DARREL KOEHLER: The Prairie Gardener — Delightful Daylillies

Even if your green thumb is really the finger of death, don’t worry. If nothing else, you can grow daylillies that not only thrive but will be the talk of the neighborhood!

Daylillies grow spectacularly even with neglect. They have few insect or disease problems. One of their only drawback is that they have to be divided often, which means you must find a home for the excess plants. And if you don’t spread out the “wealth,” people will soon be locking their doors in fear they will come home to a boxes of daylily roots.

Daylillies have been in the garden for as long as gardeners have been planting. There are about 32,000 daylily cultivars. Most of us are familiar with the old-fashioned orange and yellow kinds, which have gone feral and can be found in ditches or any other places. Even these old varieties have a place in our gardens.

The scientific name for daylily is “Hemerocallis,” a combination of the Greek words for day and beauty. The lily-shaped flowers, some of which have “eyed” blooms with a dark-colored ring in the center of the blossom,  last but one day before fading. Flower color varies, running the entire spectrum of the rainbow except blue and white. These come in a blend of colors or two contrasting colors.

There two kinds of daylillies. One kind dies back to the ground in the fall and goes dormant. They do well most places. In the deep South and other warm places, evergreen daylillies are raised. These will stay green all winter but will brown up if planted in a colder climate such as the Midwest.

With protection, evergreen varieties can survive and bloom even in the North. Many evergreen varieties have more colorful flowers than the dormant kind.

Daylillies are the easiest of perennials to grow. For starters, plant roots in full sun or light shade in fertile, well-drained soil with a pH from 5.5 to 7. The soil should be cultivated to make it loose and friable. Water after planting the daylily roots. To ensure large blooms, water continuously once blooming stars.

Daylillies should be divided every four years. When dividing, dig up in clumps with a garden fork or shovel. Since the roots can be very tough, use a sharp shovel or large knife and split the clumps into two, three or even four pieces. Gently pull groups of foliage from the clumps. Cut leaves off about 6 inches above the crown.

Daylillies can be divided at various times of the year, although more gardeners prefer to do this about a month or so before the ground freezes.

There are many favorite daylily cultivars, but “Stella de Ore,” which blooms from early summer to fall, is one of the best.

All in all, there are so many varieties, so there is no reason to be bored in your garden!

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