GROWING GLORIOUS DAYLILIES
Driving out in the country in the middle of Summer, you can see whole colonies of wild daylilies. These older varieties naturalize enthusiastically, the foliage blending right in with the grass. I read somewhere about a stand of daylilies in a private garden back East that was over 400 years old, so these plants are really “built to last.” Growing Glorious Daylilies isn’t hard, but choosing the right plants for your garden does take some knowledge of terms.
Daylily catalogs are eagerly awaited in many households, mine included. We flip through the pages and make note of the plants we simply cannot make it through life without. It’s like a candy store, without the calories. Once we regain our senses, we prioritize those that we want the most, and put the rest on hold till next year. When you order plants, remind yourself of all the holes you’ll have to dig.
Plant type, Foliage type, and Bloom type set each plant apart. There are no two the same.
- Diploid Flowers: Most Daylilies are Diploids. They have 22 chromosomes (two identical sets of eleven.) They sometimes have very weak stems which tend to flop over under the weight of the flowers. Diploids with short stems usually don’t have this problem.
- Tetraploid Flowers have four sets of eleven chromosomes, with a total of forty-four. Tetraploids usually have very stiff, substantial stems which hold the flowers aloft and also have larger blooms with better flower substance. The plants are often more vigorous growers and have thicker foliage.
Someone with adequate know-how can breed a Tetraploid from a Diploid. I wouldn’t want to try due to fear of the chemicals that must be used.
- Dormant Foliage means the leaves will die back in the Winter. These are very tough plants for the northern states.
- Semi-Evergreen Foliage dies back in cold climates and stays partially green in the warmer areas of the country. Semi-Evergreen Daylily plants are usually planted further south.
- Evergreen Foliage remains green in all but the coldest areas of the country. Many Evergreen Daylilies do not survive well in the northernmost states. The Winters are just too severe.
Most Daylilies have strap-like leaves. Others have grass-like foliage that is hard to tell apart from real grass until it grows tall enough.
GROWING GLORIOUS DAYLILIES: BLOOM TYPE
Daylilies stay open for just one day, hence the name. I don’t like to be away from home when they are blooming.
- Nocturnal Daylilies open late in the daytime, and also last for several hours during the night.
- Extended Bloom Daylilies will stay open for 16 hours or more. Some as high as 24 hours.
I hope someday that someone will “crack the code” and be able to create a Daylily that will bloom for at least a couple of days.
HYBRIDIZING DAYLILIES TO CREATE NEW VARIETIES
Creating new varieties of the Daylily isn’t hard at all. Just don’t go overboard, since for every new plant, you’ve got to find room in your flower border for it to call home.
Always hybridize in the early morning before the bees and the ants get to your flowers. You don’t want them to have already cross-pollinated a flower before you have a chance to do it yourself. Sunlight helps the buds to open, so be ready to dash out into the garden and start “experimenting.”
NOTE: A Tetraploid must be cross-pollinated with another Tetraploid. A Diploid must be cross-pollinated with another Diploid Daylily.
The center of the Daylily flower is interesting. The long, slender protrusion that is probably very pale in color is called the Pistil. It will be surrounded by about half a dozen Stamens. The Stamens are usually generously coated with yellow pollen. Choose the two varieties of Daylilies that you want to try to “marry,” and pinch off one Stamen. Coat the tip of the Pistil of the other plant with the pollen.
Put a tag on the stem of that individual flower so you won’t forget what you’ve done. I carry a small notebook and a roll of masking tape for this procedure. Wrap the tape around the stem right underneath the blossom and make sure to leave enough of a “tab” of tape to write on. I put a number on it, and write the same number in my notebook. Like so: # 15: The name of the plant the pollen came from, the name of the plant the pollen was transferred to, and also the date.
Waiting is the hardest part, but the seed pods must be dry enough that the seeds turn dark before you plant them.
HYBRIDIZING PRODUCES SURPRISING VARIETY
Plants are often like children. They come in a surprising variety, even from the same parents. I remember that from one seed pod, the shiny black seeds produced one Daylily plant that had pale pink flowers, another that was light peach colored and had a faint, but lovely, fragrance, and a third plant that had deep bronze color flowers with hints of pink. All were so different, but lovable in their own way.
Growing glorious daylilies does take some effort. Seedpods that appear on plants that you have not cross-pollinated must be picked off and disposed of. Otherwise, they will draw too much strength from the plant.
SOME TRIED-AND-TRUE DAYLILY VARIETIES
“Palace Guard” is my all-time favorite red Daylily. It is a “hot” red color with a yellow throat. The shape of the bloom can only be described as elegant, like an old fashioned wine glass, but with curly petal tips. I used to have it growing in my flower border, but transplanted it right under my kitchen window so I can enjoy it more thoroughly. There is no scent. For some reason, this variety is becoming harder and harder to find. I think it deserves a resurgence. “Palace Guard” blooms early and is said to be a re-bloomer, although it has never done that in my garden. It is a Tetraploid.
“Heron” is my favorite pink Daylily. It blooms at the same time as “Palace Guard,” but far outdistances it in sheer number of flowers. It has a yellow center and cream-colored mid-ribs. This plant is a Diploid, so I would not be able to cross-pollinate it with “Palace Guard,” or I would certainly try.
“Fooled Me” Daylily was an impulse buy. So often, the color of flowers is manipulated in garden catalogs, and you can’t be 1oo% certain of what you’re getting till it blooms. It covers itself with bright golden yellow flowers with a large, deep magenta “stain” in the center. I mourn when the last flower has bloomed. It is an early-blooming, heavy flowering Tetraploid.
I have all three of these flowers planted together, and the combination of colors is striking.
TWO MORE VARIETIES THAT BELONG TOGETHER!
“Rooten Tooten Red” is my neighbor’s favorite red. It has a green center, and is unscented. This Mid-Season Tetraploid blooms pretty heavily while in flower.
“Fragrant Bouquet” is a very delicate flower with a fantastic citrusy scent that makes me stop and smell them each time I pass. This Tetraploid Daylily is cream washed with bright lemon yellow. The petals are extremely ruffled. I really treasure mine, and love having it planted near “Rooten Tooten Red” Daylily. Some plants were just made for each other!
Growing glorious daylilies is an amazing project. Yellow, pink, orange, purple, red – – – no matter the color, they always seem to go well together. I rather like colors that push, shove, and elbow each other for attention. The one color that has not yet been developed in Daylilies is blue, but not for want of trying. Hybridizers have been at it for years, and the plant that comes the closest is called the “Prairie Blue Eyes” Daylily.
LATE-BLOOMING DAYLILY VARIETIES
I am trying to locate some very late-blooming varieties. In late Summer and all during the Fall, my garden really looks tired. I love annual plants such as geraniums, petunias, and impatiens plants, but perennials that keep coming back year after year are so much easier to live with.
Perennials stay right in the ground all Winter long, and usually don’t need mulch for protection. And next season, they produce an abundance of color that is so welcome after the long cold season from November through March.
Right now, the one I have my eye on is a Tetraploid Daylily called “Golden Tycoon.” From a distance, the color looks like a rich golden yellow. As you get closer you can see the orange shading. It blooms late in the season, long after most Daylilies are finished for the year, and the flowers are as big as your hand. It is fragrant, which is a nice bonus.
I have about 20 Daylilies up by the house in different colors, and can see that I must make room for more. They are beautiful interplanted with phlox, perennial geraniums, and nepeta.
DAYLILIES ARE EDIBLE
Daylily buds and blossoms are edible, raw or cooked. (The light colored ones, such as yellow, are the tastiest.) Unfortunately, deer appreciate them, too, and don’t seem to understand that this isn’t a buffet. They always “raid” during the night.
I use medicated body powder (like Gold Bond or other brand) to sprinkle on the flowers, buds, and foliage to keep deer from munching them. For those creatures that are especially persistent, I pry the powder container open and add lots of hot chili powder and garlic powder to it.
This usually works. Usually!
HAPPY PLANTING! Susan