Why Daylilies are America’s Favorite Perennial?

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Daylillies Americas Perennial

The daylily is considered America’s favorite perennial, and it’s easy to see why.

Two generations ago, we fell in love with this easy-going Asian native, but the daylily became an obsession only after American hybridizers put their stamp on its lily-like bloom.

In southern Missouri, it’s as common as a wildflower, but it’s no native. It is, however, a pretty addition to even cultivated gardens and shows us the historic trumpet-like daylily form. I have it throughout my own garden because I love the simple form and color, especially when paired with Russian sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia.

Daylillies Hemerocallis-'Hyperion'-with-Russian-Sage

Why are daylilies so popular? Partly, because they tolerate almost any soil conditions and water requirements while blooming fresh and new every day. In fact, their botanical name, Hemerocallis, means “beauty for a day”. Daylily blooms only last twenty-four hours unless the weather is very cloudy.

Another reason to love them is that daylilies come in so many different shapes, colors and sizes. H. ‘Webster’s Pink Wonder’ shown below is classified as an Unusual Form. I love its flyaway petals and general joie de vivre.

Daylillies H.-Webster's-Wild-Pink-Wonder

Hybridizers, both professional and backyard aficionados, worked hard to create daylilies in every color except blue and true white, and they’re still trying for both. The daylily is often considered the most hybridized plant grown by gardeners. The wide and diverse selection of color and form is remarkable when you consider that the original daylilies were only yellow, orange, and fulva red (rusty orange red/yellow). Newer daylilies even have eye zones that contain a hint of sky. Just look at H. ‘Tie Dye Skies’ below.

Fiskars-D-Handle-Fork in the garden

How to Divide:
The best time to divide your daylilies is late summer after they have bloomed.

1. To divide daylilies, first dig up the clump you want to divide.  Although Fiskars Steel D-handle Ergo Garden Fork is made for turning loose materials like compost, it’s also great for lifting daylilies and other perennials out of the ground.

2. With your daylily placed on plastic or another surface, position two forks opposite one another, and pull the daylily apart into sections.

3. Run water over the roots to loosen soil and see how best to divide your daylily.  

4. Divide into double or triple fans (sections) and replant.

5. Try not to break roots when dividing and don’t divide daylilies during hot weather, or they will rot in place because of their shallow root system.

6. Place the divided clumps into prepared holes. The hole needs to be a few inches larger than the clump. Be careful not to cover the crown of the plant.

7. Add mulch around the base of the daylilies. It will help hold the moisture.

8. Water the daylilies well thru the coming weeks..

Daylillies H.-Tie-Dye-Skies

Daylily fanatics also have their own language. You’ll often hear breeders and collectors refer to a particular plant as being a Tet or a Dip. Tets are tetraploids with 44 chromosomes and have thicker and stronger scapes (stems) and blooms. They are favored by those who want a sturdier bloom that doesn’t melt so easily in hot sun. However, in recent years, there’s been a resurgence of diploid hybridizing. Diploids only have 22 chromosomes which gives them a more delicate look. It’s also easier for southern backyard hobbyists to hybridize dips. There are triploids with 33 chromosomes, but not many because they don’t produce seeds and spread only by underground runners. H. fulva ‘Kwanso,’ a double flowering daylily, is a triploid. It will crowd out cultivated daylilies with its growth habit. If you grow ‘Kwanso,’ keep it away from your other daylily plants.