By Shannon Cagle, Contributing Writer
The holidays are just past, and maybe you’re reviewing the gifts that came your way. Perhaps a garden journal for the new year (always a great choice)? One of the popular collections of indoor succulents? A gift card to your favorite plant nursery? As you happily look ahead to the 2018 growing season, may I offer from the gifts-that-keep-on-giving file one for yourself: the humble daylily!
Regular readers know I’m a Boomer who’s a big fan of the “plant perennials, pot annuals” method. Daylilies, hemerocallis to the aficionados out there, aren’t just a great perennial. They’re so great, they’re often referred to as the perfect perennial. Among the reasons for this is the one that has me dreaming of daylilies fireside in January.
Think of all the nicknames daylilies have acquired over just the course of American history, including ditch lily, outhouse lily and railroad lily. If these flowers can survive the harsh conditions of Indiana roadways that are awash in salts and other toxins to bloom abundantly year after year (the accompanying photos are just that – pictures from ditches near my house), imagine what they can do in the happy confines of your landscape. I have a love-hate relationship with the walnut trees around my house, but the daylilies just don’t care. They are gloriously immune to the juglone and are beautiful partnered with complementary bee balm (monarda).
Admittedly, some folks have a couple of beefs with daylilies, one of which is in the very name. A daylily bloom only lasts one day, then withers. While dead blooms are typically replaced by new ones the next day, some gardeners find this unappealing, plus it can limit the flower’s use in formal arrangements if you don’t time them correctly. Also, the more common varieties have a tendency to bloom furiously for a couple of weeks then, as one friend puts it, “look like a bunch of overgrown grass.” These points are well justified, but I find that the ease of cultivating them outweighs these “negatives.”
I think daylilies have more pros than cons. I love that they are among the first to show their growing – and screamingly green – foliage each spring. Even if they are bitten by a late frost, that hardy factor comes into play, and the plants bloom weeks later like nothing ever happened.
They’re also easily divided – and shared. There are so many varieties, either by happenstance or dedicated crossing, that gardeners literally have tens of thousands of choices, with new ones available every year. You can choose a favorite color, height, petal number, petal type (I love a flirty ruffle!) and bloom time. Plus, Indiana is blessed with excellent daylily resources. An internet search will find you local and regional retailers, and if you’d just like a good basic knowledge before you shop, check daylilies.org.
Winter is my favorite season for garden research, and I learn something new about daylilies every year. For instance, I didn’t know until recently that the glittery effect you sometimes see when you look closely at the bloom is referred to as “diamond dust.” A little sparkle is always nice, but I think the best thing about a daylily is that I can always count on it, no matter what I’ve been able to tackle in the rest of the garden.
Read this and other stories in the Jan-Feb 2018 issue of the IndyBOOMER magazine.