Monday, July 18, 2011

Daylilies (Hemerocallis) for Wonderful Summer Color

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called "Daylilies (Hemerocallis) for Wonderful Summer Color " (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:

Note: Day lillies are currently ON SALE for 20% off at Skillin's locations and we have some beauties for you!!

"As the summer weather begins to warm up and the soil begins to dry out, is your perennial garden beginning to wither away and lose all of its early color? If you live in a town that always has a water ban, if your soil is on the sandy side and watering is a problem, then I have a great perennial plant for you...the daylily. Daylilies love the sun and because of thick fibrous roots that can store water for long periods, are the perfect drought resistant plant for you. Daylilies are so easy to grow that they are today one of the most popular plants to grow for summer color.

Daylilies are not true lilies and the flowering stem has no leaves. The flower stem is round, strong, smooth and tall, often raising the trumpet-like flowers well above the grass-like foliage. All the foliage is at the base of the plant and grows in the shape of a fan. This foliage is grass-like, growing 12 to 18 inches tall and less than an inch wide. It is deep green in color; the center of the leaf blade is pleated to create the perfect gutter-like system to catch and move rainfall directly to the base of the plant.



As the plant matures the fans of foliage will thicken and produce a thick clump of soft foliage that weeps over on its tip and sways back and forth with the slightest breeze. (I like this foliage canopy as well because it crowds out weeds in the perennial garden!) Each fan of foliage is capable of producing multiple stems of trumpet-shaped flowers from June to September, depending of the variety you select. Most varieties will bloom for a 4 to 6 week season, but there are new hybrids that will rebloom on and off for most of the summer. Each of these flower stems can produce 6 to 10 flower buds, with only one flower blooming at a time; as one flower fades a new bud will open, keeping the stem in bloom for many days. The flower stems develop at different times on the plant, creating an almost continuously flowering plant for many weeks. This truly amazing flower is shaped like a trumpet 3 to 6 inches in diameter.

The best growing daylilies live in a soil that is well conditioned with peat moss, animal manure, or compost before planting. This will keep the plant's roots growing evenly in a soil that is moist most of the time and allowing the plant to produce more flower buds during the summer season. I always add Soil Moist granules and use a fertilizer that contains Mycorrhizae when planting. Look for Flower Tone or Plant Tone by Espoma. When the weather gets hot and dry be sure to water once a week for a very productive plant. The plant does love the sun but if the garden can get a bit of late day or midday shade for a couple of hours, the plants will flower longer during the season.

There is one garden task that all daylilies need, and that is to remove any seed pods that develop on the end of the flower stalks. When that stem is finished flowering, please remove it to the base of the fan of foliage. The seeds that are produced in these pods will not produce seeds that are the same color flower as the plant is. Also, if you allow the seeds to mature in the pod and the pod ripens and explodes scattering the seed in your garden, the new seedlings that develop will not be the same color and they could choke out the hybrids you were growing there.

If you have the wild orange daylilies growing near your garden, the bees can carry the pollen from the wild plant onto the hybrid growing in your garden. If this happens, the wild pollen is stronger than the hybrid and orange plants will develop, quickly choking out your hybrids. Most of the daylilies will drop the faded flowers without making a seed pod, so pick off the faded flowers or let them fall from the flower stem, but be sure to remove any seed pods that do develop.

If you want new plants, divide them in the early spring or in the fall of the year when they finish flowering. To make a new plant, divide the clump of foliage into single fans of foliage; each fan will make a new plant identical to the clump it originally came from.Space fans of foliage 12 to 18 inches apart; cut back the foliage by one third from the top and plant in a conditioned soil that you will keep moist for several weeks until you can see that the plant is well established. Cover the soil with 2 to 3 inches of bark mulch or compost to keep weeds out and the coil cool and to better hold water around the roots of the plant.

I think that most of us have seen the wild-growing orange daylilies growing on the side of the road. A lot of us have seen the dwarf yellow flowering hybrid daylily called 'Stella de Oro' planted in every parking lot where a big box store is located. This year look for the new varieties of hybrid daylilies at your local garden center; they com in every color but blue and true white. You will also find some double-flowering varieties, many two-tone varieties and even some that are fragrant. If you're worried about not finding what you're looking for in color, do not get worried, as there are over 40,000 cultivars to choose from and more new plants each year.

When you look for daylilies here are the four things you will need to know:

Number one, there are three types of daylilies: the old fashioned daylilies, the hybrid daylilies called "tetraploid," with thicker, larger flowers in brighter colors that are stronger growing than the old fashioned daylilies. And the reblooming /recurrent types that bloom more than just the normal 4 to 6 weeks; they will flower all summer long.

Number two, daylilies bloom at different times of the year from June to September, so try to select early, midseason or late blooming varieties for continuous color in your garden.

Number three, always ask for plants that are hardy for your planting zone when you order on line or the internet, as some varieties are better suited for heat and some for a colder climate. Any plants sold at Skillin's should be hardy for Skillin's Country! (or at least have a good shot at survival!)

Number four, ask about the height of the plant and flowering stems. Example--dwarf plants will grow under a foot tall; low will grow 1 to 2 feet tall, medium 2 to 3 feet tall and tall over 3 feet tall.
Plant daylilies in perennial flower beds, along a walkway as a border plant, near spring-flowering bulb that will go dormant as their leaves turn brown in June, and they are wonderful when used in plantings on steep banks to replace grass that could be hard to mow. You will love daylilies because they have very few problems with insects or disease and because they grow so strong any damage on the plant is quickly replaced with new foliage in just a few weeks. Daylilies, especially the wild orange varieties, will do well when planted on the side of the road to control erosion problems and will tolerate road salt.

One last thing to know about daylilies is that they are loved by butterflies and hummingbirds, so place a hummingbird feeder in the garden and sit back to enjoy the show as these unique creatures dance in your flower garden this summer. Enjoy!"

Thanks to Paul Parent!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 18, 2011

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