Beauty for a day

Rebecca Ryan Penn State Extension Master Gardener

I am often asked to suggest an easy, low-maintenance perennial for northwestern Pennsylvania. The first plant that comes to mind is the beautiful and popular daylily. Because the daylily blossom typically only lasts for one day, the botanical name for daylilies is Hemerocallis which means beauty for a day. Overnight the blossom fades and is replaced by another bloom on the scape or flower stalk. While daylilies are not used in formal flower arranging they are used as cut flowers. New blossoms will open on the cut stems for days.

The daylily is a native of Eastern Asia including China, Korea, and Japan. There are over 80,000 registered daylily cultivars and it seems more are coming every year. Hundreds of cultivars have fragrant flowers and a few of the early spring blooming daylilies will rebloom later in the season.

The traits of the daylily include height from small to medium to tall. They also can have edges that are ruffled or plain, contrasting eyes in the center of the bloom and with a few an illusion of glitter called diamond dust. Daylilies can be found in all colors except pure blue and pure white.

Daylilies can be purchased in containers or bare root. Check the directions that come with your plant. Lighter colors need full sun where the darker colors need a more shady location. Once you have settled on placement for the daylily, dig a bowl-shaped hole that is deep enough for a shovel full of compost and yet shallow enough for the daylily to be planted at the same soil level as it had in the container. Once your daylily is planted, make a shallow indentation in the soil a couple of inches from the stem of the plant. This saucer like indention will allow the water to reach the roots instead of running off into the rest of the garden. Water until the plant becomes established.

The flowers of the daylily are edible. They make a beautiful garnish on a summer luncheon or dinner plate. My favorite way to use daylily blossoms is serving the flower stuffed with chicken salad.

Daylilies are the backbone of many Warren and McKean county gardens. They are beautiful, easy to grow, and almost pest free. In the fall, cut the plant back to about three inches to keep your garden tidy.