Do a quick search of easy, low-maintenance plants and perennials, and most lists will contain daylilies. When I moved into my current home, I inherited a pretty patch of daylilies. Despite the fact that they’re supposed to be hands-off, I have struggled to keep them happy and thriving. This is what I’ve learned over the years.
Hemerocallis is a genus that contains several species of daylilies. Related to lilies but not true lilies, these flowers grow from a fleshy root rather than a bulb. They get their common name from the fact that each flower only blooms for about a day.
The experts say this is an easy plant to grow, and that it’s great for beginners. Daylilies tolerate poor soil and drought and don’t have a lot of diseases or pests. They should continue blooming throughout the summer with little to no intervention. So what went wrong with mine?
Yes, daylilies are tough and forgiving, but they do prefer full sun. My patch of lilies gets full sun, depending on the time of year and the state of the large shrub next to them. At times, the sunlight cover is definitely patchy and unreliable.
I read early on that daylilies did not need full sun, so I didn’t think much about it. After a few years, they seemed to have lost some vigor. They didn’t grow as big or bloom as much as they had in the past. Rather than pull up the entire bed, I worked on trimming back the large honeysuckle growing next to it and looked for other solutions.
Early on in my gardening career I only weeded for aesthetic reasons. I didn’t understand how weeds left in place could out-compete other plants for nutrients and water. Because lilies grow tall and wide, I didn’t bother pulling weeds from under their leaves. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
After learning more about how weeds impact other plants, I decided to be proactive. A few years ago, I started early when the lilies were just babies in spring. I pulled out every violet and dandelion trying to emerge, and kept at it as the lily leaves grew in. Removing weeds early made it an easier task for me and has improved the overall health of the lilies.
Another task I neglected for too long was dividing the lilies. As it turns out, it’s important to divide the patch every few years. This is not just because they spread into unwanted areas but also because crowding isn’t good for them. They lose vigor and health.
I divided several plants in the bed, pulling them out by the roots in early spring, and planting the divisions in a second area.
All of these steps have reinvigorated my little patch of daylilies and they are healthier than ever. They once again provide me with daily, cheerful, orange blooms. Now, I just need to figure out how to keep the deer from nibbling the leaves in spring.