The Perfect Perennial
by Judith Rogers
by Judith Rogers

I am a freelance garden writer with a weekly column ‘The Gardener’s Corner’ in the Innisfil Scope and quarterly articles in the regional magazine Footprints.

I began a blog to journal my home and garden life at Lavender Cottage. The art of afternoon tea has been a pleasure of mine for years and ‘Tea with Friends’ has become a weekly post with ladies I’ve met through blogging.

January 27, 2008

Daylilies are the perfect perennial according to Gary Carlson, owner of the AHS display gardens ‘Daylilies of the Field’ in Orillia. He makes this statement with distinct certainty as these perennials have become his passion for which he has over 1200 named plants himself.

Daylilies are prefect because they’re easy to grow, have few pests or diseases and any damage done by slugs on the tender spring shoots is soon overcome with new growth and hardly noticed. They grow in most soil types although they love compost and prefer sun but will tolerate some shade; sun increases the number of buds on a scape.

Hardy to zone 2, daylilies are drought resistant but can be grown in wet areas and ultimately there is a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colours.

Some flowers have a different colour in the center of the petals extending to the sepals known as the eye of the plant and if this colour doesn’t continue into the sepals, it’s known as a halo; both make for interesting combinations in every colour except for a true blue daylily.

Planned carefully, daylilies can be blooming in a garden starting with the very early types before July 1 right up to September with the very late varieties. A warm spring encourages earlier blooms and if a late frost is experienced, it just stops the plant growth temporarily.

The concept of everblooming or rebloom daylilies depends on where the plant originates, the soil, light and heat of each particular garden they are in. Carlson explains that if a daylily that is labeled everblooming comes from a southern state in the U.S. then it will act as such for them but not necessarily in our climate.

Rebloom means the plant will bloom and after it is finished; hopefully more flower scapes will come up. Stella de Oro is one that has the reputation for blooming continuously.

There are four ways to propagate daylilies and the one best suited to the home gardener is by root division of the stollens. Early blooming types should be split after flowering and the fall or late bloomers should be done in spring. Carlson says if need be, they can be divided at anytime, even when in bloom and typically this is carried out after a clump has been growing for four to five years. Older clumps become impacted and are very hard to divide, even with the use of two garden forks.

The second way to propagate is by tissue culture which is commonly done by commercial growers to supply garden centres but sometimes the result is not always identical to the parent. Tissue culture is quite acceptable by hosta growers because it often produces new varieties known as a ‘sport’ to the parent.

Crown division is another way to get more plants and this is done by splitting a fan vertically into quarters.

Propagation by seed is the only way to create a new daylily and although there are three types, only two have seeds. A diploid has 22 chromosomes, a triploid 33, which produces no seeds because of the odd number of chromosomes and a tetraploid which has 44 chromosomes.

Diploids have thin stems, fine leaves and single flowers whereas a tetraploid had a thick stem, broad leaves and a large flower with heavy substance.

Now there is another way to get a new daylily and this is by a quirk of nature called a proliferation. Occasionally a little daylily will grow out of the stem of the parent and it can be cut off about 2.5 to 5 cm above and below the little flower and stuck in water to root; it will be identical to the parent.

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