Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Choose a day lily for carefree beauty
By GERRI LYON, Master Gardener intern | Mar 15, 2012
If you are starting a new perennial garden, consider the many varieties of easy to grow day lilies in your plan. They are trouble free and can grow undisturbed for many years.

The botanical name Hemerocallis is derived from a Greek word meaning “beautiful for a day.” Individual flowers last only a single day, with new buds opening daily. Stalks bear flowers for several weeks.

My first memory of lilies is the “ditch lily or tiger lily.” Have you ever noticed the bright orange flower along roadsides or at an old farmstead? Obviously, a hardy survivor after years of abandon! This is simply more proof of day lilies being easy to grow. The modern hybrid varieties are vastly improved and have more shapes and colors available. Some varieties are ruffled, others have double layers of petals. Still others have spidery looking blossoms, some are large and some are small giving the grower many choices in addition to color.

Day lily foliage in itself, adds a visual effect in your garden for the entire growing season. Bright green strap-like leaves arch from the crown of the plant and form a graceful mound.

Flower stalks grow from the crown and can grow from 1 foot to 6 feet. The stalks branch at the top where the showy flowers open for one day. That’s a sad fact for me. Only one day, when they are so perfect and beautiful. But, keep in mind, flowering does last for several weeks!

Plantings should be made in full sun or partial shade. Loamy soil is ideal, but they can adapt to a variety of soil types. Good drainage is important. Fertilizer should be used sparingly unless you are planting in poor soil types. Use a 0-20-20 or 5-20-20; 1 or 2 tablespoons can be applied around plants in early spring.

Ideally, planting and transplanting, should be done in the late summer. Prepare your new garden area, working soil 1 foot deep. If dividing plants from an existing bed, dig clumps, remove soil from root area, then use a knife or spade to divide into sections. Be sure each section has several crowns — the spot where foliage and roots meet. Cut back foliage tops to 8- to 10 inches. This is a good time to share your favorites with family and friends or perhaps a community project
Place the crowns about 1 inch deep, spreading out roots into the soil. Gently firm the soil and water thoroughly. Plantings should be spaced 1-2 feet apart. Water the newly planted day lilies regularly, to ensure good root growth.

A day lily can grow for five to seven years with little maintenance. There are many choices for early-, mid- and late-season blooming. You can’t go wrong using a day lily. The rewards are an endless wave of color and texture in your landscaping.

I mentioned little maintenance. Because of their heavy blooming nature, dead heading or removing spent blossoms is desirable to keep plants looking fresh and healthy. I don’t mind this duty; it’s another chance to admire and enjoy the beauty of mid-June mornings! To continue enjoying the mounded foliage of your plants, remove the stalks when they start to dry and turn brown.

Gerri Lyon is a Master Gardener intern.

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