Questions Answered Series: Growing Daylily (Hemerocallis)

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Bursting with color and thriving with ease, daylilies are a gardener's dream!

Add a burst of spring color to your garden with daylily flowers! Known for their resilience and adaptability, daylilies thrive in various soil types. Not only are these hardy perennials eye-catching, but they are also low-maintenance and an excellent choice for beginner gardeners. The cheery open blooms also attract hummingbirds and bumblebees to the garden, which is great for bringing pollinators to an area where tough soils limit planting options. We can’t rave about this robust perennial enough.

Here, we’ll show you how to grow and care for daylily flowers and answer your frequently asked questions. 

Close up of pink daylily flowers in the garden

Have a specific question? Jump ahead!

How to grow daylily (Hemerocallis):

  • Soil: Daylilies are pretty adaptable and perform well in a wide range of soils but generally prefer deep, fertile loam. They are easily grown in well-drained soil with medium moisture.
  • Light: Daylilies are sun-loving plants and require full sun (> 6 hours sun) to part sun (4-6 hours sun) in order to thrive. Light afternoon shade will keep brightly colored flowers from fading.
  • Water: After planting, water daylilies daily until established, then water once a week. During the summer, daylily can benefit from additional watering if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Daylily also benefits from a thin layer of mulch in spring to retain soil moisture. It’s important to never let this perennial fully dry out!
  • Spacing: Spacing depends on the size of your daylily, but generally do well planted 1 to 2 feet apart. 
  • Fertilizing: Does not require fertilization, but if desired, a light application of an all-purpose garden fertilizer to your daylilies can be made in spring.
  • Winterizing: Winterizing your daylily plants is simple. Just leave spent foliage in place over winter. That’s it!
  • Maintenance & pruning: In spring, remove all old foliage from your daylily plants before new growth appears. Deadhead spent flowers and cut back empty flower stalks.

Are daylilies deer-resistant?

Unfortunately for gardeners (not for the deer), almost all varieties of daylilies are NOT deer-resistant and are occasionally severely damaged by deer. Along with being a deer delicacy, rabbits also love nibbling on the colorful flowers. ‘Stella d’Oro’ daylily was bred to be more deer-resistant than other varieties and is less-likely to be bothered by deer. Keep in mind, however, that no daylily is entirely deer-proof.

How long do daylilies last?

Their scientific name, Hemerocallis, is Greek and translates to “beautiful for a day” because each flower only lasts about one day. While one flower may only have a small lifespan, the plant will continue producing healthy blossoms for up to five weeks in optimal growing conditions. Some varieties, like ‘Happy Returns’ daylily, ‘Stella d’Oro’ daylily, ‘Pardon Me’ daylily or Rainbow Rhythm® ‘Going Bananas’ daylily from Proven Winners can bloom for nearly four months! Daylilies are also reliable bloomers and adapt well to many soil conditions, so you can expect your daylily plants to live up to three years.

What plants go well with daylilies?

Because daylily is so durable and can grow well in various soils, there are many companion plant options for this powerful perennial. Some of our favorite companion plants for daylilies include:

Phlox: If you’re interested in attracting even more pollinators to your garden, the clusters of tiny colorful flowers from phlox complement the large colorful flowers from daylily and attract bees and butterflies.

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia): Have some fun in the sun by planting daylily next to black-eyed Susan! Both of these plants thrive in full sun, with the petaled yellow flowers with exposed seed heads contrasting the trumpet-shaped daylily flower so beautifully. 

Hydrangea: Pack your garden with even more flower power by planting your daylilies next to hydrangeas! Both thrive with moist soil and plenty of sunlight, with the large globe-shaped flower heads from hydrangeas looking fabulous planted alongside daylily in a private hedge or border.

Shasta Daisy: Pair daylily flowers with bright and cheery Shasta daisies! The fluffy white petals next do daylily flowers are a perfect pairing in cottage gardens.

Yarrow: The delicate flowers and cool-toned foliage from yarrow contrast with the sturdy green stems and large flowers from daylily. They are also just as easy to grow and maintain and extend the season of interest past the daylily blooms!

Cranesbill (Geranium): Daylily and cranesbill thrive in similar growing conditions and put on a fabulous flower show together during the spring season! We especially love planting cranesbill and daylily together in woodland areas for a natural appearance.

Red daylilies planted alongside yellow Black-Eyed Susan flowers
Pictured: Daylily flowers planted next to ‘American Gold Rush’ Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia).

How toxic are daylilies?

Daylilies are not toxic to dogs, cats, or humans. Some mild symptoms could occur if ingested, and shouldn’t be a cause for concern for your furry friends who play in your garden. But just because they are nontoxic doesn’t mean they should be ingested. Great Garden Plants advises that pets, children, or adults DO NOT consume any flowers, weeds, trees, or bushes. Ornamental plants are intended to be just that – ornamental. They should not be consumed by people or pets.

Discover other dog-friendly and cat-friendly garden plants below!

Should you deadhead daylilies?

As stated above, each daylily flower only lasts about one day, while the plant itself can produce blooms up to three years. While they may not be long-blooming, they are jam-packed with large, colorful blooms that are easy to care for during their showy season. This means they bloom fast, and old flowers can fill the plant or fall quickly. Deadheading your daylilies is not necessary but can be beneficial for removing unsightly yellow and brown flowers to keep it neat and encourage more blossoms. 

Why isn't my daylily blooming?

There are a few potential reasons why your daylily flowers may not bloom. While daylilies can withstand heat, they are somewhat sensitive to freezing temperatures. A late-season frost in the spring could hinder daylily blooms. If your daylily is not receiving enough sunlight, it may produce few to no flowers as well. Over-pruning or pruning too early can also affect the amount of daylily blooms. See the how-to-grow section to ensure your daylily receives proper pruning, maintenance, water, and sunlight.

Can you grow daylilies in the shade?

Daylilies prefer full sun (6+ hours of sun per day) to part sun (4-6 hours of sun per day) environments and do not flower well in the shade. If you’re a shade gardener who loves the big blossoms daylily has to offer, check out our collection of flowering plants for shade HERE.

Browse our collection of daylily plants for sale:

Written by: Lindsey Griffith, click here to read bio.

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