Some people may think of daylilies as ordinary garden plants without any special characteristics. Yet no other plant has blossoms that compare to the daylily in variety of color, form and size.
In addition, daylilies (Hemerocallis) are edible and nutritious. Their buds and blossoms have almost as much protein as spinach, more vitamin A than green beans and about as much vitamin C as orange juice.
Daylily colors include multiple shades of yellow, orange, red, wine, purple and peach. There are no pure white blooms, but there are near whites, such as ‘Ice Carnival,' a very pale yellow.
On some daylilies, all the flower segments are a single color; others are polychromes, with different flower parts in different colors. On some blooms, the edges are lighter or darker than the rest of the petal and may be ruffled. Some have a pronounced eye, with a darker or lighter area just above the throat of the bloom.
Daylilies also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The normal daylily has three petals and three sepals. Double daylilies have up to six extra petals above or below the normal petals. There are circular and triangular daylilies. Some are spider-shaped with long, narrow petals; others have petals that curve and twist. Sizes range from miniatures with blooms under three inches to those with flowers that measure seven inches across or more.
In northern California, daylilies flower from late spring to fall. They bloom more prolifically in full sun, but they will still bloom in partial shade. Some varieties are early-season bloomers; others flower later. Some are repeat bloomers, flowering more than once during the season. Iin my garden, repeat bloomers include ‘Pardon Me' and ‘Panache.'
Although each flower lasts for only one day, many varieties produce multiple buds on each stem, or scape. Some are extended bloomers, with individual blossoms remaining open for 16 hours or more. My favorite extended bloomers are ‘Strawberry Candy' and ‘Custard Candy.' Most daylilies bloom during the day, but some are nocturnal, opening late in the afternoon and staying open through the next morning.
You can increase daylilies easily by dividing the clumps. First cut back the leaves to about eight inches in length. Dig up the whole clump and shake off the soil. Depending on the size of the clump, divide it with a sharp knife, spade or shovel. Remove the old portion of the roots to encourage new roots to form. Now the divisions are ready to plant.
Some daylilies have small plants, called proliferations, on the stems of the flowers. You can plant these in wet sand in a small pot. Keep them moist until the little plants develop roots, then re-plant in a larger pot or in the garden.
To plant a bare-root daylily in an existing bed, dig a hole larger than the root mass—at least 12 inches deep and 12 inches across. If the garden soil has not been amended, add about 20 percent compost to loosen the soil. Mound soil in the center of the hole until the top of the mound is just below ground level. Place the daylily on top of the mound and spread the roots. Fill the hole with dirt, covering the roots. Firm the soil and water thoroughly.
If the bare-root plant has been out of soil for several days, soak the roots in water for a few hours prior to planting. If you can't plant a bare-root daylily immediately, put it in a shady place with the roots in damp sand or peat moss.
If you have gophers in your garden, consider lining the planting hole with wire, especially if this is the only specimen you have in that variety. Alternatively, grow the daylily in a pot until the roots become established, then plant it in the garden.
There are growers who specialize in daylilies. Check out their websites for more information on available varieties. The American Hemerocallis Society lists display gardens on its website at www.daylilies.org. California has four display gardens, of which three are open to the public. I have visited the Amador Flower Farm in Plymouth been amazed by all the beautiful daylilies.
Workshop: U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County will hold a workshop on “Growing Olives” on Saturday, July 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., at Big Dog Ranch, 1020 Congress Valley Road, Napa. Learn what varieties to plant, where to plant them and how to maximize fruit size and yield. Presenters will also discuss drought tolerance, irrigation, harvesting methods and managing olive pests.
On-line registration (credit card only) Mail-in/Walk-in registration (cash or check only)
Guided Tree Walk: Join U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County for a free guided tree walk through Napa's Fuller Park on Monday, July 11, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. There is no charge for the walk but registration is recommended as space is limited. Meet at the corner of Jefferson and Oak Streets. Online registration or call 707-253-4221. Trees to Know in Napa Valley will be available to purchase for $15 each. Cash or check payable to UC Regents. Sorry, we are unable to process credit cards.
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County ( http://ucanr.edu/ucmgnapa/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.