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Beauty For A Day

Beauty For A Day

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Hemerocallis is such an interesting label. While you may not recognize this Latin title, it is the name for the common daylily. The name comes from two Greek words meaning "beauty" and "day," referring to the fact that each flower lasts only one day.

This leads to the question of why a flower that lasts one day would take the gardening world by storm? While most gardeners are familiar with the common, orange, roadside daylily, plant breeders have been manipulating the plant genetics since the 1930's.

These manipulations have produced some outstanding results. A recent check with the American Hemerocallis Society lists 55921 varieties listed on their official register. Few if any other flowers even approach that number.

Doug Colby, President of the Utah Hemerocallis Society and his wife Ann are two enthusiastic promoters of this flower. He explains how they got interested in these plants.

"We have always gardened together since we got married. It is our recreation and we have a certain joy in planning together and getting to spend time together. We like daylilies because they are so easy to grow."

He first got bitten by the Hemerocallis bug because of his brother. "My brother in California is big into daylilies. We visited him and started bringing back starts. I thought he was over the top because he had little "pet" tags on all his plants.

Growing daylilies is sort of a hobby we fell into. I never intended to go overboard like he did but we now haw have 200-300 daylilies in our garden.

Daylilies are popular in Utah because they tolerate our climate, soils and other conditions. Daylilies grow in a wide range of soils, from sand to heavy clay, and in a wide range of soil pH.

To help assuage the short life of the flower, be assured the plant is not a one-day wonder. The plants are covered with many flower buds on each daylily flower stalk. Each plant has many stalks so, the flowering period of a clump is usually covers several weeks and some cultivars have a more extended flowering period.

Colby explains, "It is sort of like Christmas because every day it is like a different garden. Just knowing that you are going to have these exciting new blossoms in your garden each day makes you want to get out there. It is fun and one more reason to get out in your garden and drag your hose around."

While the Colby's garden has many different plants they never forget who lives there. " I used to install sprinklers a long time ago. Anytime you start to dig and you have water, you have kids. Our garden is a place for them."

Their son has his own daylily garden and even grows some plants for the day lily shows. Teaching children to enjoy the garden is a priority for them "Anytime you can get kids into the garden it is a good thing," states Colby.

If your soil is has too much sand or clay, improve it by adding compost or other organic matter to increase the drainage and aeration. Compost applications on sandy soils increase water and nutrient retention.

Daylilies are sun loving plants but their flowers are not always the same. They prefer full sun if possible, but will grow well providing they get at least at least 6 hours of direct sun a day. Many varieties with darker colored flowers keep their color better in partial shade in the hottest part of the day.

Daylilies show up on the many drought tolerant plant lists but they need moisture to grow and bloom well. Sufficient water helps ensure as many blooms and as large blooms as possible. Water is particularly important in the spring, when plants are forming scapes and buds and during the summer bloom season.

Add daylilies to your flower beds because they are easy to grow and come back every year. They are excellent ground cover plantings and help to prevent soil erosion. Some of the lower varieties are good for border plants along fences or walkways.

Colby contends this is a hobby that anyone can afford. "I guess that 75 percent of the plants in my garden have been given to me. I also buy some great plants from the two sales that the Utah Hemerocallis Society has each year."

His parting words give one of the best reasons for growing these plants. "In July and August when it is 100 degrees outside you can look out at your daylilies and they are just thriving. There are just no other plants that show up so well when conditions so extreme."

Larry A. Sagers
Horticulture Specialist
Utah State University Extension
Thanksgiving Point Office

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