Like their botanical name from the Greek hermera (day) and kallos (beauty) implies, an individual daylily lasts only one day, but the plants produce an abundance of flowers which open over a long period of time. A well-established clump may produce as many as 400 flowers in a single season. This fact makes daylilies, which are members of the Liliaceae or lily family, one of the most popular of the garden perennials for borders, to brighten a corner or as a centerpiece. The individual daylily flowers can range from 2 to 8 inches, have a single or double row of petals, be deep trumpet-shaped or shallow cup-shaped, and their colors range from creamy-white to deep mahogany with nearly every shade of yellow, orange and pink in between, plus some are even fragrant. A wide range of heights of their arching, sword shaped leaves is also available from 5 feet to 12 inches. Their range in size, color and use means that there in one of these Asian natives for almost everyone and they can be blooming with the iris in the spring and continue through the fall chrysanthemums.
Daylilies are fibrous rooted (not bulbs, tubers or rhizomes) hardy perennials which grow best in full sun in a slightly acidic, well-drained soil; however the darker colored flowers will tolerate light shade. Daylilies should be divided every four to five years in early spring or after flowering by digging the entire plant up and gently pulling the fans apart in clumps of three. With practically no pest or disease problems, the only real care necessary is to remove the seed capsules after the bloom has faded to prevent seed production which weakens the plant and decreases the number of flowers next year. They do make great cut flowers since 5 to 6 buds are clustered on one stem and will therefore probably last a week in a vase provided the water is changed daily.
Daylilies are one of the most popular edible flowers, but be sure not to use pesticides or chemical fertilizers if you are going to use them for this purpose. The earliest written Chinese records cite daylilies as a food plant, since the buds were not only tasty but nutritious as well. The flowers are crunchy like lettuce and their flavor has been compared to green beans or eggplant. The flavor of the open flowers is milder than the buds and the pale yellows and oranges are the sweetest. You may have eaten them in Chinese hot and sour soup, which uses dried petals known as golden needles, and not even realized it. They are also great in tossed salads, not only for flavor and texture but because they make it pretty, and can be stuffed with everything from chicken salad to chocolate mousse for an attractive addition to a luncheon plate. However, be aware that daylilies are also recognized for their diuretic and laxative properties, so it is best to consume them in moderation.
Daylilies grow well on high banks
near streams and ponds and are great
for naturalizing in less formal gardens.
The smaller, low-growing varieties
are also excellent additions to rock gardens.
You can even plant them in the vegetable garden
near some salad ingredients!
". . . I have given you all things even as the green herbs."