October best time to plant daylilies

First daylily in U. S. registered in 1897;  now they grow in many areas across the country

October 14, 2004

Doris Martinak

Victoria County Master Gardener



Master gardener, Doris Martinak's favorite daylily cultivars illustrate various colors and shapes.  Among them are clockwise from top, the creamy white Joan Senior, the rose and pink Devaughn Hodges, the red Gato, the rose and pink Beatrice Blanche and the yellow Little Hobo.  The daylily is said to have originated in China and other parts of Asia.

Photos courtesy of Louisiana Nursery--Durio Gardens

Daylilies can be found growing in garden areas all across the United States.  In some areas of the country they even grow wild in ditches along the roadside.  With daylilies so prevalent, one would think they have been growing in America for centuries---but that is not the case.


It appears that daylilies originated in China and possibly other parts of Asia.  In China, they have been used as food crops and for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.  They symbolize relief from worries and cares in Chinese culture.  Eventually daylilies made their way to Europe, American---and into our yards.


They daylily came to the United States in the 1800s with the first daylily registered in 1897.  Around 50,000 daylily cultivars are registered, although only a small percentage is available commercially.


The daylily is not a member of the lily family but belongs to the genus Hemerocallis.  Two Greek words meaning "day" and "beautiful" contribute to the word memerocallis, describing the bloom as beautiful for one day.  As most everyone knows, daylily blooms last for only one day.


We are accustomed to seeing daylilies in a myriad of colors ranging from creamy whites, yellow, pinks, redss and purples to an extremely deep dark, almost black, red.  The only color not seen is blue, and one of these days we might see that color in daylilies too.


The original daylilies were a lemon yellow (H. flava), the tawny daylily (H. fulva) and H. fulva rosea, a pink or rosy flower.  These plants are still around in many of our yards and are the ancestors of our colorful, modern daylilies.  Even today, yellow is particularly prevalent and a favorite color.


The second week in October is prime daylily planting time in our area, with the month of March being another good month for planting.  If planting a new bed, you should amend the soil so that it can be easily worked.  Your plnats will grow better and will reward you by developing better root systems and multiplying faster.  Good drainage is very important.  If planting in an established bed, you may need to work a bit of compost into it.


If the daylily bug has just bitten you, there are a number of items to consider.  Where will your wonderful new bed with the friable soil be located?  The sun in the Victoria area can be brutal.  Your daylilies will do well with good morning light, but some shade in the afternoon.  When planted in deep shade during the whole day, there likely will not be as much flowering and there could be a shorted flowering period.  Under pine trees is a good place for a daylily bed.


Daylily foliage habit---or type---is another consideration.  There are three types of foliage for daylilies:  evergreen, semi-evergreen and dormant.  Plants with evergreen and semi-evergreen foliage do well in our area, but dormant types can be chancy, even though I do have one dormant plant that has been coming back year after year while others have died.  The foliage on dormant plants dies completely back in the winter.  Plant height varies too.  Some may be a foot tall while others are 2 or 3 feet.  Daylily foliage is a good asset in the landscape.


There are about seven bloom seasons among daylilies ranging from extra early to very late.  Having each blooming season represented in your garden can extend the season.  Some daylilies rebloom later in the summer or in the fall while others open at night or remain open longer during the day and are especially fragrant. Not all daylily blooms have the same shape, so there is a lot of fun in growing different varieties.


A good place to start finding daylilies is at local nurseries.  Their plants will be in containers and easy to plant.  They can also give you helpful advice.  If ordering by mail for from a grower where they are fresh dug and arrive with bare roots,  make a small hill in the center of your planting hole.  Place the daylily on the hill and spread teh roots around the mound and gently fill in with soil, leaving no air pockets.  Do not plant too deeply, just at the depth the plant was previously planted.  Shipments usually have planting directions included.  Plant as soon as possible, water well---and you are on your way to beautiful plants and blooms.


Daylilies should be divided every three to five years, depending on growth.  To divide, dig up the whole clump and separate.  Trim the foliage back to 6 to 8 inches.  New and old daylily beds should be mulched, leaving a small area around the base of the plant free of mulch as they can suffocate the roots.  Daylilies are also good container plants.  If grown in containers, the soil probably should be changed every year.


If you go to Yahoo or Google on your computer and type in "daylilies," a lot of good sites will come up, including the American Hemerocallis Society.  The society publishes "An Illustrated Guide to Daylilies" that is chock full of useful information and photos.  It is 112 pages and well worth the small fee.  Information for ordering the publication can be found on the site.  Public libraries, including the Victoria Public Library, are good sources for information regarding daylilies.


While I am no expert on daylilies, I hope that there has been something useful to you in this article---although there is so much more that could be said about one of my favorite blooming plants---even if it does just bloom for one day.  In the meantime, plant a few daylilies for future enjoyment and leave your cares behind.