Beauty For A Day-With Daylilies

February 10, 2024

“Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless: peackocks and lilies for instance”

-John Ruskin, “The Stones of Venice”

Hemerocallis” means beauty for a day. Daylilies ensure lots of beautiful days. Because each stem can have 12 or more buds, each plant can bloom for you for several weeks. Also, some are early season bloomers and some bloom later, so you can have a long season of color from the Daylily.

And as yet another example that the botanical world is never what it seems-this flower is not a true lily (and this one is not useless either).

A true lily rises from a single stem with leaves all around it. The daylily has multiple stems and can be used for food and medicine. Our current understanding is that the entire liy family is poisonous,in all of its parts. (The onion was once considered a part of the lily family, now it is not.)

Daylily Data

Plant Name, CommonDaylily
Plant Name, BotanicalHemerocallis
PronunciationHemerou Kalis
Significant AttributesThe flower usually has 3 petals, 3 sepals; long linear, lanceolate leaves
ColorAn extremely broad range, color, and patterns
ScentLight scent, varies by cultivar
Bloom PeriodJune & July-new reblooming cultivars bloom second time in late summer
Hardiness Zones4-9, peak locations, bloom all over US
Light RequirementsFull sun, tolerates some shade
Soil RequirementsAdapt to many soils, best is slightly moist, organic & well drained
Soil pH6.0-6.7
Water RequirementsProvide enough water to saturate the roots and allow the plant to dry between watrings.
Plant TypePerennial.
Garden UsageBeds. borders, ground covers, containers
SizeWide range-8″-5′
Pollinators and WildlifeAttracts birds and butterflies.
CautionsFungal diseases caused by, water, wind, contaminated tools. Crown rot, rust

Planting Zones For Daylilies

The daylily has a broad growing range, you can raise it from zone 3 to zone 9, (for some varieties farther south) which means it can be grown in most of the USA. Here is the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Just put in your zip code. Not all of the many daylily varieties grow everywhere.

Loads of Choices

The American Hemerocallis Society has registered over 80,000 cultivars and more than 1000 new ones are created each year. Your problem will not be having sufficient choice in color, size, or shape. Source.

Daylily Sizes

They are not all tall.

  • Sizes for borders or containers can be 10″ or less
  • There are many in the 16″ to 36″ range -good for planting beds
  • For the back of the bed there are larger varieties

Where Did Daylilies Originate-How Did We Get Them?

We, humans, have appreciated the daylily for a long time. For over 4,000 recorded years, we have used it to produce food and medicine and just because we like to look it in the garden and to cut some for the house. Two thousand years ago Confucius wrote a poem about them. The plant is native to Asia, including China, Korea, and Japan.

Today, we believe that they reached Europe in the 1500s, coming from the Ottoman Empire. (Formerly, we thought that Pliny wrote about them, but it seems he was talking about true lilies). Here they were readily adopted and bred to produce more varieties. The early ones came in a narrow range of colors but that has not been true for a very long time.

They reached the Americas, where they quickly naturalized, in the 1600s. Interestingly, the west did not see the bulk of the interesting varieties until China opened to trade after the 2nd Opium War. (1856-1860)

People love plants and have always picked them up on travels. (Think of Charles Darwin traveling on the Beagle.) It is not an uncommon story that plants, acclimate to new places, sometimes in fits and starts. Today, they are virtually everywhere and we have over 80.000 cultivars to choose from!

Daylily Gardens To Visit

The American Daylily Society publishes a list of daylily gardens, there are over 330 in the US and Canada and more in Europe. Use this link to find them. Scroll down the page and use the map, the sort feature, and an alphabetical list. Note that many are private gardens. You will need appointments for these.

Beautiful gardens anywhere, are a treat, but if you are looking for planting ideas, gardens in your zone will show you examples of varieties successful in your location.

How Will I Choose Them

Well, with 80,000 (and counting cultivars) Just finding the best ones for you can be a lot of work. This source should help. The American Daylily Society has a search feature on its website. Unless you are an expert and know the cultivars and breeders, use the advanced search feature. This will allow you to search for features like:

  • Color
  • Size
  • Shape
  • Bloom Season

Enter the features you want and see the offerings. Here is the search page.

How Can I Use Them

Daylilies are adaptable problem solvers in the garden. They make great borders to keep walkers on the path, Plant them on steep banks that are hard to mow. Use them to fill in spaces in the flower beds. They make a good ground cover and suppress weeds. You can use them as a foundation planting, and pollinators will thank you.

In Containers

They make effective container plants in larger pots. If the daylily makes a clump 1′ in diameter the container should be from 12″ to 18″ in diameter. For a bigger plant that can spread to 2,’ you will need a pot that size.

Color and Shape

Consider these points when choosing colors.

  • Mass the plants-use 10 or more plants of the same or similar color for effect.
  • Mix plants with the same color grouping- combine, for example, pink, yellow and melon
  • Keep order in the planting bed-make a focal point of the lightest and darkest colors and add related shades
  • Keep white daylilies a little distance from other white flowers-daylily breeders have succeeded in creating near-white shades, but they can look a little gray when combined with true white blooms of other varieties.
  • Daylilies look attractive against evergreens
  • When planting near buildings keep the building color in mind. Bright colors enhance a dark-colored house, dark blossoms will enhance a light-colored building.

Daylilies with Interesting Shapes

New cultivars include dramatic shapes and patterns. These include picotees, ruffles, contrasting colors, gold edges. Remember that these features fade as distance increases. These fancy varieties are not made for mass plantings. Use these in small numbers near to where you will enjoy them. Here is a little more about interesting shapes.

Companion Plants for Daylilies

Daylilies grow in a very wide geographic range which means a wide range of companion plants. Not all these ideas work for everyone in every location.

Daylilies thrive in sun or bright shade, Their best soil conditions are well-drained, rich, and slightly acidic.

  • Daisy-like plants, Shasta daisy, Black-eyed Susan, Echinacea. Phlox, Baby’s breath, lavender.
  • For Daylilies with strong foliage, try Hosta, Russian Sage, Heuchera

How to Plant Them

What are you buying?

Daylillies are not true lilies and do not grow from bulbs. They grow from a mass of thickened, fleshy roots. If you order from large dealers and breeders they will send you bare roots plants. Open them as soon as they arrive and plant as quickly as you can.

You can buy daylilies from local garden centers in spring. These will be potted plants, more mature and higher in price. Choices will be far more narrow but you will be able to see the actual plant, not a photo.

Daylilies by Climate

If you live in a climate with a freeze, look for “Dormant” varieties. These lose leaves in cold weather and can survive the winters in the ground. This is a very large category;

If you are in areas such as Florida you will find “Evergreen” varieties suitable. Florida has many daylily breeders and your choices should also be large.

Soil Preparation and Planting

Loosen the soil and amend it with organic matter; peat, compost, or manure. Add fresh compost yearly. For most varieties choose a place with at least 6 hours of sun. Ensure the hole is deep enough for the roots. Plan to dig a 3″ hole for bare-root plants and if potted make the hole 2 times the width of the pot and deep enough for the roots to fit comfortably. Fertilize with 10-10-10 fertilizer and water, well after planting. Plant in mild weather and after the danger of frost is over.

Ongoing Care for Your Daylily


Daylilies are hardy plants that will grow with very little attention. We do plant them for flowers and fertilizer will increase the blooms. Use a balanced fertilizer 16-4-8, every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.


Provide an inch per week during the growing season once the plants are established.

Pests and Diseases

Daylilies are resilient, however, there are pests that attack them. They include Aphids, Spider Mites, Thrips, Slugs, and Snails. Here is management advice from. Clemson University

Diseases: Leaf Streak (fungus), Daylily Rust, Root-Knot Nematode, Soft Rot Clemson University


It is easy to see why so many people call the Daylily the “Perfect Perennial. ” You can enjoy your efforts for years to come.

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Another good piece on Daylilies

Bulbs For The Summer Garden

American Daylily Society

Beauty Today-Some Specific Daylilies