Daylilies are hardy perennials that grow throughout the temperate areas of the world. You will find them in a wide range of colors, with new hybrid varieties being developed every year. All daylilies are descended from the wild Hemerocallis, which originated in Asia. The name is derived from two Greek words: "hemera," meaning beauty, and "kallos," meaning day. Each lovely flower is open for one day only, so the name is certainly appropriate.
An astounding 35,000 varieties of daylilies are identified and registered. They are extremely adaptive, and chances are you can find varieties that will thrive where you live. Because they are regionally grown and developed, look for daylilies in local garden shops and nurseries. Here you will find daylilies acclimated to your growing region.
Daylilies grow into clumps that may have 200 to 400 flowers each season. They can grow so thick that they choke out weeds, and their tightly massed root systems are effective for erosion control on slopes. Daylilies prefer full sun, but many varieties have been bred for shade. The original colors were orange, yellow and red, but the hybrids are available in all colors, and with a range of petal sizes and shapes. Flowers appear on long stems called scapes. The number of buds per scape varies between varieties, as does the bloom time and length of blooming period. Many varieties rebloom, which extends the flowering season from spring through fall in some cases.
Daylilies require little care to survive. However, they respond to compost and regular watering by giving you more and larger flowers. Few pests bother daylilies. Aphids, thrips, spider mites and slugs are common, and they are easily controlled organically with insecticidal soap. Diatomaceous earth controls slugs.
Daylilies may develop bacterial crown rot where the base of the plant turns brown and soft and rots. Remove infected plants and treat the area with garden sulphur. Another daylily disease is spring sickness. Symptoms are misshapen leaves, sometimes with uneven brown edges. The cause of spring sickness is not known, and removal of infected plants is advised.
Daylily flowers will form seed pods, but these should be removed to maintain plant vigor. Daylilies are propagated by divisions of tubers. In early spring, dig and separate tubers and replant them in deeply tilled soil. Make a planting hole about 12 inches deep, create a mound of soil in the center of the hole and set the plant on the mound, spreading the roots evenly around the mound. Cover the roots, and cover the tuber at the same depth it had been growing. Early spring transplants may bloom the same year.
Daylilies are used as food in many parts of the world. In the United States they are listed as forage food in survival manuals. The buds are delicious stir-fried or steamed, and the blossoms are prepared in a variety of ways. The flower parts are mildly sweet because of the nectar. Eaten raw, the petals are crunchy and taste something like raw peas. Young tubers can be eaten raw, and they are used as a starchy potato substitute. Young spring leaf shoots taste like mild onions, and may be eaten raw or cooked. Any part that is eaten raw can cause digestive upset in some people; cooking removes this risk. Any variety of daylily is edible.