What is the right daylily for my garden?

To find the answer to this question, you must know yourself and your reason for growing daylilies. New gardeners tend to focus exclusively on the daylily bloom. With experience comes discretion. Tastes develop and garden requirements surface. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before making a daylily purchase.

  • Is the flower sunfast or does it fade in the hot sun?
  • Does the cultivar rebloom?
  • Does the cultivar exhibit extended blooming habits, or does it finish blooming by early spring?
  • Are the scapes low, medium, or tall?
  • What about branching?
  • Is this my kind of flower?


What performance characteristics should I look for in a daylily?

When purchasing a daylily, consider foliage, vigor and stamina, scapes, branching and buds, and flower substance.

Variation in foliage is important for contrast in color and texture in the total garden picture. Consider the following:
  • Foliage is best judged when you are not unduly influenced by the beauty of flower.
  • Foliage must have an attractive appearance.
  • Foliage should be of a type that is compatible with your climate.
Vigor and Stamina
As to vigor and stamina, the daylily plant should:
  • Have the ability to grow and multiply under good conditions without being invasive of adjacent areas by underground rhizomes.
  • Establish quickly, thrive, and grow stronger each year.
  • Be easy to transplant.
  • Not be susceptible to crown rot or spring sickness.
Scapes should have the following qualities:
  • The scape must have adequate strength to support the buds and flowers (i.e., you should not have to stake the scape because of wind, rain, or directional light).
  • The height of the scape and the size of the flower should be in good proportion to the thickness of the scape.
Branching and Buds
When evaluating branching and buds on daylilies, remember the following:
  • The scape should branch so that the buds are not all at the top of the scape.
  • Flowers should not open all together or be poorly spaced.
  • Branches should be wide apart to allow buds to develop normally without touching and hampering the opening of the fully developed flower.
  • Branching and bud count should not be so sparse that flowering ends after a few days.
Good balance means that the overall daylily plant has a pleasing relationship between the foliage and the placement of branches, buds, and flowers. Remember:
  • Short foliage and tall scapes with scant high branching often appear poorly balanced.
  • Emphasis should be placed on how the scape relates to the rest of the plant, regardless of height.
Flower Substance
Flower substance is very important when selecting your daylily. Consider the following:
  • Flower tissue should not be thin, and should not wilt, brown, or melt at the edges.
  • If the flower fades during the day, substance should be retained reasonably well.
  • A flower that opens early in the morning should remain presentable in the evening.
Flower Color
Color has a strong emotional appeal. Consider the following:
  • Most people find merit in colors that are clear, bright, soft, vibrant, distinctive, and pleasingly blended. Well-defined markings can add much to the beauty of a flower.
  • Murky, dingy, streaked, dull, and faded colors can seldom be considered an asset. Irregular markings are usually considered a flaw, but a few hybridizers are working with spots and streaks and getting some interesting results.
  • Llike many things, some colors and patterns are currently popular, and something new is always being looked for and pursued. For instance, getting bands of color within eyes or green on petal edges are currently areas of interest.
Flower Form
Flower form, along with color, sets one flower apart from another.
  • Many variations in form are favored equally by many daylily collectors; a particular form is favored by others.
  • Malformed flowers, dissimilarity of segment shape (except in informal types), and lack of uniformity in placement of flower segments are undesirable aspects of form.
Flower Texture
Texture refers to the surface quality of the flower. Consider the following:
  • Texture varies from cultivar to cultivar - from the very smooth satiny waxy finish to velvety, creped, pebbled, diamond-dusted, and glistening - to name a few.
  • Decide whether flower quality suffers by its texture or is enhanced and beautified by it.
Beauty and Distinction
Beauty and distinction are two essential factors for any worthwhile daylily.
  • Many daylilies are being sold that do not possess that special quality called beauty.
  • The old saying is true; beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
When buying a new daylily, ask these questions about distinction:
  • Has the daylily that special quality that sets it apart from others of a similar kind?
  • Is the color, pattern, or special blending of colors different or rare?
  • Is the form and texture unique, different, and beguiling; is it something special?
  • Does the daylily have the qualities to make it a star in your garden?


How do I obtain daylilies?

Daylilies can be obtained from commercial sources, friends, and society auctions.

Commercial Sources
Many commercial nurseries and individual daylily growers sell daylilies. Consider the following recommendations:
  • Visit nurseries and AHS Display Gardens in your area during the daylily bloom season and see which cultivars appeal to you and which ones grow well locally.
  • Annually, the American Hemerocallis Society publishes an Available Source List of daylily growers in the spring issue of the Daylily Journal.
  • Many commercial daylily growers listed in the Available Source List offer color brochures listing their daylilies. Many mail their brochures free to members of the American Hemerocallis Society.
  • A number of commercial daylily growers now have WWW Home Pages on the Internet.

Society Sales and Auctions
Local and regional daylily societies often hold plant sales and auctions. Auctions are held at meetings or by mail. There is even an auction at each AHS National Convention.
Because daylilies usually multiply fast and need to be divided periodically, daylily fanciers often share some of their increase with new growers.


How much do daylilies cost?

Daylily prices range from as low as $3 to as much as $500 for a single plant.

  • Do not be scared off by the high price as there are thousands of excellent daylilies in the $3 to $10 price range.
  • Only the newest daylilies or significant advances in breeding bring prices of $100 to $300.
    Some recent tetraploid conversions in very limited supply demand the highest prices.
  • New growers should venture cautiously into high-price expenditures that might bring disappointment because of high expectations based on high price.


When is the right time to plant daylilies?
In the North, spring planting is normally preferred. Fall planting in colder climates can prove fatal for daylilies because they often do not have adequate time to form new roots and to begin to anchor themselves before winter comes. Experienced gardeners, however, can plant in the fall provided they:
  • Know the hardiness of the plants
  • Take some preventative measures such as mulching.
  • Learn the time of the year after which it is not safe to plant in their location

In the far South, early spring or very late fall are the most desirable planting times. Please be aware that daylilies planted in July, August, or September when temperatures and humidity are extremely high (i.e., over 90°), face a high probability of rotting.


Where is the best place to plant daylilies?

You need to consider four things in determining where to plant your daylilies:

Sun or Shade
Most daylilies do best in full sun. They will tolerate part-shade conditions, but require a minimum of six hours of direct sun per day.
  • Light yellow cultivars, many shades of pink, and delicate pastels need full sun to bring out their lovely colorings.
  • Many red and purple cultivars benefit from partial shade in the hottest part of the day because dark colors absorb heat and do not withstand the sun as well as lighter colors.
Type of Soil
Like most plants, daylilies show maximum performance in soils with good aeration, fertility and microbial activity. The ideal soil holds sufficient moisture to sustain the plants, yet is at the same time well-drained. These characteristics can be improved in soils that have too much sand or clay by amending with compost.
For maximum performance, daylilies should be planted in well-drained soil. In some regions raised beds may be beneficial where drainage is a problem. However raised beds should be approached with caution in cold winter regions as being elevated can make the plants more vulnerable to temperature extremes and fluctuations. Note also that raised beds generally require more irrigation during the summer.
Compatibility with Other Plants
Daylilies may not do well near or under trees that compete for moisture and nutrients. They are often reported to do well under pine trees, however, and each situation should be assessed individually. Plants that must compete with tree roots often do better if supplied with extra waterings.


How do I plant my daylilies?

When you receive your new daylilies, use the following technique for planting them.

After Plants Are Received
New daylily plants received bare-root by mail may be "parked" in damp sand or other suitable media until they can be planted. Many daylily enthusiasts like to soak the roots for a few hours or overnight in a bucket of water, however others do not agree with this practice. Some gardeners also include a weak fertilizer in the soaking water, but this isn't necessary and, if too strong a solution, may actually be detrimental.
Before Planting
Make sure that your daylilies are clean and healthy before planting them. Planting 1
Prepare the Soil

The soil where you intend to plant your daylilies should be worked into a good loose condition to a depth of at least 1 foot.
  • Dig a hole larger than the root mass.
  • Make a mound in the center of the hole.
  • Set the plant in place with the roots spread on all sides of the mound.
  • New plants should be planted about as deep as they grew originally. The original depth can be determined easily by the band of white at the base of the foliage which indicates the part of the plant which was underground.
  • Do not set the crown (i.e., the point where foliage and roots join) more than 1 inch below the surface of the soil.
  • Work the soil around and between the roots as you cover the plant.
  • Firm the soil and water well.
  • Make sure that there are no air pockets; this can cause the plant to grow poorly.
  • When all the water has soaked in, finish filling in the soil, leaving a slight depression around the plant.

Planting 2

Daylilies should be spaced no less than 18 to 24 inches apart on each side.

Label each of your daylilies with some type of permanent marker so as to identify them. A plant loses much of its value when its identification is lost.


How do I care for my daylilies?

The wise daylily gardener will apply a proper cultural program which includes watering, fertilizing, mulching, possibly spraying, grooming, controlling weeds, and sanitation.

Water is essential for good daylily performance.
  • Water, supplied in sufficient amounts, almost certainly increases the number and size of daylily blooms.
  • For daylilies, watering is most important in spring when the plants are making scapes and buds, and in the summer during the bloom season.
  • Daylilies benefit more from deep watering, which reaches 8 to 10 inches into the soil, than from a succession of brief, surface waterings.
  • Caution 1: Overhead watering during the heat of the day will cause any open blooms to spot and/or wilt.
  • Caution 2: Watering in the evening can also cause spots on the next day's blooms.
  • Caution 3: Be careful not to over water.
Daylilies grow in a wide range of soils and conditions.
  • To determine the nutrient needs of your soil, take a soil sample and have it analyzed. Contact your local county agricultural agent for instructions.
  • Daylilies can do well over a relatively wide soil pH range and adjustment of pH need only be considered if the plants appear to be doing poorly. A soil test as recommended above should always be conducted before amending with sulfur or lime.
  • In the average home garden, a single fertilizer application in the spring is usually sufficient, although even that may not be necessary every year.
  • In extremely poor soils or on light or sandy soils which tend to leach badly, more frequent application may be required. Consult with your local agriculture office for recommendations suitable to your soil and climate.
Mulching, although not essential in every area, generally does contribute to better daylilies by improving the soil and helping retain moisture.
Keep your garden neat and tidy.
  • Many gardeners remove the day's blooms at the end of the day to give their gardens a pristine appearance.
  • If you hybridize, expect to leave the pollinated blooms on the plants until the blossom sheds and the tiny seed pod is formed.
Controlling Weeds
The most effective weed control measures for the home garden are mulching and hoeing.
Proper sanitation measures lead to healthier daylilies.
  • In the spring, dead foliage and debris should be cleared away from around your daylilies.
  • During the growing season, damaged or diseased foliage should be removed.
  • At the end of the bloom season, cut off the bloom scapes to within a few inches of the ground unless you are hybridizing.


What pests affect daylilies?

Daylilies do have some pests, but many do only minor damage. Some diseases also affect daylilies, they too are listed below.

Daylilies have their own specific aphid which feeds only on daylilies.
  • Aphids are most active in cool weatherdotspring and fall in temperate zones, and all winter long in the subtropics.
  • Controlling daylily aphids is not as easy as with other kinds of aphids, which are usually vulnerable to such soft controls as soaps.
  • In order to reach daylily aphids inside the fans, a pesticide with at least a mildly systemic action is needed.
  • Do not use the pesticide Kelthane, which is known to harm daylilies.
Spider Mites
Spider mites are among the most common daylily pests.
  • Spider mites are most active in hot, dry weather.
  • You can get some control of spider mites just by hosing them off as needed.
  • Again, do not use the pesticide Kelthane; it is known to harm daylilies.
Several species of thrips are know to infest daylilies.
  • Control thrips by starting early in the growing season with a pesticide having either a systemic or long residual action.
  • To repeat, do not use the pesticide Kelthane.
Slugs and Snails
Slugs and snails feed on the young, tender tissues, causing ragged edges and holes.
  • They feed at night and hide during the day in cool, moist places, such as in mulch, under rocks and bricks, and in dead foliage.
  • Sanitation helps to control slugs and snails. Otherwise, control requires using pesticides which are targeted specifically at these pests.
Other Pests
There are other pests that attack daylilies.

What diseases affect daylilies?

Most gardeners with a mix of different plants intermingled in their gardens should have little trouble with diseases in daylilies. However, large collections with many plants of a single genus are more likely to encounter problems, especially if those plants are acquired from a large number of different sources.

Environmental conditions and gardening practices inevitably play a role in the development of diseases. Some cultivars may also be less adaptable to different conditions/climates, or less resistant to certain diseases, than are other cultivars.

Older, inexpensive daylily cultivars that remain in wide circulation may be a better starting choice for the inexperienced gardener/daylily enthusiast than more recent introductions not yet tested under a wide range of conditions in many different gardens.

Some daylily diseases and disorders are relatively easy for the home gardener to identify. Others, such as the various forms of crown and root rots, are more difficult and if these become a concern it is advisable to seek a professional laboratory diagnosis. It is important also to know what is normal, for instance a new daylily collector may mistake "summer dormancy" for plant death or disease.

The major daylily diseases and disorders of concern are:

Daylily Rust

  • Caused by a fungus (Puccinia hemerocallidis)
  • Orange-yellow powdery spots on leaves and scapes
  • Orange-yellow spores mark white tissue when leaves wiped
  • Leaves may die back but the plant as a whole should survive
  • Some cultivars more susceptible than others, but since this is a new disease in North America this information is currently being collected
  • Provide good air circulation and planting distances and minimize overhead watering
  • Avoid excessive nitrogen and inadequate potassium nutrition
  • Unlikely to persist where all foliage dies back in winter (or roughly Zone 6 and colder) although may be able to do so where there are plants of the alternate host, patrinia
  • Appropriate fungicides may be used

Crown and Root Rots

  • Plant yellows and may collapse, leaves may pull out easily, affected tissue is often mushy and plant may die. Signs of a fungus may be visible, e.g. "shoestrings" for Armillaria rot, and "mustard seeds" for southern blight (Sclerotium rolfsii), otherwise exact diagnosis requires submission to a diagnostic laboratory
  • Foul smell may, or may not, be present
  • May involve a combination of factors such as nematodes, bulb mite or other pest damage, fungal and/or bacterial pathogens (disease causing agents), weather conditions, gardening practices, soil aeration and moisture conditions
  • Some cultivars may be more susceptible than others
  • Of particular concern in warmer climates but may also occur elsewhere
  • Ensure adequate soil aeration and drainage
  • Avoid or correct areas of poor air circulation
  • Avoid too much or too little water and don't over-estimate water needs in periods of high humidity (check soil moisture before watering)
  • Avoid over-fertilizing-Avoid over-amending with high water-retentive organic materials
  • Remember that high temperatures increase transplanting stress and try to avoid if possible
  • Don't plant too deep
  • Let wounds from dividing air-dry in the shade before re-planting
  • Remember that plants in pots are subject to more extreme root/crown temperatures (and therefore stress) than those in the ground
  • Treatment differs according to causative agent/s so get laboratory diagnosis of persistent rot problem

Leaf Streak

  • Caused by a fungus (Aureobasidum microstictum)
  • Brown spots, yellow streaking, and die-back of foliage but not death of plant
  • May require injury such as pest or frost damage in order to infect
  • Appropriate fungicides may help

Spring Sickness

  • Foliage is twisted, bending, stunted and discolored on some fans in early spring
  • Affected fans may, or may not, recover and bloom normally that season
  • Exact cause is unknown
  • Probably not a disease
  • Not caused by cold damage following shoot emergence
  • May involve a combination of contributing factors possibly including, but not necessarily limited to, bulb mites and the leaf streak fungus.

For more detailed information on these daylily disorders, including images, see the AHS Daylily Dictionary. Start with the diseases entry page:




What other sources of daylily information are available?

Remember, the daylily information summarized on this AHS WWW site is elaborated in detail in New Daylily Handbook or An Illustrated Guide to Daylilies which may be ordered from the American Hemerocallis Society (AHS).

In addition, there is a vast body of knowledge available about daylilies.

View Daylilies in Garden Settings
The best and most natural and pleasant way for a beginner, or anyone, to learn about daylilies is by looking at them.
  • The Daylily Journal each spring publishes a list of approved American Hemerocallis Society Display Gardens.
  • There are now more than 150 of these AHS Display Gardens across the United States where you can view modern daylilies from a variety of hybridizers.
  • And, there are thousands of other commercial and private gardens in the United States and around the world with representative collections of daylilies.
Join the American Hemerocallis Society
Join the AHS and learn more about daylilies.
  • Receive quarterly the Daylily Journal and view color photographs and read timely articles about daylilies.
  • Read the AHS publications which provide much information about daylilies.
Join a Local Daylily Group
Determine which AHS Region you live in and join a local daylily group.
  • Local daylily groups hold informative meetings throughout the year and most hold daylily shows and sales and publish newsletters.
  • Each Region holds an annual Regional Meeting and publishes a newsletter.
  • From meetings and personal contacts at the local and regional level and from reading local newsletters, you can gain valuable knowledge about daylilies.
View Award-Winning Daylilies
Each year the American Hemerocallis Society presents awards to the best daylilies in a number of categories.
  • The annual award winners are presented in the Winter issue of the Daylily Journal.
  • You can view the Current and Previous Winners on this AHS WWW site.
  • Also listed in the winter issue of the Daylily Journal are the Stout Silver Medal winner, Award of Merit winners, Honorable Mention winners, and the Specialty Award winners. The Junior Citation winners are listed in the Spring Daylily Journal.
    • The Award of Merit winners are proven and well-tested, dependable cultivars that grow in many parts of the country. They must receive votes from eight of the Society's fifteen regions and be among the top twelve vote-getters in that year's balloting.
    • The Honorable Mention winners are newer promising daylilies. They must have grown and proven well in at least four AHS regions and received a minimum of 20 judges' votes.
    • The Junior Citation winners focus attention on new and unregistered daylily cultivars.
Learn About the Most Popular Daylilies
Each year at the regional level, the AHS conducts a popularity poll among its members.
  • The spring issue of the Daylily Journal lists fifteen favorites from each region.
  • Regional newsletters may carry more of their own favorites.
  • You can view the Recent Regional Poll results on this AHS Web site.
Visit Your Public Library
Most public libraries have books about gardening and specifically about daylilies.
  • Your local telephone book lists public libraries.
  • You can view a list of Popular Daylily Books on this AHS Web site.
Surf the Information Highway
The Internet provides a vast amount of information about daylilies.
  • Join in the ever-popular rec.gardens newsgroup where you can discuss all garden issues.
  • If you are an AHS member, join the E-mail Daylily Round Robin where you can instantly discuss daylily issues with daylily enthusiasts from around the world by way of the Internet.
  • Connect to the various Internet Search Engines and search for daylilies or any other gardening subject.

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