Daylilies are perennials that grow well in this region if supplied with full sun and adequate moisture. Join us to find out how to plant and manage daylilies. Cynthia Jensen of rural Yankton discusses daylilies throughout the season.
It’s our weekly feature at Plant Exchange, where we feature plants of the Northern Plains, and people who grow them.
Cynthia has had experience growing daylilies for about 20 years, in town and country. She picks daylilies with large blooms, sometimes ruffled edges, and even tri-color blooms.
She aims for daylily cultivars that bloom early, seasonal and late so that that they usually bloom July and August in this region. Before and after the blooms, the arching leaves make a pleasing addition to the flowerbed. She also pairs other perennials with daylilies.
Height of the daylily stem-like scape is important to Cynthia as she highlights foundation beds and uses them as visual screens.
“If a person doesn’t have a green thumb, daylilies are a place to start,” Cynthia Jensen said. She’s been growing daylilies about twenty years. She and her husband Gary hosted their country yard east of Yankton in the recent Yankton area garden tour sponsored by Missouri Valley Master Gardeners. Daylilies in their yard form wide foundation beds and island beds of arching leaves. They weren’t in bloom during the tour. For the Jensens, daylilies bloom about early July to mid-August. That’s because they select early, mid and late blooming daylilies. They also have nocturnal daylilies with fragrance for the evenings.
Daylilies with varieties found in USDA Zone 3 – 9, are known as low maintenance plants with few pests. They grow in full sun to partial sun, in variable soil pH and can tolerate drought and salt. These long-lived perennials grow in clumps. Once established in amended soil with adequate moisture, they will produce one-day blooms with lots of buds on the flower stalk called a scape.
After several years, clumps may be rejuvenated by dividing and transplanting them. These vegetative offspring produce DNA copies of the parent blossoms. Daylilies also produce seeds that account for 80,000 varieties with yellow, red, orange and other color blooms, and contrasting throats, differing heights of plant, etc.
Daylilies are native to Asia and were likely introduced into Europe by the Silk Road. Blooms are edible. Historically, Chinese classified daylilies as vegetables and Romans used them for medicine.
Jensens started these daylily beds with sandy loam soil that they mulch annually with wood chips, dried leaves or other mulch to add organic matter to the soil, and deter weeds. The beds receive water from lawn sprinklers along with natural moisture.
“When we moved here years ago, we didn’t see earthworms when we dig. Now we can’t dig without seeing them,” Cynthia said. “You put the daylily in the dirt and they grow. The clumps are thick; there are few weeds.” They transplanted daylilies here from their former city yard in Sioux Falls and have added more varieties. They estimate they have over fifty varieties of daylilies in clumps ready to transplant.
“I’m looking for someone to help dig them,” she said. “The clumps form a mass. Gary had to cut them apart with a machete and these clumps are heavy to lift.” Other than rejuvenating the beds after a few years, maintenance is minimal.
“Leaves don’t need trimming,” she said. “I don’t deadhead the blooms.” Leaves arch and stay green most of the season. Past couple of years, they left dead leaves on the plants after frost to become part of the organic mulch. “I do pull the dry flower stalks or scapes in the fall, and that takes a while.”
“My daughter-in-law Susan saved me columbine seed, so I sprinkle that among the daylilies. Coneflowers look good with daylilies too. Daylilies hold their space with foliage before and after the bloom so that they can be backdrop to plants blooming at other times. They can be planted now.
“That’s the beauty of daylilies. Gail Korn digs them until October,” she said. Many of Cynthia’s large bloom daylilies have come from Korn’s Garden Perennials, just south of Wayne, Nebraska. “They’re growing in the natural setting. You can see the size of the plant and the flower during bloom season.”
Cynthia enjoys new blooms each day and doesn’t usually put daylilies in bouquets.
“For our 50thWedding Anniversary, we put daylilies in rose bowls on the table. They lasted nicely for that. They were beautiful; all the different colors. I had timed my gladiolas so they would be blooming, so we had several bouquets of them there. People asked us where we got all the flowers. It was right out of our yard.”