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Daylilies in Michigan

Image by, courtesy of Louise Docker

Daylilies are classic perennial garden flowers. They are quite hardy and can be grown in a wide variety of climates—even chilly places like the northernmost edge of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The mild temperatures of lower Michigan are ideal for growing daylilies. Daylilies come in a rainbow of colors and require little care beyond lifting and dividing them every few years.

Daylily History

Although they have a similar flower structure, daylilies are not true lilies, but instead belong to the genus Hemerocallis, a Greek word which roughly translates to "beautiful for a day." These flowers are native to Asia, and hybridizers have worked for years to create varieties with larger, more robust flowers in a variety of colors, from pastel peach to striking red to elegant purple. Yellow and orange varieties have escaped from cultivation and now grow wild throughout North America. In Michigan they can often be seen growing by roadsides, cemeteries and abandoned farm land.

Michigan's Growing Season

Compared to the rest of the United States, Michigan gets a pretty short growing season, with frost-free conditions from about late May to mid October in lower Michigan and from early June to late September in the U.P. There are more than 35,000 named cultivars of daylilies, and while some of them prefer hotter climates, there are many varieties of daylilies that will thrive in all parts of Michigan. Some varieties of daylilies that do well in a cooler climate like Michigan include Bertie Ferris, Addie Branch Smith, Little Grapette, Hearts Afire, Ice Carnival, Stella de Oro, Chicago Candy Cane and Happy Returns. In northern regions, daylilies that go dormant in the winter will do the best, while gardeners in the southern part of the state can grow evergreen or semi-evergreen daylilies. Your local nursery or daylily society can help you find other varieties of daylilies that are right for your region in Michigan. Daylilies should be planted in Michigan in the spring or fall.


Daylilies like lots of sun, and need at least six hours of direct sunlight to produce a fair amount of blooms, although some varieties, usually those with darker color blooms, need partial shade during the hottest part of the day. Daylilies do best when planted away from shrubs or trees, so that they don't have to compete for sun, water or nutrients. Plant daylilies along the southern or western side of your house or other building.

Soil, Water and Fertilizer

Plant your daylilies in rich, well-drained soil. If your soil has large amounts of sand or clay, mix in some compost before planting daylilies. Daylilies prefer slightly acid soil, but they are adaptable to a wide variety or soil types. Water daylilies deeply but infrequently, especially in the early spring, to help establish a strong root system. Daylilies don't need much, if any fertilizer, although they do benefit from some fresh compost in the spring.


Daylilies tend to be quite prolific and after a few years will form thick clumps, which should be dug up and divided so that the plants can spread out and grow. Use a garden fork or shovel to uproot the daylily clump. Large clumps can be broken apart with a garden fork, and smaller clumps can be divided with a sharp knife or even an old screwdriver. In Michigan, daylilies should be divided in the early spring, or in the fall after the daylilies have finished blooming. Replant the daylilies as soon as possible.

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