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Discovering Daylilies - an introduction to these fabulous flowers

by Martin Blow SpecialPerennials.com

There are some flowering plants that just get on with it and then surprise you with a spectacular display of flowers that outshines everything else in the garden. Hemerocallis, commonly known as daylilies are one such plant.

Each individual flower lasts but a day, but don’t be put off, each plant has a continuous succession of flowers for 6 - 8 weeks in summer. They are not true lilies, so don’t get eaten by lily beetle at all.

Different varieties bloom at different times. It is best to avoid early ones (May- early June flowering) as these can be attacked by Gall Midge which destroys some of the flowers). Mid, (late June - July), and late, (July - August) bloomers avoid this pest.

Growing them is easy - daylilies are great survivors producing flowers in poor dry soils and doing well in damp or even wettish soils. They need some sun to flower. They can also be grown in large pots or containers.

Daylilies should be deadheaded regularly, mainly because the faded flowers go soggy, but also because dead blooms may harbour pests. Tidy gardeners go round their plants last thing at night and remove all the blooms that are open.

They can be divided from spring to autumn when not in flower. New varieties can be raised from seed.

With over 50,000 varieties registered there are plenty to choose from.

Every colour is available except black, a pure white and a true blue. Most modern types are around 2ft - 2ft 6in / 60-75cm tall, although some are half this height, and some are taller. The flowers typically have 6 petals (occasionally 8 or more) and can be trumpet-shaped, circular, star-shaped or long-petaled ("Spider" forms).

Perhaps the simplest and easiest to place in a garden colour scheme are the “selfs” – those with petals all in a single colour. On some varieties the “throat” of the flower has a different colour, often gold or green and sometimes contrasting with the petals. On red-flowered ones, the mid rib of the petals may also be golden.

Daylily petals are arranged three in front and three behind, and some have been bred with two shades of the same colour front and back (“bi-tone”)

Some have contrasting colours (“bicolour”). These can be quite striking in the border.

Even more striking are the “eye zone” patterns with a contrasting colour in the middle of the flower and even patterns in this eye (“watermark” and “etching”). US and Canadian breeders are now starting to introduce varieties with the elusive blue eye but watch this space to see if they perform in the UK climate.

Modern varieties may also have coloured edges to the petals but in my experience warm humid weather is required for these to fully develop.

Flower sizes vary from 2in / 5cm up to 10in / 25cm depending on variety. The largest ones are the spider form and so-called UFOs (“Unusual FOrms”) with twisted, dangly petals.

Whatever the variety, these easy to grow plants will reward you have a fabulous display each summer.

We have a varying selection of varieties available at plant fairs during the season propagated from our collection of around 100 varieties in our garden.

Text and images: copyright SpecialPerennials.

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