For summer color, it’s hard to beat bright, beautiful daylily blooms in the garden. These hardy plants are a lot tougher than they look, and you might even see them along roadsides and in lowly ditches, happily nodding in the breeze and brightening the scene. The common daylily is a transplant from Asia that became popular last century. These tall, orange flowers have naturalized themselves in many locations, but you can also purchase a rainbow of colors hybridized from these originals.

As their name suggests, each flower only last for one day, opening in the morning and drooping by evening. Fortunately, daylilies send up multiple flowers over the course of several weeks to provide steady color in your garden. Their strap-like leaves remain green and add texture to your garden through frost.

Daylily Basics

Growing Zones: 4-9
Bloom Time: Flowers in summer
Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Mature Size: From six inches to six feet tall and one to three feet in diameter, depending on variety
Notes: Lance-like green leaves poke up in spring and fill in as tulips and daffodils fade, so they make an excellent companion plant to hide spent bulbs as their foliage dies back. Daylilies come in a wide range of warm colors, including red, orange, yellow, purple, pink and white.

Growing Daylilies in the Landscape

Daylilies do best in full sun — at least six hours per day — though they will tolerate some shade. Darker colors benefit from some afternoon shade in hot microclimates. They do best in well-drained soil with average fertility, though many aren’t at all fussy as long as they’re not waterlogged.

Daylily Flowers

Planting Daylilies

For best success, prepare the soil by turning in some extra compost to increase fertility and add aeration. Daylilies do best when planted in the spring after all danger of frost has passed, though you can plant them throughout the summer if you find one you love. Plant transplants at the same depth they were in the pot and backfill soil to hold in place, gently tamping down with your hands to firm the soil. Daylilies should be planted about two feet apart from each other, as they’ll fill in fairly quickly.

Daylilies are reasonably drought-tolerant once established but should be watered once a week in their first growing season to help their roots get a good start. A light mulch of compost or shredded bark can help hold in moisture for young plants.

Ongoing Care for Daylilies

Once daylilies are established, they require little care and only infrequent watering during severe drought. Once a year, you can top dress the plants with fresh compost, which will serve as both mulch and sufficient fertilizer for the season.

Once blooms have faded, your plants will look better with some deadheading. Simply grab the wilted flower between your thumb and forefinger and give it a slight twist to pinch it off. As you work, be sure to remove the sweeping green seed pod as well as the petals so your plant puts energy into its leaves and roots rather than in producing seeds.

Daylily in Bloom

Daylilies aren’t likely to be bothered by pests, and they often thrive despite neglect, which makes them a perfect choice for low-maintenance landscaping. You can plant them in masses to fill a large area or use them as a specimen within a mixed border. One thing’s for sure: Once you start planting daylilies, you’ll probably be tempted to try several different varieties in your garden!