Or read on to find out more about the plants themselves.
Hemerocallis, commonly known as the ‘Daylily’ make wonderful garden plants. They are easy to grow and maintain, they flower throughout June, July and August and provide us with fresh green foliage from as early as February. They are reliable, robust and above all beautiful. Woottens has been growing Hemerocallis since 2004 and now houses one of the biggest collections in the UK comprising of over 600 different varieties. Plants are field grown and lifted throughout the year and the fields are open for viewing annually in July.
Michael Loftus writes of the Daylily; One of the great joys of spring is the wavy, fresh green tips of Hemerocallis leaves, poking through the snow along with snowdrops and the blood red tips of Peonies. In summer their deep-throated flowers make voluptuous ‘v’ signs towards the phalanxes of Kniphofias and erect knobs of Agapanthus.. The modern Hemerocallis cultivars with their ruffles, eyezones, banding and edges, (camp and gorgeous as if snipped out of velvet and silk by John Galliano) are fit to strut the cat walk. At Woottens our special love is the new American Spider and Unusual Forms. We feel these deconstructed plants are ideal for using in the mixed border with the more wayward of late summer beauties: Aster laterifolius Lady in Black, Helianthus salicifolius, Molionias, Veronicastrums…
The nursery supplies Hemerocallis as bareroot plants throughout the year from Jan-Dec. Plants can be lifted and planted all year round although the prime times are Autumn and Spring. Autumn is the most beneficial time to plant as the roots will establish well over the winter and plants are likely to flower the following summer.
From the point of order is usually takes 10 working days to lift and dispatch plants and they should be replanted or potted ideally within two weeks of arrival. Depending on the variety plants are supplied as double fans or ‘ramets’ or clumps for fine leaved forms. Leaves are cut back to reduce water loss.
The Hemerocallis at Woottens are all grown by one of the nursery owners; Gillian Morris – read all about Gill’s experiences of her daylilies in her blog – Click here
Our Hemerocallis Fields are open for viewing at the beginning of July for full details click the link to see our Events Pages
Read on to find out more about Hemerocallis, their history and how to grow, care and propagate them.
The name Hemerocallis originates from ancient Greek, ‘Hemera’ meaning ‘Day’ and ‘Kallos’ meaning beauty, this gives rise to their common name of Daylily which represents the fact that each bloom only lasts for one day. Whilst this is true, it should not put you off the plant as each plant produces hundreds of blooms across their flowering season which can last up to 60 days.
Hemerocallis are forms of Herbaceous Perennials and deciduous or ‘dormant*’ forms do die back to their root system each winter. However there are many evergreen and semi evergreen forms that hold their leaves all year round.
*an American term for the plants deciduous behaviour
For many years Hemerocallis were registered within the botanical family of the Lily, Liliaceae. However, they have been reclassified and now belong to the family Asphodelaceae with their own sub family Hemerocallidoideae.
Hemerocallis are native to Asia, predominantly China, Korea and Japan and have been documented in Chinese culture for thousands of years. They were historically used in medicine, and are still used as a food source in Asian cooking. Whilst all parts of the plant are edible, preference is given to the sweet flavour of the flower buds and the tubers are often cooked like the common potato.
The structure of the plant consists of the following:
|Roots||Often thick and fleshy or tuberous|
|Crown||Where the leaves meet the root base|
|Leaves||Grass like with a central vein and often folded|
|Scape||The leafless stem of the plant|
|Proliferation||Sometimes occurs on the scape producing more scapes|
|Bracts||Where the flowers branch|
|Sepals||3 ‘back’ petals of the plant making up the 6 total petals|
|Petals||Three main petals of the plant|
|Throat||Central part of the flower often different in colour|
|Pistil||Located in the throat and contains reproductive organs|
|Seeds||Black if fertile and pale if sterile|
Hemerocallis are Monocotyledons and produce one seed leaf, similarly to Grasses, Crocosmia and Iris. Many have tuberous root systems enabling them to store food efficiently over the winter and begin shooting much earlier in the spring than other fibrous rooted plants.
Although plants have been documented in the far east for many years, Hemerocallis only reached European shores in the mid-15th century and throughout the breeding boom of the Victorian era weren’t really considered worthy plants for hybridising.
The turning point in daylily history began in the early 20th Century when two botanists began collecting seeds and breeding plants, Canadian Botanist Dr Albert Steward, working at Nanking University in the 1920’s, and American botanist Dr Arlow Stout. Steward sent seeds and plants from China to Stout in America to hybridise, Stout received around 50 shipments of plants at this time and in his lifetime attempted over 50,000 cross pollination experiments resulting in 100 viable hybrids.
Arlow Stouts book entitled ‘Daylilies’ 1934 can still be purchased today and is a fascinating insight into his work. In his book Stout lists just 15 known species of Hemerocallis, since then another 8 have been identified by a Chinese Dr, Shui-Ying and possibly further more since then.
From these few species we now have in existence over 40,000 different hybrids. Many of which have been bred in America and are only available there.
Below are listed a small selection of species Hemerocallis still known to us today whose characteristics can easily be seen in our modern day hybrids
Within the species there are two types of bloomers – Diurnal, meaning the blooms open during the day usually early morning and Nocturnal, meaning night opening and often open early evening, the nocturnal forms are the more fragrant of the two.
|Species Name||Species Meaning||Species characteristics|
|Hemerocallis fulva||‘tawny, orange’||Strong grower, invasive, rhizomatous|
|Hemerocallis multiflora||‘many flowers’||Produces 75-100 blooms on one scape|
|Hemerocallis graminea||Blooms stay open for 2-3 days|
|Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus||‘yellow’||Rhizomatous, fragrant|
|(syn. H. flava)|
|Hemerocallis altissima||‘the tallest’||Said to be lost, only hybrids remain|
|Hemerocallis citrina||‘lemon scented’||Pale yellow fragrant blooms|
|Hemerocallis minor||‘smaller’||Small headed, used for breeding dwarf forms|
|H. Kwanso Flore Pleno||‘double flowering’||Orange double, variegated form available|
|H. Kwanso esculenta||‘edible’||Rare large yellow form|
As breeding took off in the 1960’s breeders were trying to find new methods to increase the Daylily colour range, make larger more ruffled flowers and lengthening the blooming period.
A result of these experiments was the discovery of using ‘Colchicine’ a highly poisonous chemical alkaloid derived from Colchicums which when artificially introduced in the breeding altered the chromosome count in the Daylily from 22 chromosomes (Diploids) to 44 chromosomes (Tetraploid)
The results are plain to see in our hybrids of today:
Tetraploid forms were claimed to have 1/3 larger blooms, more intense colours and the ability to withstand heavy rainfall and hot sunshine without bleaching. They were bred for greater vigour, winter hardiness and disease resistance
In our experience of growing daylilies we have found no difference in their growth to other diploid forms, and whilst their breeding increased the colour range and patterning at the time, newer diploid forms have just as wide a range of tones.
At Woottens our preference is always towards the more elegant forms, whether it’s Irises, Pelargoniums or any other perennial so our love lies with the diploids, but also with newer hybrids bred from them called ‘Spider’ forms.
Spider forms of Hemerocallis came from early breeding of some nocturnal species, H. altissima and H. citrina with additions of diurnal species, H. fulva.
As the name suggests the flowers have a ‘spider’ like appearance, long thin petals that often dangle like spider legs!
Disregarded during the breeding of Tetraploid forms, the spider regained notoriety in the 1980’s and a new wave of interest in the 1990’s bought these plants back into the limelight and sparked off a whole new world of Hemerocallis breeding including many unusual flower forms as shown below:
The pigments that determine the colours of Hemerocallis flowers are located in the different layers of the petals biological make up. The yellow tones are the strong underlying colours and are located in the central cells whereas the purples and reds are concentrated in the epidermal cells which are located on the surface, this is why darker shades are more prone to bleaching and spot damage from heavy rainfall
Each variety has its own unique colouring, flower shape and patterning. Here are just some examples:
Bitone or Reverse Bitone – Different tones of the same colour on the sepals and petals
Eyed, Halo or Banded – Circular patterns around the throat of the flower
Midrib, Throat Coloured or Chevron – Distinct veins on the petals or throat markings
Flower Shapes include:
Star Forms, Triangular or Circular
Doubles, Ruffled or Picotee/Wired Edge.
Modern flower forms include elaborate shapes with wacky shape names such as : Baroque, Pinched and Curled, Cascade, Flamboyant, Cockeral crispata, Pinwheel crispata and Butterfly crispata. These forms are quite rare and we stock just a few, these aren’t always on our sales list but availability can be enquired about by emailing email@example.com . Below are a few varieties that fit these categories
In containers – As with any plant, any Hemerocallis can be grown in a pot as long as the pot accommodates the eventual size of the plant, is repotted every year with fresh compost and watered efficiently. Some dwarf varieties lend themselves to containers in smaller gardens this include:
Stella Doro and Happy Returns
In the border
Hemerocallis are best grown in herbaceous borders to compliment other summer flowering perennials, we’d recommend planting with Echinacea, Agapanthus, Ornamental Grasses, Crocosmia, Geraniums and hardy Salvia.
SOIL. In a dry, arid garden, where real lilies, such as L. regalia, linger miserably and reproachfully for a year or so, and then expire from malnutrition and thirst Hemerocallis thrive without fuss. They are the easiest of garden plants and will grow happily in any soil, from barren, heath-land sand to heavy clay.
WATER. Hemerocallis will never succumb to drought. Watering is unnecessary, although in a very dry spring or summer, water more frequently to encourage the best blooms and prolong the flowering season
SUN. Most Hemerocallis thrive in positions of full sun, although dark red varieties should be shielded from the afternoon glare as this can literally melt the upper layers of pigment. All Hemerocallis do best in positions, which receive at least morning sun, but they will grow in shade. Their flowering stems in shade will be taller and they will produce less buds. They are not suitable for growing under trees, as the flowering stems will reach slantingly towards the light, looking as if the cat has slept on them.
DEADHEADING. Some flowers are as beautiful in their terminal dishevelment as in their blooming; Hemerocallis alas are not one of these. The spent flowers show an unseemly haste to proceed down the path of putrefaction, liquefying within hours into a sticky mess. Daily deadheading during the flowering season greatly improves the appearance of all Hemerocallis. After all the flowers on a stem have bloomed, the stem should be cut to the ground, to avoid the plant putting energy into unnecessary seed production.
END OF SEASON TIDY UP. When tidying up the garden for winter, deciduous Hemerocallis can be cut to the ground. Removal of old foliage will reduce problems with snails and slugs in the Spring as snails like nothing so much for Winter quarters as decaying foliage. Evergreen forms can be cut down and will produce new growth in the spring or left for winter interest
PROPAGATION. Plants are easily divided and each division must include a section of root and a ‘fan’ or foliage. Plants are often sold as single or double fans depending on the size of the varieties. Fine leaved forms are sold more as ‘clumps’. Each fan is known as a ‘ramet’, some plants produce just one additional ramet each season, others up to 15.
Plants can be divided all year round, although division near the flowering season will delay or postpone blooms for that year. Autumn or winter divisions should flower the following year, spring and summer divisions will flower a year later.
When dividing and replanting trim the foliage to reduce water loss but not too hard as plants require their leaves to photosynthesise. Approx. 6 inches is sufficient depending on the time of year.
Seed can be collected and germinated, collect in September- October when ripe, fertile seeds are usually black. Sow in early winter. Germination takes place with temperatures 5+ degrees. Young plants can be hardened off that spring and normally flower the following year.
PESTS AND DISEASES. Hemerocallis are remarkably carefree plants, being immune to mildews, aphids, virus, lily beetle, vine weevil, to name a few of the plagues which beset so many garden plants. Damage by slugs and snails is minimal. However one pest that can be prolific is the Hemerocallis Gall Midge.
Hemerocallis Gall Midge is a small fly that lays its eggs in the flower buds of Hemerocallis, or Daylilies. The buds become distorted and fat, looking more like a parrot tulip than an elegant Daylily bud. If broken open you’ll see numerous larvae that look similar to maggots in a watery liquid.
Hemerocallis Gall Midge
The Insects Life Cycle
The insect itself lays just one generation a year but can lay over 100 larvae in one flower bud.
The adults are actively laying their eggs between May-July; the larvae then feed inside the buds, once fully fed they overwinter in the soil below the plant in silk cocoons and then emerge the following year
Currently there are no chemical controls for Hemerocallis Gall Midge. Certain insecticides such as Bug Clear Ultra can reduce the infestations but not eliminate it. We DO NOT advise using this control as the product contains Neonicotinoids that are harmful to bees.
The best controls are observational; remove any infested buds as soon as they are spotted. Burn the buds or put in your household bins, DO NOT put on the compost or into any other part of the garden. If this is regularly done the life cycle of the insects will eventually be broken.
As the larvae overwinter in the soil below you can try applied insecticide to the area around the base of the plant in order to kill the larvae before they hatch. A more organic method would be to lift the plant and the surrounding soil if possible, completely strip out the compost from the roots and wash thoroughly, replant into fresh sterile compost or transplant to another area of the garden. This is best undertaken in the late autumn.
When choosing Hemerocallis make sure you buy plants from a reputable source, bareroot plants are best as little or no soil transferal takes place. Plants supplied should be cut back for planting and will not contain any flowering stems, if they do remove them to prevent the spread of the insects
As the Gall Midge lays eggs between May and July it is advisable to choose late season varieties that won’t has produced buds when the fly is active.
A list of recommended late season cultivars is given below.
These plants are not resistant to the Gall Midge and flowering seasons are highly dependent on the weather each year.
Mount Echo Sunrise
Judge Roy Bean
Some of the these varieties can be purchased on our website. For others please enquire by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The British Hosta and Hemerocallis Society
American Daylily Society
American Daylily Cultivar Search
American Hemerocallis Society
Click here to view Hemerocallis Care Notes
See the Full List
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