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Deciduous, Evergreen, Perennials

Tuberous, somewhat fleshy roots give rise to large clumps of arching, sword-shaped leaves—evergreen, semievergreen, or deciduous, depending on the daylily type. Deciduous types go completely dormant in winter and are the hardiest, surviving without protection to about –35°F/–37°C; where winters are very mild, however, they may not get enough chill to perform well.

Evergreen kinds succeed in mild-winter regions as well as in colder areas, but they need a protective mulch (such as a 4–6-in. layer of hay) where temperatures dip below –20°F/–29°C. Semievergreen sorts may or may not retain their leaves, depending on where they are grown.

Clusters of flowers like lilies appear at the ends of generally leafless stems that stand well above the foliage. Older yellow, orange, and rust red daylilies have in most part been replaced by newer kinds in an expanded range of colors and patterns; both tall and dwarf varieties are available. Many species daylilies exist, but only a few are offered by nurseries; most of those available are hybrids.

Few plants are tougher, more persistent, or more trouble free. Daylilies adapt to almost any kind of soil. You can set out bare-root plants at any time during the growing season; spring and summer are better in cold-winter zones, while fall and winter are preferred where winters are warm. Plant from containers at any time from early spring through mid-autumn (year-round in mild-winter areas). For best results, provide well-drained soil amended with organic matter; give regular moisture from spring through fall. When clumps become crowded (usually after 3 to 6 years), divide them in fall or early spring in hot-summer areas, during summer in cool-summer regions or where the growing season is short.

Hemerocallis hybrids
Hemerocallis hybrids

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Hemerocallis hybrids

Deciduous, evergreen, and semievergreen. Standard-size hybrids generally grow to 2 1/2–4 ft. tall and 2–3 ft.wide; some selections reach 6 ft. high. Dwarf types grow just to 1–2 ft. tall and wide.

Flowers of standard kinds are 4–8 in. across, those of dwarfs 1 1/2–3 1/2 in. wide. Some have broad petals, others narrow, spidery ones; many have ruffled petal edges. Colors range far beyond the basic yellow, orange, and rusty red to pink, vermilion, buff, apricot, plum or lilac purple, cream, and near-white, often with contrasting eyes or midrib stripes that yield a bicolor effect. Many varieties are sprinkled with tiny iridescent dots known as diamond dust.

Some hybrids bloom throughout warm weather; these include the 3-ft.-high Starburst series, which comes in a variety of colors, as well as 2-ft.-high dwarf varieties ‘Black-eye Stella’, ‘Happy Returns’, ‘Stella de Oro’, and ‘Pardon Me’.

New hybrids appear in such numbers that it’s hard to keep up. To get the ones you want, visit daylily specialists, buy plants in bloom at your local nursery, study catalogs, or visit the website of the American Hemerocallis Society (

Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus

Deciduous plant from China. Reaches 3 ft. high and wide, with 2-ft.-long leaves; 4-in., fragrant, pure yellow flowers bloom in mid- to late spring. Newer hybrids may be showier, but this species is still cherished for its delightful perfume and early bloom time.

Hemerocallis minor

This deciduous plant from eastern Asia grows to 2 ft. high and wide, with narrow (1/4-in.-wide) leaves. Blooms for a relatively short time in late spring or early summer, when fragrant, bright golden yellow flowers are held just above the foliage. This is among the few daylilies hardy enough to succeed in Alaska’s interior.

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