By Bonnie Kirn DonahueEditor’s note: Bonnie Kirn Donahue is a UVM Extension master gardener and landscape designer from central Vermont.
When daylilies are blooming, it officially feels like summer. Daylilies have a celebratory appearance, looking almost like stationary fireworks, reaching for the sun.
These flowering fireworks come in many sizes, bloom shapes and colors.
The orange-hued common daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) is one of the taller daylilies that you will see, with blooms reaching 2-4 feet tall. This daylily is one of the earlier daylilies to bloom and is commonly seen on roadsides, at old house foundations and at the edge of forests.
The common daylily was introduced to North America from Europe in the 1800s although it originated in Asia. While beautiful, the daylily is not native to Vermont, and is considered invasive in the Mid-Atlantic, so this should be kept in mind when using it in landscapes.
While not an ideal plant for native pollinator plantings, the daylily is an excellent plant for tough conditions. Daylilies are tolerant of road salt, need very little watering or maintenance and can grow in poor soils.
The daylily is one of those plants that you can be certain will do well in almost any site condition. This adaptability is also a tendency of common invasive plants, so make sure that you only plant daylilies in certain situations.
For example, a daylily would be appropriate to plant in a perennial garden where there is frequent maintenance to keep them from spreading too far. It would be less appropriate to plant daylilies in areas that are meant to naturalize. These areas would benefit more from plants that are native to the area.
Beyond the common variety, consider daylilies that rebloom, extending the flowering season. Stella d’Oro is a compact, yellow reblooming variety that grows 10-12 inches tall and wide.
Red Hot Returns is a bright red, reblooming daylily that grows taller than ‘Stella d’Oro’ at 24 inches tall and 18 inches wide.
Apricot Sparkles also has an extended flowering season. It can reach heights up to 18 inches tall and 18 inches wide. Its peachy-orange blooms with lightly ruffled edges make this a nice addition to any garden.
Design-wise, daylilies are a great garden asset because of their elongated and airy leaves with a cluster of fantastic blooms on top.
Smaller daylilies, such as the compact Stella d’Oro variety, are short enough to be used as a border plant, creating a striking edge at the front of a garden whether in bloom or not.
Daylilies also can be used in front of flowering shrubs to provide a cascading contrast to the shrub’s stiffer structure. Common garden shrubs such as spiraea or hydrangea look great paired with daylilies.
I like to mix different varieties of daylilies together to get different colors throughout the season. Many of the flowers will overlap their bloom time, creating many lovely contrasts. If you go this route, you could have a bed of only daylilies, and it would have plenty of visual interest from July into early August.
There are nearly endless varieties of daylilies. Check out your local greenhouse to find a fun new one to test in your garden.