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Hemerocallis - Care Guide
Caring for Hemerocallis – Daylily
As nurserymen we have watched the huge developments in the breeding of these wonderful herbaceous plants with some awe over the last 30 years. A few decades ago we all thought all hemerocallis varieties were yellow or orange in colour and most had simple single flowers. Lady Carew Pole from Antony House Gardens near Torpoint in Cornwall was a notable early breeder of hemerocallis (as she was of South Devon cattle) and many of her new introductions were given to us at Caerhays. They thrive today, 40 years on, as large clumps in a herbaceous border along a long wall but have also been used in the woodland garden where they too have grown into imposing clumps.
Today hemerocallis are available in such a range of colours and breath-taking colour combinations that it is difficult to decide which to grow for yourselves. Rich coloured double flowered forms are now the norm too. However you must not forget that these are ‘day’ lilies whose individual flowers only last for about a day when full out. It is sensible to choose those newer varieties that have many buds on their flower spikes which flower progressively over a long period and those which produce an ongoing crop of flower spikes through the summer season so that when, you grow a combination of varieties, you will have flowers from at least May through to August.
Hemerocallis grow in forest margins and stream edges in China, Japan and Korea and are fully hardy in the UK. As herbaceous perennials they will all die down completely in winter leaving a low mound of roots which can be dry mulched for protection of the early spring growth and to feed the plants.
Clearly daylilies only flower to their full potential when grown in full sun. The early shoots are a big attraction to slugs, snails and rabbits. You have to decide whether to use slug pellets or adopt more traditional methods of slug control. Rich soil produces the best flowering results and hemerocallis dislike very wet or very dry soils which are poor and lacking in humus.
Every few years your clumps of hemerocallis should be lifted when dormant and split with a spade or more gently divided to create new offshoots for transplanting, selling or giving away. This may provide an opportunity to dig in some more well-rotted dung or leaf mould into the bed itself. You will rejuvenate your plants and allow them to spread and develop again with bigger flowers on taller stems. Eventually old clumps get so thick that many shoots and flowers are a bit starved of energy and become stunted.
Do not bother trying to grow seed from your daylilies as it will very probably not come true. Where you do see large seed pods appearing on your plants after flowering pick or cut these off before they become too big and waste too much of the plant’s energy. It is ingrained in us to dead head our roses but we seldom think to do this with other common garden plants although the logic and reasoning is exactly the same.