DAYLILIES Anna Holloway Oct. 2011
I wonder how many of you grow daylilies in your gardens? We all call them daylilies, but did you know that their botanical name is Hemerocallis, which in the Greek language means “day beauty”. These beautiful flowers have been around for ever. In fact, they were already cultivated in China over 2,500 years ago.
I grow daylilies and love them dearly. They are so forgiving, the answer to every gardener’s prayer: they seem to grow anywhere - even in our roadside ditches. They are probably the most undemanding of any of our perennials, wild or cultivated. True their blooms last but a day and then fade but there is always another bud waiting to burst tomorrow, and so on for many weeks to come. They are very hardy to our climate and easy to cultivate. Their only requirement, don’t plant them too deep - only one inch below the ground’s surface - or they may not bloom. Be careful when mulching and feeding, as this may bring the depth level too high and again, they may not bloom.
Daylilies love sunshine (the majority bloom in mid-summer) but will tolerate partial shade. They look particularly lovely near water (some of mine are down by the lake). They tolerate slightly acidic through to slightly alkaline soil, but demand it be both moist and, if possible rich. Now is one of the times to plant, the other would be in the Spring after the soil has warmed slightly. To propagate daylilies easily, dig up a mother plant and divide it and then replant the two pieces. They are vigorous growers so allow a good two or three feet between clumps. Daylilies are very resistant to bacterial, viral and fungal infections (although in the warm South they are developing a rust, which should not affect us here in the North as this rust does not survive in harsh winters). Very occasionally the buds can be attacked by gall wasps. If this happens snap off the affected bud and destroy it. Deadheading daily keeps the plants looking good. No special treatment is needed to overwinter daylilies in our climate.
Daylilies come in many, many colours and sizes. Some are small like the very popular Stella d’Oro (and even smaller in their miniature version). Some large ones have flowers 4 inches across. Most are singles but there are doubles, spiders and a classification of “unusuals”. There are literally thousands (at least 12,000) hybrids and more are being produced each year in a myriad of colours and duo-colours. Every colour except true white and true blue. A very few daylilies have variegated leaves; one that I have is called Kwanzo, with green and white leaves and orange flowers.
Not only are these plants lovely they are also claimed to be edible. Apparently, every part: leaves, flowers, buds and even the rhizomes can be cooked. Described by one internet cook as a “charming vegetable”. If you are interested in learning how to cook daylilies, there are recipes on the internet. The most common one is to take a just opening flower, dip it in a batter and deep fry it in oil. I haven’t tried it but I have had squash blossoms similarly cooked. Delicious. Bon appétit!
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