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What are Daylilies?

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  • Written By: C. Ausbrooks
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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Daylilies are perennial flowers which are not part of the Lily family at all. Once classified as belonging to Liliaceae, they are now considered part of the Hemerocallidaceae family. The scientific name for daylilies is Hemerocallis, which is derived from the Greek for “day” and “beauty.” This is a reference to the individual flower’s lifespan of a single day.

Available in many different colors, shapes, and sizes, daylilies are often referred to as “the perfect perennial.” They can survive in a variety of climates and landscape environments. They are adaptable, drought tolerant, and are not susceptible to many pests and diseases.

In appearance, daylilies are characterized by their clumping nature, long and slender roots, and leafless stalks which bear the flowers. Most species produce flowers which open at either sunrise or sunset, and are replaced with another flower in the same place the next day. Although each flower lasts only one day, they typically bloom profusely to make up for this.

Daylily flowers are made up of three petals and sepals, with the center of the flower, or throat, in a contrasting color. The stamen may be the same color as the petals, or a contrasting color. Wild daylilies come in yellow and orange colors, but hybrids are available in almost every color, aside from white and blue. The most common daylily colors are red, yellow, pink, purple, and melon.

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The leaves of daylilies can be arched, or stand erect. They can be long and slender, or thick and grass-like. They range in length from 6 – 36 inches (15.2 – 91.4 cm), and in color from blue-green to yellow-green. Some daylilies are evergreen, meaning that they keep their leaves throughout the year, but most will become dormant in the winter.

Daylilies are relatively long-lived plants, if given the proper care. They require mulching with compost or peat in the spring, and fertilization after the roots have been well established. Although they are drought tolerant, consistent watering on a weekly basis is recommended for optimal blooming. Trimming dead or browned areas of foliage is also a crucial part of daylily care, particularly during the growing season, as this gives room for new growth.

The plants are used most often as decorative plants in home and commercial daylily gardens. However, they have a few other uses around the globe. In China, some of the edible species are used in native cuisine. The roots and leaves have also been used for medicinal purposes, such as blood purification and as a diuretic. Some species are toxic, and the plant should never be consumed without supervision.

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