Few plants are more beautiful and rewarding to grow than daylilies (Hemerocallis). Their graceful form, sumptuous petals, long flowering habit, pest and disease resistance, ability to grow in sun or semi-shade (they flower best with at least 6 hours of sun), and their tolerance of neglect are just some of their good points.
When daylilies are massed in the landscape they are a truly splendid sight, yet they also look good as individual specimens in the garden or in a pot. This means they suit gardens of all sizes and shapes, from the patio to the acreage lot; as well as all types of gardeners, from the truly dedicated to the lazy weekender.
Today’s varieties flower for long periods; mostly from October through January (depending on variety) and some again in April and May. Even when not in flower, the foliage makes an attractive feature. Modern hybrids are selected for being well branched with a high bud count, larger flowers and petals which are not too narrow. Some are ruffled around the edge and generally have shorter stems than the older varieties. Colours are clearer and more distinct and the range is vast. These plants usually last a lifetime and can be regularly divided (about once every three years) to make more plants.
Despite their cool climate origins, daylilies can be grown almost anywhere in Queensland though they do prefer 6 weeks of winter chill down to about 10–12°C. They seem to do well in the dry tropics and Mackay, and on the tablelands behind Cairns. They can handle frost as well as extremes of dry heat and cold. They are not true lilies at all, nor bulbs, but herbaceous perennials which form clumps that can be divided every three years in autumn.
How to plant
Daylilies do best in well-prepared soil which has been dug over and enriched with 5IN1™ and plenty of compost. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root mass and mound some soil in the centre of the hole. Fill so that the crown of the plant is level with the surface, tamp firmly, water and mulch. Potted daylilies from a nursery should be watered every 2 days for a fortnight to prevent the potting mix from drying out. Bare-rooted plants should be planted immediately or placed in a shady spot with their roots covered with damp soil or sand until you are ready to plant them.
For mass planting, space plants about 30cm apart, for garden planting about 1m apart; any closer and they will need thinning out after 3 years.
Daylilies do not require copious amounts of water and will survive long, dry periods without it; nonetheless they do branch and bloom much better if well watered. A good soaking once a week is fine and helps prevent spider mite infestation.
Apply a slow release fertiliser such as Searles Recharge in July or August. Through spring and summer the plants will benefit from applications of a quick acting fertiliser such as Searles Flourish together with regular applications of Searles Liquid Potash. SeaMax® Fish & Kelp and 5IN1 are excellent organic fertilisers for daylilies and can be applied throughout the warm season.
Pest and disease control
Serious problems are rare, particularly on well grown plants. Mites (which cause the leaves to fade, turn tan and then brown) can be brushed off or blasted away by a jet of water. Aphids (which cause pimples on the buds, irregular colour in new growth and other problems) can be controlled with monthly sprays of garlic in soapy water or commercially-available insecticidal soap sprays. If you get other insect problems, contact your garden centre or a daylily specialist nursery. Crown Rot is the only disease known to affect day- lilies; signs are the whole plant turning yellow and rotting. It has to be dug up, the foliage cut back, the affected crown area removed and the roots and crown soaked in a fungicide for an hour, then replanted in a different location. This condition is more common in damp, humid weather.
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