Daylilies Thrive in Texas Heat
Gallery: Daylilies [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
It’s officially summer, and the Easter lilies have long faded; those symbols of resurrection have gone to rest until next spring, when they will return and bloom again. (If you water them.) The other traditional asiatic lilies have also spent their blooms. But fear not, fellow gardeners! There is a slightly-less-well-known plant that will sate your longing for lilies through the summer months: the daylily.
One hundred years ago, the only daylilies available were the species plants brought over from Asia. These orange “ditch lilies” were such hardy naturalizers that they continued growing long into neglect. Old homesteads can still be seen with bunches of orange daylilies merrily growing around their foundations. The stunning hybrids available today aren’t quite that tough, but they are not far behind.
When not in bloom, a daylily looks like a clump of tall, thick-bladed grass, much like liriope or monkey grass. The blossom is a showy 6-petal bloom that looks much like a traditional lily. Interestingly, they are not super-close relatives of other lilies; they are in the Hemerocallidaceae family, and true lilies are in the Liliaceae family. Each bloom lasts only a day, but it blooms in quick succession for weeks at a time, and sometimes the same plant will flower multiple times a year. With a little careful attention, you can put together varieties that bloom at different times, and have a continual show through spring and summer. Most daylilies are orange, yellow and red, but some are purple, pink, or white. They can be a single solid color, multiple colors, different shapes, and the edges can be smooth or ruffled. There are hundreds of colors and combinations out there; looking through a daylily catalogue can be dizzying!
Have I sold you on daylilies yet? How about if I told you they would multiply for you? Like many hardy perennials, daylilies slowly grow and expand until it is advantageous to divide them and spread them out. Then you have plants to sell, share with friends, or plant in other places in your own garden.
The most important factor, of course, is that they are easy to care for. Like any plant, they need some extra water to get established when they are first planted, but after that they need very little supplemental water to stay looking their best. They have tubers in their roots that store water for dry periods. During the summer, watch for yellowing leaves, indicating they are stressed and need water. While they do fine in full sun, I find that in our heat, they do best with a little bit of shade in the most scorching part of the day. (Who doesn’t?) As long as they get 6 hours of full sun a day, they will be happy. They don’t need special fertilizers or planting mixes as long as they won’t be standing in water; good drainage is essential. When planting in my clay soil, I mix in a generous portion of compost all around them, and mulch with compost in the winter.
If you really want to start off right, take a sample of your soil and have it tested. This is really easy, I promise. Your local extension office can do it, there are kits at most garden stores to do it yourself, and some garden stores will do it for you at certain times of the year. The test will tell you what you need to add to your soil to make it a perfect home for your plants. It’s worth it to start off with a good foundation for your plants, and that applies not just to daylilies, but to all your beautiful garden beds.
Where to get daylilies? There are so many ways! Calloway’s and Redenta’s Garden in Arlington both carry daylilies. The "big box" stores have a limited selection of them too, though the independent stores will always have nicer plants. The American Hemerocallis Society publishes a grower’s list, which can be found here: http://www.daylilies.org/AHSsource.html And of course, there is always those old standbys, Craigslist and eBay.
It would be nice if we all had friends who could sell their baby plants to us, but that isn’t the case for everyone. OR IS IT? The North Texas Daylily Society meets at the Botanic Gardens in Fort Worth. Check them out here: http://www.northtexasdaylilysociety.org/
Do you have a new obsession yet? You’re welcome! Happy gardening!