Q. Every summer I notice those pretty orange flowers blooming in masses along the highway. What are they? Do they only come in one color? Will they grow in my yard? I am new to gardening, and need all the helpful information that I can get.
A. You have just mentioned one of my favorite, easy-to-grow, tough-as-nails plants – the daylily! If you are a beginner gardener, this is a great plant to help break in your newfound green thumb!
Daylilies belong to the genus Hemerocallis and are not true lilies. This Greek word is made up of two parts: hemera meaning day and kallos meaning beauty.
The old orange daylily and the yellow "lemon lily" are the most famous wild daylilies. There are 20 daylily species, worldwide. From those 20 plants, more than 20,000 hybrids have been created.
The best time of year to plant daylilies in the far South is early spring or very late fall. It is best to stay away from the months of July, August, and September or when temperatures and humidity are extremely high, potentially causing the plants to rot.
Daylilies are perennial plants that easily adapt, grow vigorously and can even survive winters. These plants grow best in full sun. They will tolerate light shade, but flower best with a minimum of six hours of direct sun. Light shade during the hottest part of the day keeps the flowers fresh. Daylilies should not be planted near trees and shrubs that are likely to compete for moisture and nutrients. Although daylilies are adaptable to most soils, they do best in a slightly acidic, moist soil that is high in organic matter and well drained.
When planting your daylilies, the soil where you intend to plant your daylilies should be worked into a good loose condition to a depth of at least one foot.
Bloom time varies quite a bit depending on the cultivar. Some daylilies bloom early in the season and then rebloom later on.
The reblooming daylily craze began with the "Stella d'Oro," which blooms once during late spring then again in late August and into fall. There are hundreds of re-bloomers, from dwarfs to full-size beauties.
Daylilies can be purchased from nurseries, reliable online sources and if friends are growing varieties that make you green with envy, ask if they will share.
Written by Bethany A. O'Rear of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
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