Updated: Aug 30
Ubiquitous comes to mind. Maybe not as common as lily-of-the-Nile, but daylilies are a favorite filler for landscape designers. Why? A lot of bang for the buck. Despite flowers only lasting a day (hence the name), daylilies are profuse bloomers, insuring a splash of color through early days of summer. And choices! There are over 60,000 cultivars available in the full range of colors, single or double blooms, scented or unscented, and plant sizes. Some are easier to grow than others, but one thing that is often missed is that some are deciduous (dormant over the winter) while others are evergreen or semi-evergreen, even in California. What a disappointment when designers specify a type of daylily that does dormant in the winter when an evergreen specimen is expected. If you are choosing a specific cultivar, know its habits.
NOTE TO DESIGNERS: With over 60,000 known cultivars, availability does not mean that nurseries will have all cultivars within a garden cart's proximity. More likely, nurseries might have a dozen cultivars or less. Consider contacting several nurseries in your area, patronized by landscape contractors and professional gardeners. Ask which cultivars they carry. Once you have the list, do a search and learn more about their unique characteristics.
The Master Gardeners of Virginia and others from the East Coast have noted orange daylilies, Hemerocallis fulva, as invasive, but California gardens typically do not have that experience. We are just too dry! If left alone, coupled with a moderate availability of water, Hemerocallis hybrids will continue to multiply and enlarge their clumps. Once they reach a size too large for the area, then it is time to lift, divide, replant (not to be confused with "bend and snap"), an opportunity to share divisions with others or discard extras.
Over the years I have known people who either adore daylilies or detest them, so keep that in mind when proposing their use. For the detractors, their displeasure may stem from how common daylilies have become, a starter plant for beginning gardeners. Their disappointment might come from thinking their plant died over the winter, not realizing their cultivar would go dormant at the first sign of frost. Maintenance may be another issue, considering how often flowers are dropping off and old leaves should be removed (if the client has a gardener or maintenance contractor, this should not be an issue). Whatever the reason, the shear spectrum of available colors and forms means that there should be at least one out there that would be acceptable to naysayers, no?
To learn more, check out the American Daylily Society.
Botanical Name: Hemerocallis hybrids
Hemerocallis: Greek, hemeros for day and kallos for beauty
Common Name: Daylily
Family Name: Asphodelaceae
Positioning: Moist areas, foreground to middle ground (depending on cultivar size), slopes
Garden Themes: Pollinator, edible, perennial, rock (dwarf cultivars), kitchen
Uses: Edible flowers, border, container, mass, edging
Type: Evergreen, semi-evergreen, or deciduous perennial (depending upon cultivar)
Form: Arching, clumping
Size: 1'-2' (dwarf cultivars) to 4' (large cultivars) and spreading
Outstanding Feature(s): Flower, scent (some cultivars)
Color: Medium to dark green (depending upon cultivar)
Flower: Summer. Clustered of varying sizes and stem lengths, with 6 petals. May be single, double, or more unusual such as spider types are available; simple or ruffled margins, most colors, scented or unscented. Trumpet shape. Flowers are edible.
cultural requirements, tolerances & problems
Sunset Zones: 1-24; H1, H2 (temperature will determine winter dormancy)
USDA Zones: 4-9
Light: Full sun, partial shade in hottest climates
WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Moderate
Texture: Well-composted loam
Moisture Retention: May briefly dry between watering
Tolerances: Rabbits, drought, heat, humidity, minor erosion, poor soils
Insects: Spider mites, aphids, thrips
Disease: Not recorded
citations & attributions
Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.
Master Gardeners of Virginia. "Invasive Plant Factsheet: Common Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)." Accessed on July 11, 2021 from https://mgnv.org/2020/06/08/invasive-plant-factsheet-common-daylily-hemerocallis-fulva/.
Missouri Botanical Garden. "Hemerocallis 'Lady Rose'." Accessed on July 11, 2021 from https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=254307&isprofile=0&.
NC State Extension. "Hemerocallis fulva." North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Accessed on July 11, 2021 from https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/hemerocallis-fulva/.
Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.
Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on July 11, 2021 from https://ucanr.edu/sites/WUCOLS/Download_WUCOLS_IV_List/.
All photos by TELCS.