is just no room for them to fit!) 

Polymerous - Daylilies that have extra petals and stamens. Here are some examples.

Unusual Form - Daylilies that do not fit in the "Spider" category. Here are some examples.

Sculpted - This is the category where ruffled petals, raised texture in petals, etc., is bred in. (If you'd like to learn more on this, the American Daylily Society has a presentation on "Shapes of Distinction" that goes into great detail.)

In addition, sometimes daylilies will be listed as rebloomers, which means you will get repeat flowering later in the growing season.

Growing tips

  • Daylilies are perennials, meaning they will return the next year as long as their growing conditions are met. In the U.S., they grow in USDA Zones 3 through 9.

  • Daylilies grow best in full sun, but will grow in areas with partial sun/shade if need be. More sun will yield larger, healthier clumps of plants. (My daylilies that get part sun/shade are usually smaller in size.)

  • Soil should be well-draining. If your soil is clay-like and heavy, you will want to blend in soil to loosen it. (I usually opt to add soil labeled for garden beds that contains a blend of compost and other nutrients to improve my clay soil.) 

  • If you purchase daylilies online or through catalogs, they will often ship bare-rooted. You do not need to soak the daylilies in water before planting — if left for an extended period of time, it can actually rot the roots.   

You can gently snap off the previous day's blossoms (upper right) to improve the plant's appearance. 

  • You can remove the prior day's blossoms by gently snapping them off the base of the stem. (Spent flowers often look collapsed the next day.) I recommend this if you want to take photos of your flowers, but if you are interested in breeding them, leave the blossoms so they can form seed pods. 

  • Keep an eye out for slugs, that like the hide along the base of the plant in the leaves. Sometimes I'll find earwigs, Japanese beetles and/or Oriental beetles in the blossoms later in the day, but I'll shake those insects into a cup of soapy water for disposal. 

Oriental beetles are one of the pests that like to eat daylily blossoms. 

Earwigs can hide in daylily blossoms. 

Japanese beetles will also feed on daylily flowers.

  • While you can fertilize them, I usually do not. (My fertilizer attention is usually centered on container plantings and edibles.) However, if you do want to give older plants a nutrient boost, a 10-10-10 organic fertilizer works (online daylily shops will often sell blends). Follow the directions when applying.

Let's start with three

I've grown daylilies in the ground, in raised beds, and even in fabric pots along my driveway. Today my garden features more than 40 varieties, some of which I have lost the tags to over the years. 

Here are three varieties I recommend for those beginning their collection:

'Marque Moon'

This white/pale yellow, single flower with ruffled edges lights up my garden late July. This plant produces many flower buds and stays fairly compact (it reaches about 24 inches, 60.96 cm) when in flower. 

'South Seas'

This blossom's color changes to varying shades of coral as the day progresses. It grows about 30 inches (76.2 cm) tall when in flower, and begins flowering in early July in my garden. 

'Becky Lynn'

Becky was one of my first pink daylilies, and I love its extra large petals. It begins to bloom in early July in my garden, and stays fairly short (about 20 inches, 50.8 cm) when in bloom. 

Are you a daylily newbie or aficionado? Which varieties do you enjoy growing? Let me know in the comments section below!



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  2. As a passionate gardener, I'm always looking for new ideas and inspiration for my own garden. Your blog is a great resource for me, and I really appreciate all the helpful tips and advice you share.

    I recently found myself in quite a fix trying to figure out what kind of plants I could grow in the dim interior space of my home. After countless hours and extensive searches, I had practically given up hope that I'd find something suitable. Then, you suggested some excellent possibilities for plants which actually work in lower light conditions – and it changed everything! Hopefully our newfound knowledge will aid us in conquering future inevitable struggles!

    If anyone reading this is also looking for great flowers, I highly recommend checking out Merrilily Gardens. They have a fantastic selection of daylillies for every kind of garden, and their customer service is top-notch.

    And if you're in the Woodstock area, definitely get in touch with them about bulk daylilies. I recently ordered a bunch for my own garden, and they're absolutely stunning!

    Thanks again for all the great content you share here. I'm looking forward to your next post!


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