Daylilies (hemerocallis) are attractive perennials with exotic lily-like, trumpet blooms. The Greek word ‘hemerocallis’ means ‘beautiful for one day’, and the plants are so-named as the individual blooms last only for one day. However they are quickly replaced by colourful new flowers, giving a good display in summer and into autumn.
Daylilies are tough and easy to grow. They will grow on most soils, are low maintenance, untroubled by most pests and diseases, and don’t need staking. While they prefer moisture, they are also drought tolerant. They are ideal for sunny borders and the foliage is often evergreen in milder locations. They are often grown near spring bulbs, as their leaves can help cover unsightly bulb leaves as they die back. They also make good ground cover plants on slopes, as they have dense roots which holds the soil together.
There are thousands of daylilies to choose from in a range of colours, from white through yellow to deep red and burgundy. They look especially good in borders with a ‘hot’ colour theme and combine well with other perennials such as heleniums, geums, rudbeckias and bronze fennel. They also look good with exotic-looking plants such as bananas, ginger lilies and cannas . Some varieties are scented. The flowers are attractive to native insects, particularly hoverflies and ladybirds, and they make good cut flowers if cut in bud.
Daylilies have an added advantage of being unaffected by lily beetles, which can decimate the foliage of other lilies, including Lilium, Cardiocrinum and Fritillaria species.
And, if you’re willing to try, some hemerocallis varieties are considered to be an edible delicacy – fried or added to salads.
All parts of the plant are toxic to cats if ingested.
How to grow daylilies
Daylilies are tough and thrive in a variety of soils, including clay. The best growing conditions for hemerocallis are moist, fertile and well-drained soils in full sun. Smaller varieties can also be grown in containers. Divide plants every few years to keep them growing strongly.
More on growing daylilies:
- How to lift and divide day lilies
- 20 of the best perennial plants
- 10 flowers for clay soil
- Eight perennials for a hot border
Daylilies: jump links
- Planting daylilies
- Caring for daylilies
- Daylily pests and problems
- Where to buy daylilies
- Daylilies to grow
Where to grow daylilies
Daylilies are not fussy about soil type, but for best results grow daylilies in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun for at least six hours a day.
How to plant daylilies
Daylilies are sold as container grown plants that can be planted in spring and summer, but are as bare root plants (sold online or in packets at the garden centre – often with bulbs) that can be planted in winter, from November to March.
When planting a container-grown plant, add plenty of organic matter (such as garden compost or well rotted manure) at the base of the planting hole. Ensure that the crown (base of the plant) is level with the top of the soil.
Bareroot daylilies need to be planted into pots filled with multipurpose compost, and grown on in a cold greenhouse or cold frame. When they have grown plenty of leaves after a couple of months, they can be planted out in the garden.
Smaller daylily varieties grow well in pots filled with multipurpose compost.
Watch Monty Don planting daylilies:
How to care for daylilies
Mulch clumps of daylilies every spring, with well rotted manure or garden compost. This will keep moisture in the soil.
Keep daylily plants well watered during dry spells but on’t feed them, as this will produce foliage at the expense of flowers. You can deadhead the spent flowers, but the seedpods are attractive in their own right. You can cut the whole plant back in autumn but if it doesn’t look too messy, wait until spring as the leaves can shelter insects over winter.
Dividing your daylilies every three to five years will keep them flowering well and will give you new plants, too.
How to propagate daylilies
Daylilies are easily propagated by dividing them in spring or autumn. This keeps them growing well and has the add benefit of creating new plants that you can replant in the garden or give away. You can divide them with two forks, or a saw or sharp knife.
Here Carol Klein explains how to lift and divide daylilies:
Daylilies are usually trouble-free to grow. New shoots are susceptible to slugs and snails but they rarely affect the plant badly.
Hemerocallis gall midge is a relatively new pest that can affect early-flowering varieties. Swollen flower buds may fail to open, or the flowers may be distorted. Pick off any distorted buds and bin them – do not add to the compost heap.
Poor flowering may indicate that your plant needs dividing. It may also be a sign that it’s growing in too much shade.
Advice on buying daylilies (hemerocallis)
- Daylilies are not fussy about soil type but they grow best in full sun, so make sure you have the right spot for them
- You’ll find daylilies on sale at nurseries and garden centres in spring and summer, although the range of varieties may be limited. You’ll also find bare root plants on sale in the winter and spring, either in packets at the garden centre (where they’re often displayed with spring bulbs) or online.
- For the best range of varieties, buy from a specialist nursery or online retailer
Where to buy daylilies online
- Thompson & Morgan
- Van Meuwen
- Strictly Daylilies
- Gardening Express
- J Parker’s
- Brookfield Plants
Daylilies to grow
The yellow daylily, Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus has warm yellow June flowers with a deliciously sweet fragrance and grassy foliage. Well-suited to herbaceous borders or dotting in wildflower meadows.
Height x Spread: 1m x 40cm
Hemerocallis ‘Red Twister’
This fiery-flowered variety is the perfect daylily for a splash of late-summer colour, bearing fiery orange-red blooms with an orange-yellow throat and margins. Exotic looking, it’s the perfect choice for a tropical-themed ornamental border, along with rudbeckias and heleniums. It also looks fabulous in a pot. In milder regions its strap-like foliage is evergreen.
H x S: 60cm x 45cm
Hemerocallis ‘Henry D Allnut’
Introduced in 2014, ‘Henry D Allnutt’ is a hybrid of Hemerocallis ‘Dragon Pinata’ and H. ‘Redneck Riviera’. The flowers are pale orange with a dramatic flush or crimson in the centre.
H x S: 70cm x 50cm
Hemerocallis ‘Piano Man’
‘Piano Man’ has fragrant cream flowers with a plum eye and green throat. A particularly floriferous variety, it has masses of elegant blooms for weeks on end. In milder regions its strap-like foliage is evergreen, which is excellent for hiding unsightly spring bulbs after they’ve flowered.
H x S: 60cm x 45cm
Hemerocallis ‘Bela Lugosi’
Full of drama, ‘Bela Lugosi’ is a deep purple-flowered variety named after the Count Dracula actor. At the centre of the flowers is a rich yellow-green tone, providing contrast. This daylily is particularly free-flowering, especially in the morning.
H x S: 60cm x 45cm
Hemerocallis ‘Ruby Spider’
Many daylily varieties are orange, but ‘Ruby Spider’ turns up the heat to deep scarlet. Each petal has an eye-catching yellow midrib. Exotic looking, it’s a great choice for a tropical-themed ornamental border, and looks fabulous in a pot.
H x S: 80cm x 60cm
Hemerocallis ‘Fleeting Fancy’
The large flowers of ‘Fleeting Fancy’ are a creamy orange, with a red-brown markings toward the centre. It combines well with pink- and purple-flowered plants like nepeta, agapanthus and hardy geraniums.
H x S: 50cm x 70cm
Hemerocallis ‘Joan Senior’
Hemerocallis ‘Joan Senior’ has soft cream flowers that mature to yellow. Early flowering, it’s extremely floriferous and easy to grow.
While superficially similar to ‘Ruby Spider’, look closer and you’ll spot that the blooms of ‘Stafford’ have a more intense red colouration and lack the yellow midrib. Here, it’s paired with orange geums.
H x S: 75cm x 45cm