Versatile plants are more than a ‘nice to have’ in Florida, they are essential. With the normal hot and humid summers, a long running drought, and a suddenly cold (for Florida) winter, having plants that can take it and still fulfill their purpose is a dream for many of us. Additionally, imagine having a plant that can fullfill many purposes is the cherry on top.
Introducing the Daylily! A member of the lily family Daylilies can add quite a display during their blooming season and are a lovely lush green the rest of the year. Even better the Daylily has so many varieties that it can serve multiple functions in your garden. The Daylily can serve as a border or a foundation plant, or you can mix it in with other plantings to provide contrast or to just ‘fill in’. Once you’ve seen the Daylily in bloom though I’m sure you’ll agree, it ain’t no filler!
There are 3 types of foliage growth on the Daylily and you need to make sure you buy the right one for your region.
Dormant – The foliage dies back after frost and new foliage grows in the spring. In central and south Florida, these types may not receive sufficient winter chilling to grow and bloom successfully.
Evergreen - The foliage remains green throughout the year.
Semi-Evergreen -Today, the term semi-evergreen describes a plant whose foliage can be either evergreen or dormant depending on where the plant is grown.
For Florida and the hotter regions of the Southeast US, it’s better just to make sure you have the evergreen unless you’re OK, with experimenting. I think you’ll find there are enough varieties of evergreen to keep you busy for a lifetime.
Daylilies can have the most extraordinary blooms. Anything from tiny (an inch or less) to massive (10 inches) are available depending on the cultivar. There are over 60,000 registered cultivars and more every season. The simplest blooms are called single and have 3 petals and 3 sepals. There are also doubles (looks like a flower in a flower), spiders, and unusual. Varieties of all of these are possible and some of the combinations are simple jaw dropping.
While Daylilies are not completely care free, they can survive most of what can be thrown at them. I’ve seen them planted in full sun and complete shade and many survived this latest winter with nary a scratch. That being said, if you want the best blooms you’ll need to apply some water during a drought. Probably around an inch a week will do it. Compare that to your lawn! My personal take is that these plants are beautiful blooming or not, and I try to take what the weather gives me. That’s not to say I don’t occasionally cheat. Just keep in mind that like all plants it needs some time to establish and that period requires more water.
The one true gotcha with Daylilies is a disease called Daylily Rust. This airborne fungus doesn’t kill the plant, it just makes it ugly. You can tell you’ve got it by the yellow to brown streaks and small, very bright yellow spots on the surfaces of the leaves. Not all the answers are in on Daylily rust but there are so many hardcore Daylily people out there that I’m sure answers will be forthcoming.
In the meantime, I have the perfect place to create a Daylily border as part of my reduce my lawn campaign. I think you should try the Daylily too! I think you’ll be pleased.