Plants & Growing

Hemerocallis ‘Daylilies’ Care & Growing Tips In The UK

stunning red and orange hemerocallis flowers
Written by Chris Lee

This plant has a fantastic reputation thanks to its attractive and colourful flowers, tolerance to drought and heat stress, and the general ease of looking after it.

You’ll also hear this plant called daylily, alluding to its flowers that appear one morning and quickly shrivel away, only to be replaced shortly after by another equally vibrant flower.

You can expect yellows, oranges, golds, purples, and all manner of other bright and beautiful colours. This ever-evolving symphony of flowers and colour that appeals to seasoned and novice gardeners alike.

This Hemerocallis growing guide will tell you all you need to know to get this nifty plant thriving in your garden. By the time you finish, you’ll know which right variety is right for you, and how to ensure strong and confident growth.

What is Hemerocallis?

A perennial plant that flowers between late May and early August, bringing vibrant splashes of warm colour to any garden. Hardy growth make this a non-fussy plant well-suited to gardeners of all abilities 

The clump-forming properties of many Hemerocallis varieties suit it well to garden borders and beds, but you’re not limited to growing it in these locations.

deep, vibrant orange flowers
This deep, vibrant orange is just one aspect of Hemerocallis’ colour palette

What types of Hemerocallis are there?

The Royal Horticultural Society plant database has thousands of results for plants in the family Hemerocallidaceae. It’s easy to feel a bit daunted when choosing the right variety for your garden. 

With this in mind, we’ve shortlisted the eight varieties that have been awarded the Award of Garden Merit. This commendation is given to plants that do particularly well in British gardens, making them an excellent place to start looking.

If none of these varieties float your boat, there are plenty of others available!

‘Ruby Spider’

The “trumpet-shaped, yellow-throated” flowers boasted by Ruby Spider are indicative of what you can expect from a Hemerocallis: A summer of colour and confidence, tumbling out of countless flowers.

You have to see the colour profile of this flower to believe it. Eponymous ruby fades gradually into a dazzling yellow, with broad, flat petals making it impossible to resist.

‘Serena Sunburst’

Proud, buoyant yellow give sunburst its name. Looking at this flower, the comparison makes sense. During warm weather, you’ll find a light peachy pink border, lending a bit more depth and elegance to the petals.

The shape is different from the Ruby Spider, with a narrower and slightly more rounded profile. Serena Sunburst makes a fine addition to borders, beds, and beyond.

‘Burning Daylight’

From sunburst to Burning Daylight, Hemerocallis is definitely the plant to choose if you want the same range of colours in your garden as those created by the sun in the sky.

This variety plays mainly with orange, with broad, inviting flowers. It works well by itself or arranged with other types of daylily. 

‘Pink Damask’

Sharing its name with a famous upholstery pattern, Pink Damask effortlessly evokes the same refined sophistication as suites that use the fabric.

With this variety, the clue is in the name. Prepare yourself for a regal pink blossom, drawing on multiple colours from the palette without ever looking gaudy. We’ve seen this flower described as ‘salmon,’ but we’re not sure the fishy imagery is befitting of such a beautiful bloom.

This variety will work well in similar settings to other Hemerocellis plants.

‘Tuxedo Junction’

In 1940, Glenn Miller and his orchestra released Tuxedo Junction, a composition whose lazy brass captured the nuance of that decade. 

You don’t need to stretch your imagination too far to see a vase of these flowers on a mantelpiece next to an old wireless with Glenn Miller playing.

White petals fade gently into yellow-green throats, with an unexpected but highly effective soft-pink tint. Overall, a beautiful flower that’s testament to the appeal of Hemerocallis.

‘Stafford’

The Stafford is a quintessential example of the appeal of Hemerocallis. This daylily combines red, orange, and yellow in a way that will melt the heart of even the most disinterested gardener. A great way to liven up any area of your garden.

deep red and yellow hemerocallis flowers
Such deep reds would look great in any garden

‘Sir Modred’

Sir Modred is a historical figure who lives in infamy as one of the leading players in the death of King Arthur. Quite why this Hemerocallis variety shares its name with such a sinister character is unknown to us. Perhaps the thick, rich crimson petals brought to mind the spilt blood of the great monarch.

Whatever the roots of the name, this plant is a sight to behold. The aforementioned red gives way to a bold yellow, with a thin blur of orange where the two colours meet. A clump of Modred in your garden border is sure to cause less historical controversy than its potential namesake.

‘Red Precious’

Elegant red and yellow. This variety of daylily doesn’t bring anything too radically novel to the table, but it is another fantastic demonstration of why we love this plant.

This variety will work well standalone, or alongside others.

Introducing a Hemerocallis into your garden

When planting a Hemerocallis, you can expect it to grow up to a metre in height, with a spread of 10cm to a metre. Most varieties will grow to a maximum spread somewhere around 50cm, over two to five years.

This is a hardy plant, and it’s hard to go too far wrong when cultivating one. All the varieties in the previous section have a hardiness rating of H6, which, according to the RHS, means they are “hardy in all of the UK and northern Europe.” They will stay healthy and strong in temperatures as low as -20°C.

What soil does Hemerocallis need?

This is a flexible, versatile plant that isn’t fussy when it comes to growing conditions. In fact, it can grow well in some poorer quality soils that other plants may struggle with.

All varieties above will do best in clay, loam, or chalk. Certain varieties can tolerate sand, too: Ruby Spider, Serena Sunburst, Tuxedo Junction, and Sir Modred. All require moist but well-drained soil and can tolerate acid, alkaline, or neutral pH levels.

Where to plant your daylily

Your Hemerocallis will need full sunlight to grow its best, so make sure to plant it somewhere south or west-facing. Growing your plant in light shade won’t kill it, but the flowering will be less vibrant and plentiful. Avoid planting in full shade.

If possible, plant somewhere that will get five or six hours of sunlight per day. When growing darker-coloured varieties, you may want to bear in mind that shade in the afternoon will lead to better colour retention.

When to plant your Hemerocallis

For best results, plant your daylily in spring or autumn. Ideally in April, or in the few weeks between late September and the end of October.

Planting out your Hemerocallis

You can buy daylily plants from seed, or pre-grown in packets. If choosing the latter, be aware they will need more attention early on. You shouldn’t plant them out directly. Instead, pot them in compost, keep it moist, and keep somewhere cool until they’re growing well.

Plant out your tended daylily in the spring or autumn, as per the previous section.

Growing from seed is easy: Just plop them in holes around 2cm deep, and keep well-watered until seedlings appear. This should take about a fortnight.

Be aware that growing from seed means you’ll have to wait longer for flowers. Expect this to take anywhere up to three years.

Propagating Hemerocallis

Daylilies are ripe for propagation. Their ability to cross-pollinate relatively easily compared to other flowers means that you can create your own hybrids.

To give this a go, you’ll have to manually pollinate a female plant with the pollen of a male one. There’s a chance a seed pod will develop, and if it does, you can plant the seeds as instructed in the previous section. After a couple of years, you’ll be able to see whether your matchmaking worked!

Ongoing care

Improving the soil with general purpose fertiliser is a good way to boost lacklustre growth. Mulch – compost or manure – will keep in soil moisture if your plant is struggling to get enough.

How to prune your Hemerocallis

Compared to other plants, Hemerocallis needs very little in the way of pruning. It’s only advised out of necessity when you are in an area prone to gall midge (more on this later). Otherwise, pruning is purely an aesthetic consideration.

Protecting your Hemerocallis from pests and diseases 

There are a few pests that like to make their home on Hemerocallis plants. When you welcome this flower into your garden, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the risks and their symptoms. This way you can nip any issues in the bud (if you’ll excuse the pun.)

Aphids

Although they’re small, these pests can wreak massive amounts of havoc on your daylilies. If you get an infestation, you’ll find large colonies of tiny bugs living on the underside of your plant’s leaves. 

To satisfy their voracious appetites, aphids feast on sap. Once this is drained, Hemerocallis begins to wilt and lose its usual enthusiasm. Not only that, but a byproduct of their presence can attract other pests.

Your best course of action is to spray plants with water and insecticidal soap. This should dislodge small infestations, but for bigger ones you may have to turn to pesticides Vigilance is a good policy: You can usually spot and remove aphid populations before they overcome your plant.

Slugs and snails

You’ll find that Hemerocallis is not exempt from these slimy visitors, the bane of every gardener’s life.

Slug and snail remedies vary, with each gardener citing their own secret technique. Some people leave small troughs of beer to attract these pests away from their flowers. Others use ammonia solution to discourage them, and still-crueller gardeners use perimeters of salt to dissolve them before they can reach their intended dinner.

We wish you luck, whatever solution you decide to use.

Glasshouse red spider mite

Here is another hungry pest that can cause surprising amounts of damage to your Hemerocallis plant. The red spider mite will suck sap from your plants, gradually depleting them until, if left uninterrupted, they risk an untimely death.

The mites prefer warm weather, so keep a careful eye out in the summer. You’ll see mottled leaves, fine webbing on plants, and weaker-looking petals. Because of their tendency to be in warm places, you’ll be less at risk with plants outdoors than in greenhouses, but we still recommend keeping your eye out.

Thrips

These bugs, also sometimes called thunder flies, suck sap from flowers for sustenance. Leaves they’ve feasted upon grow dull and discoloured. They’ll also leave waste-products after feeding, in the form of little black spots.

Pesticides are recommended for removing thrips. You’ll need to use a few applications to kill bugs and larvae that hatch from any already-planted eggs.

Hemerocallis gall midge

If your Hemerocallis has swollen buds that don’t open, you may have been visited by gall midges. These flies lay their eggs on young Hemerocallis flower buds, and the hatched larvae play havoc with the buds’ development.

Thin, translucent maggots on a plant stem
Thin, translucent maggots are another indicator of gall midge

The best way to control against gall midge infestation is to remove and destroy (not compost!) affected buds. The RHS advises asking your neighbours to do the same so that the spread can be reduced.

Late-flowering Hemerocallis plants are less prone to gall midge because their laying season ends before flowering begins. If you’re especially worried about this pest, maybe consider one of the varieties listed above that flowers later: Pink Damask, Stafford, Burning Daylight, and Red Precious.

Another day, another lily

Hemerocallis, daylily, or whatever you decide to call them, we’re sure this flower will make a fantastic contribution to your garden. They are easy to grow and look after, and draw on an astounding colour palette – from gentle pinks through to rich, hearty reds. 

This guide covers everything you need to know to grow Hemerocallis and how to get them thriving in your garden. We hope you’ve found it useful!

About the author

Chris Lee

Chris is interested in nature and the good things that happen when people are in it. He is a freelance writer, with writing published about cycling, green living, and ways to make a difference without fundamentally restructuring your lifestyle.

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