Daylilies: Lovelier Than Ever

Mom’s old Daylily patch was indestructible yet ephemeral. The plants withstood our tiny, trampling feet, but the flowers came and went with the mid-July sun. In the morning, peachcolored buds opened wide, revealing orange petals and yellow throats. But by late afternoon they were gone – shriveled, twisted and rusty-brown. In a few weeks, the blossoms disappeared entirely.

Today’s Daylilies are just as tough as mother’s old ones. But their brief summer show has been extended. Each flower still lasts a single day, owing to both their common and horticultural name. (Hemerocallis in Greek means “beautiful for one day.”) However, instead of flowering for two short weeks, today’s hybrids start blooming in late June and last up to six weeks. Then, after deadheading and an application of fertilizer, some can launch an encore performance that stretches into late September.

Individual blossoms have staying power, too. Instead of opening and closing by midafternoon, today’s Daylily blooms may keep their form for up to 16 hours. That means your flowers will still look fresh for that after-dinner garden stroll.

And care? They’re about as close to foolproof as a perennial plant can be.

Once established, Daylilies are extremely drought tolerant. They bloom best in open sunshine, but will have limited bloom with as little as four hours of direct light a day. All this, and the foliage keeps its handsome shape through the dog days of August. Today’s Daylilies need only water and a little fertilizer to remain vigorous.

Choices have improved so much that gardeners can find a Daylily to suit any spot in the landscape. Instead of brassy orange and yellow, today’s hybrid hues run from elegant white to deep purplish-black, with a rainbow of colors in between. There are short-growing plants for borders and groundcovers or majestic, taller plants that stand above the rest of the perennial pack. A few favorites:

‘Lady Elizabeth’ – A tall-growing Daylily with lush, blue-green foliage and pure white, 5inch flowers that last deep into summer. It’s excellent for mass plantings.

‘Miss Mary Mary’ – A compact daylily with up to 3-inch, yellow-gold flowers that are similar to the popular ‘Stella d’ Oro.’ But when ‘Miss Mary Mary’ reflowers in late summer, it does so with fluffy double blossoms.

‘Lady Scarlet’ – Velvety scarlet-red blossoms are 6 inches across and bloom on 21- to 24inch stems above longlasting, dark green foliage. Stunning.

‘Miss Tinkerbell’ – Incredibly pretty peach-pink flowers are produced in abundance on low-growing 12- to 15-inch plants. Blooms are 3 3/4 inches in diameter. An exquisite groundcover.

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