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Seize the Daylily!

If your grandmother had a garden, chances are good she grew daylilies. This easygoing perennial has been a favorite for generations, but the newer kids on the block are definitely not for the old guard.

I always recommend daylilies for a garden because they’re low-maintenance, showy in the garden and the late-blooming varieties will offer bold, trumpet blossoms until fall. If you choose several different varieties that bloom early, mid and late in the season, you can extend their bloom time throughout the entire season.

The scientific name for daylily is Hemerocallis, which translates from Greek to “beauty” and “day.” The blooms only last one day, but don’t worry! Daylilies grow in clumps with many blooms on each stalk. Much like fireworks, they’ll give you one exploding bloom after another for many weeks. Bloom! Bloom! Pow!

Daylilies are perfect for slopes, beds, near foundations or even in containers. They need at least six hours of direct sun per day to thrive, but they will bloom even better in a full day of sunshine. When planting a daylily, set the plant in the ground or in a container at the same depth it was growing in the pot you bought it in. You want to avoid planting it too deeply. Space plants 10 to 12 inches apart in the ground or grow just one as a “thriller” in your combination container. For best results, add some compost, especially if you have heavy clay or sandy soil. Water your newly planted daylilies consistently during the first growing season as they establish themselves

You’ll find one of the best things about growing daylilies is they multiply! Divide and share with friends or plant elsewhere in your garden. Spring or late summer is the best time to divide and share daylilies. To do this, carefully lift the clump out of the ground with a shovel and divide it with a sharp knife, removing any sickly looking foliage. Cut the foliage down to about half its height and then transplant the divided pieces back into the garden immediately.

Because of their association with grandmothers, daylilies have a vintage feel, but I prefer to call them “timeless.” Though they’ve been around for generations, newer varieties have improved upon the older ones, making them stronger, brighter and more generous with their blooms. The following varieties are colorful, floriferous and vigorous; everything you expect from a daylily, but more of it. They are certainly Proven Winners in my garden, and I recommend them for yours.

'Primal-Scream'-PWRAINBOW RHYTHM® ‘Primal Scream’ Hemerocallis

  • Very large 7 ½ – 8 ½” flowers
  • Glimmering tangerine orange, gold dusted flowers with twisted, ruffled petals
  • Blooms in early midsummer on 34” tall scapes loaded with buds
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Mid-season bloomer

 

 

'Going-Bananas'-PWRAINBOW RHYTHM® ‘Going Bananas’ Hemerocallis

  • Lightly fragrant, lemon yellow, 4” blooms
  • Reblooming variety that begins flowering early and continues into fall
  • Heat tolerant
  • Relatively short; 19 to 22 inches tall
  • Early season blooming

 

 

'Ruby-Spider'-PWRAINBOW RHYTHM® ‘Ruby Spider’ Hemerocallis

  • Gigantic 9” flowers
  • Blooms are ruby red with a radiating yellow throat
  • Tall scapes reach up to 34”
  • Mid-season bloomer

Daylily Rust

Lately I’ve noticed that quite a bit of attention has been given to a new nemesis on the American gardening scene – daylily rust. This fungus is indeed a formidable foe simply because not much is known about it.

Daylily rust, Puccinia hemerocallidis, is identified by the orange powder spots that appear on the undersides of leaves and the scapes of infected plants. Other daylily disorders such as leaf streak and spring sickness may resemble the early stages of daylily rust.

A simple test is to take a clean, white tissue and run it over the leaf’s surface. If it comes back covered in an orange, dusty substance you are probably dealing with rust. Visit the American Hemerocallis Society’s “Daylily Dictionary” for images of daylily rust.

If you are still unsure if your plants are infected you can always send a leaf sample to be tested. Check with your local cooperative extension service for a diagnostic laboratory in your area.

Because daylily rust is fairly new to this country, methods of prevention and treatment are still being tested. Here are a few tips that you can follow that might help.

When you bring new daylilies into your garden, isolate them from your other plants for a season. They may be infected without showing any symptoms. Keep them quarantined for as long as six months. If your new plants arrived bare root, pot them up before you set them aside.

Patrinia is another native Asian plant that is not only susceptible to this disease, but also plays winter host to the spores. In spite of the frustration it produces, I find this to be a rather interesting relationship. Certain rust spores subsist through the winter on dead daylily leaves. In the spring they re-generate as a spore that does not affect daylilies but does harm patrinia. Borne by the wind they infect any nearby patrinia plants and then reproduce in a form that can once again attack daylilies.

One method of control is to strip the outer leaves of your new plants, cut the remainder down to about 1 – 2 inches above the crown (where the leaves connect with the roots), and saturate with a fungicide before planting. Be aware that this practice may cause even more stress to a plant already weakened by transplanting and shipping. For step by step instructions with images visit http://www.ncf.ca/~ah748/newplants.html

If you find that your established daylilies are inflicted with daylily rust, simply cut back both the diseased and healthy foliage to the ground and destroy the infected leaves. Do not add these leaves to your compost bin. You can spray the leaves before you do this to limit the spread of the spores and then spray the ground around the plant after the leaves have been removed.

When using a fungicide to treat daylily rust, alternate between a systemic and a protectant type.

As with other fungus, daylily rust thrives in moisture. Use soaker hoses rather than overhead watering systems and water in the morning rather than late in the day or at night. This will cut down on the amount of time that the leaves remain wet.

Dividing Daylilies

When is the best time to separate and transplant daylilies?

For me, the best value in plants is generally determined by three factors. I want them to be low maintenance, I’d like for them to bloom for a long period of time and I’d like for them to come back year after year. Well I know this may sound like a tall order, but there are actually a lot of plants out there that will fill this criteria.

One of the best examples is the daylily. In fact, they have another attribute as well, they can be very vigorous growers, often doubling in number from year to year to the point that they really should be divided every three to five years to continue good blooming.

I’ve found that the late summer is an excellent time of the year to separate and transplant clumps of daylilies. By doing it at this time, it gives them an opportunity to settle in before shorter days and colder temperatures set in. Also by moving them in late summer as opposed to the spring, it’s been my experience that they actually seem to bloom better.

There’s really nothing to dividing daylilies. Just carefully lift the clumps with a sharp shovel and gently remove the soil from the roots so you can begin to see the individual plants. Then with a knife separate each plant and remove any foliage that appears dead or diseased.

Now just cut off the foliage at about half and they’re ready for transplanting back into the garden. Space them about ten to twelve inches apart, put them in full sun and keep them well watered until they’re rooted in.