Flower gardens don’t have to take up all your time or money to be stunning. It’s easy to fill a sunny spot with flowers if you grow a variety of daylilies.
If you hear the word daylily and immediately think of the boring, pale yellow flowers involved in every chain restaurant’s landscaping you aren’t alone, but let me you, you are missing out on an incredible flowering perennial!
Daylilies are amazing plants, not only can my mother grow them but even my chickens and geese haven’t managed to kill them! They can grow in zones 4-9 and once established they’re as hands-off as you can get.
Have you ever seen the blazing orange lilies that line the roads during the summer? Those are wild daylilies, sometimes called ditch lilies.
They aren’t native, all daylilies come from Asia, but they have naturalized quite well in America and all over the world. Those daylilies and their Hemerocallis relatives were bred into all of the fancy daylilies available today.
Daylilies are native to Asia and despite both the name and the nearly identical flowers are not actually lilies. One of the most obvious differences is in the root structure, all of the true lilies grow from a scaly bulb while daylilies grown from fans or divisions.
Daylilies are from the order of Asparagales while true lilies are in the order Liliales. If it’s been a few years since you’ve had to think about taxonomy you can just go ahead and trust me that it’s a big difference!
They grow in clumps with long, narrow leaves and the flowers grow at the ends of long, skinny stalks. Each flower only lasts a single day but each plant can have dozens of individual blossoms that open over weeks.
I’ve always been the kind of person to feel bad about cutting flowers but it’s easier with daylilies knowing they’ll only be around for a single day anyway. Daylily flowers can even be eaten!
Read more about Edible Flowers
How to Plant Daylilies
Daylilies are not typically grown from seed, instead they can be purchased as bareroot plants in the early spring or potted at anytime during the growing season.
They are happiest with at least 6 hours of sun a day, but they will grow in full to partial sun. If you’re planning to grow any of the deep purple or red daylilies try to avoid having them in full sun during the hottest time of the day.
Daylily spacing varies from 12-18 inches based on the size of plant. There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing a specific daylily, in general when planting smaller (1- 1.5 foot tall) varieties go with the twelve inch spacing and use the 18 inch spacing for the larger (2 feet and up) varieties.
When to Plant Daylilies
The best time to plant daylilies is during the spring to give them time to establish a strong root system before the summer heat. If you live in an area with mild winters you can also plant in the late summer when the hottest days have passed.
The easiest way to add daylilies to your garden is to start with potted plants, all you do is dig a hole and pop the plant in. Water well and watch it prosper!
How to Grow Daylilies from Fans
If you’re looking to plant a large area on a budget or you’re looking for more variety than the local garden center can offer you need to check out an online daylily retailer (I like Smokey’s Garden) for bare root daylily fans,
Fans require a bit more work to plant but it more than makes up for the savings! All you need to do is loosen up the soil and work in a bit of compost to improve the soil structure and help with drainage.
Plant the daylily fans with the crown about an inch underground. Use your hands to smooth and firm the soil around the plants and water well.
You can plant single fans, two or three in the same spot depending on your plans and budget. The daylilies will fill in over time so planting one or two fans in each spot will eventually leave you with a lush flower bed but if you’re looking for a quicker impact go with three fans per hole.
Adding a layer of mulch around the plants will help maintain soil moisture and prevent any weeds from taking over while your plants are still small.
How to Divide Daylilies
Daylilies grow in clumps and overtime those clumps will get bigger and bigger until they start to die off on the inside due to lack of nutrients and moisture.
Fortunately, it’s really easy to divide daylilies! Unlike Irises that require a knife to cut through the tubers, you can get the job done with your hands (wear gloves!) and a shovel.
Start by digging up the entire clump and then just use your hands to pull it apart. If the clump is too difficult to manage just stick a shovel in it and pry it apart. You might accidentally kill a few sections but that’s ok, they’ll grow back.
In the past when I’ve been in a hurry and I wanted to pass on a daylily division to someone I just dig up part of a plant and fill the hole in with compost. I’ve never killed a daylily doing it that way!
The best time to divide daylilies is in the spring. Not only are the plants smaller and easier to manage but the ground is also wetter and easier to manipulate.
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8 Reasons to Plant a Daylily Garden
Now that we’ve covered how to plant daylilies, let’s get into why you need to make space for them in your flower beds. If you’re a hardcore daylily fan like myself you can plant an entire bed but even if you’re low on space it’s worth finding a spot for one of these beauties.
Flower beds have a reputation for taking a lot of time to plant and maintain. Daylily gardens are the exact opposite.
You plant fans in the early spring, keep them weeded and watch them take off. I even got some flowers the first year after planting from single fans!
They multiply quickly, filling in gaps and limiting the amount of weeding you need to do. I go through a few times a season with my Cape Cod Weeder cleaning up between the plants and things stay nice.
Daylilies come in beautiful colors and patterns
Daylilies are available in yellows, reds, oranges and purples. You can find yellows so pale they’re almost white and burgundies that almost look black.
Almost all of the daylily varieties have similar warm tones so it’s easy to mix colors while still having a harmonious design even if you’re adding in the lavender daylily flowers.
Don’t think you’re limited to the standard flower shapes either! You can find spider daylilies with long thin petals that curl at the ends like Red Ribbons, or densely petaled double daylilies like the rosy Louise Mercer or daylilies with ruffles along the edges of the petals like the lovely purple Marys Baby.
Enjoy Flowers All Summer
Daylilies have been bred to bloom at different times and some even rebloom, meaning they send up more than one flush of flowers during the season.
One of my favorite reblooming daylilies is called ‘Fair Child‘ and it has large pale yellow flowers that smell incredible and rebloom almost all summer long.
Between early, midseason and late-blooming varieties and the occasional reblooming daylily you can have a daylily flower show that lasts all summer with a little bit of planning.
They are hardy plants
They seem to thrive on neglect. Even my mom can grow daylilies and that’s saying something.
It’s a good thing my sister and I are human and not plants because she would have murdered us.
Daylilies are Cheap to Plant
When it comes to planting a large area you can either spend a ton of money or you can start from seed and wait years for everything to fill in.
Unless you go with daylilies. I was able to plant a 4 by 20-foot space for about $120 by buying a few collections and a few sets of fans from the sale section of Smokey’s Garden.
They come in 4 sizes to fit any space
Daylilies are classified by the height of the flower stem. They come in dwarf (less than 1 foot), low (1- 2 feet), medium (2-3 feet) and tall (anything over 3 feet).
I used this to my advantage with the retaining wall situation by planting the tallest in the back row closest to the house and gradually getting shorter and I moved down the row.
They Keep Going and Going
Last year I counted over a hundred blooms and buds on a single group of Fair Child daylilies. They’re a fragrant reblooming variety and they keep going and going and going.
The flowers only last a day so you don’t need to feel bad picking them, or letting your kid turn them into a hat!
Fragrant Daylilies Scent the Whole Yard
Not all daylilies have a scent but the fragrant daylilies varieties are worth seeking out. I picked several fragrant varieties to scatter through the bed.
Few things that can stop you in your tracks like catching that scent on the breeze.
Have I convinced you to give daylilies a shot? I promise there is so much more to the hemerocallis family than orange ditch dwellers.
Every year my daylily garden is filling in more and getting prettier. It’s even the home of one of my DIY Garden Fairy Houses.
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Sunday 1st of May 2022
I’m so glad I found this article….I’ve had these in the past and loved them. Going to order me some for my new garden I’m about to start… Thanks for such a great read….
Saturday 29th of June 2019
Please tell me more about the “Fairchild” Daylily!!! I Love Daylilies but have not seen the “Fairchild”. What color and how tall does it get? Is it a “rebloomer”? Thanks!
Tuesday 2nd of July 2019
They are a gorgeous pale yellow, but the thing that really stands out is the fragrance! I got mine from Smokey's: Fair Child Daylily They are a fragrant rebloomer and the site lists them at 32 inches tall. I have all of mine growing on a slope but that seems about right for the height
Adriana Lopez Martin
Tuesday 23rd of January 2018
Gardening is one of my passions however have never planted daylilies before now you got me inspired need to plant those this year =)
Monday 22nd of January 2018
your garden is beautiful. I am jealous of your green thumb and your morning views of daylilies. I might have to add these to my backyard this spring.
Jasmine - Stylish Cravings
Monday 22nd of January 2018
Daylilies are gorgeous! So glad I came across your post because I always thought they were difficult to care for and I had no idea they were hardy, they seem so dainty!