It is not surprising that daylilies have become so popular. They are amongst the most beautiful flowering plants, bloom prolifically over a long period and come in an enormous range of spectacular colours.
LONG LASTING BEAUTYThe botanical name - Hemerocallis, meaning "beauty for a day" is rather misleading, for, while individual flowers last only from dawn to dusk, an established clump bears up to 40 blooms at the same time and these are followed by successive flowers day after day for at least three months. The peak period is from Mid June to Mid August.
The plants can be used to beautify any garden setting. They are spectacular around ornamental pools, ideal for tall edges, add slashed of vivid colour throughout the garden, grow well in containers, look brilliant in group plantings and prevent erosion on banks and slopes.
MEDICINE AND FOODThe modern daylilies were derived from simple native plants discovered in the temperate regions of central and northern Asia where they were used by the Chinese for food and medicine. The common lemon and double orange variety, still seen in many gardens today, are probably the closest relatives of these early plants.
HYBRIDSAbout 90 years ago, American hybridisers, realizing the potential of the species, began crossing and recrossing until plants were developed to produce flowers of many different colours.
Over the years hybridizing has continued. American - and to a much lesser extent - European hybridisers too have produced some wonderful creations and today there are daylilies in almost every shade imaginable. Red, yellow, orange, purple, tangerine, blends, bicolours, contrasting edges and eyezones. Blooms come in various shapes and sizes with different stem lengths. There are quaint miniatures, tall forms, singles and spectacular doubles.
As yet no one has succeeded in producing a pure white or blue flowering form but these elusive colours are bound to appear eventually. Some breeders plant out 100.000 seedlings every year from which only about 15-40 are retained for a 1-2 year evaluation and in the ende as few as 3 or 4 are likely to be introduced.
When a new and distinctive daylily is selected it is named and registered with the American Daylily Society. Since 1950 over 40.000 new cultivars have been recorded.
EASY CARE, EASY TO GROWThe plants are extremely hardy perennials, capable of withstanding frost, high temperatures, drought and damp. They will grow in full sun, semi-shade and in containers, outside or on a balcony.
Almost any soil suits them but for best results add plenty of compost or other well rotted organic material and keep moist during the flowering season. Side dressings of compost, cow manure or low nitrogen fertilizer improve performance but too much can be detrimental. The time to feed is when plants show new growth after dormancy, usually about March.
Daylilies can be planted anytime. Each needs about 60 cm of space, they multiply rapidly and in two years form large clumps. Those planted in winter usually flower the first season but reach full splendour during the second and third year.
You can safely leave a daylily clump to grow for 10-15 years. Dividing is simply a matter of digging up, cutting into quarters with a spade or sharp knife , then replanting separately.
Apart from their beauty, the big advantage of growing daylilies is apparent immunity to most pests and diseases. Snails and slugs might chew away a little new growth but are easy to control.
A GOURMET'S DELIGHTMost gardeners will be unaware that every part of the daylily is edible. Although seldom eaten in Europe, the plant is an important food source in Asia. Daylily roots are nutritious and appetising, with a flavour similar to asparagus.
Some prefer the first green stems while others harvest the small tubers attached to the roots to use as a substitute for peas. Most, however, eat the buds and blossoms which contain more vitamins A & C than beans. Unopened flowers are delicious when boiled 3 to 4 minutes, then served with butter and salt or, dipped in egg batter and quickly fried golden brown in hot oil.
To add flavour to soups and casseroles drop blooms into the liquid for the last few minutes before serving.