From the Ground Up — Daylilies

Published 3:24 pm Friday, August 5, 2022

The Perfect Plant for the Midsummer Garden

The hot, humid, potentially dry days of summer are upon us, but even those gardeners who retreat indoors in midsummer still crave flowers that are bright and cheerful. Well, as long as those flowers are low maintenance and can deal with Virginia’s intense weather.

The solution for many of us is the daylily. In one form or another, daylilies have been grown in Virginia since the 1600s. They thrive on heat and humidity, are dependable, and are hard to kill. They can be used to quickly fill in bare spots, interspersed in borders or used in massed plantings. Daylilies are even available in all colors and color combinations except pure white and pure blue, and those colors may be developed soon. In addition to various color combinations, daylilies have many different flower forms – petals with ruffled or toothed edges, flowers with triangular shapes, ones with long spidery petals, blooms with bearded centers, and, yes, UFOs. UFOs are daylilies that have distinctly different flowers. The petals can be quill shaped or spatula shaped, or can cascade downward like a waterfall.

There is a daylily for every gardener and every location – tall ones for making dramatic statements, very short ones for the front of flower beds, rebloomers that periodically bloom again throughout the summer, early season bloomers that put on a show in May, and very late season ones that provide delight in August when everything else has drooped.

Daylilies are easy to grow. They are relatively pest free and aren’t picky about growing conditions. To produce the most blooms, they need about six hours of sun every day, but can tolerate partial shade. They’re rapid growers, so they need to be divided every four to five years.

With more than 50,000 selections to choose from, the only difficulty is deciding which ones to add to the garden. But help is available. The American Hemerocallis Society has several official display gardens nearby. Woodhenge Gardens, located on Plank Road between Scottsville and North Garden, specializes in what the owners term surprisingly different daylilies, including spiders and unusual forms. Woodhenge has an active hybridizing program with many award-winning introductions. Deb’s Daylilies in Randolph near Charlotte Court House, is another local official display garden, as well as a test garden for the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. The owner is very generous in sharing her knowledge of daylilies and how to grow them. The Southern Virginia Daylily Club is also a source of information for gardeners interested in daylilies. It meets every month at the library in Chase City.

Gardeners in general are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, but daylily growers are the best of the best. They’re always willing to share their knowledge. Gardeners who grow daylilies will tell you that it’s seriously hard to resist plants with a wide range of colors, sturdy shapes, and quirky names. Who wouldn’t want a daylily named ‘Dances with Giraffes” or one described as “having a weeping form with spooky fingers.”