August 7, 2004 in Voices

Easy-care daylilies bring color to summer

Tonie Fitzgerald Special to Handle Extra
 

Gardeners would be hard-pressed to find a more effective landscape perennial than the daylily.

They’re blooming all over town right now and will do so all summer.

Daylilies are pretty, tough, colorful, drought tolerant, hardy, graceful, adaptable and prolific. For all those qualities, they’re also amazingly easy to grow.

Let’s take those qualities one at a time.

Daylilies are pretty plants that form mounding clumps of graceful, arching narrow leaves. Out of these green mounds rise tall elegant flower stems, upon which bloom bright, colorful flowers in shades of, depending on the variety, white, yellow, orange, red or pink.

Speaking of varieties, there are thousands, ranging from dwarfs at a foot tall when in bloom to 4-foot plants. This size range makes them adaptable to being single specimen plants in rock gardens or ample borders along walls or perennial beds.

Daylilies are of particular value in the Inland Northwest because they are both drought tolerant and hardy. Long after spring-blooming flowers have withered, daylilies continue to bloom through the hottest of days.

They can’t live without any water in the summer, but given a moderate weekly dose and mulch covering, they’ll be happy. Come winter, daylilies are hardy to USDA Zone 4, making them tough enough to withstand temperatures of 30 below zero.

The genus name of the daylily is Hemerocallis, Greek for “beautiful for a day.” That means each flower is beautiful for about a day, but the daylily plant sports many stems with many buds on each, so it’s safe to consider the daylily a prolific bloomer.

Plant a number of varieties with different bloom times to achieve continuous bloom from early summer till frost. The blossoms are edible, by the way, and very attractive to butterflies.

The plants are virtually pest free.

If the daylily sounds like it has enough attributes for you, why not add it to your garden now? You can plant daylilies now, as long as you can provide water, or wait till cooler fall days. They like full sun but will be fine in partial shade.

Pastel colored daylilies prefer a partially shaded site.

Organic matter in the soil adds to their drought tolerance, but don’t over fertilize or the blooms will decrease. Divide large clumps in spring or fall.

This week in the garden

Aphids are abundant this year. Try hosing them off your plants with a strong spray of water. Dislodging them this way removes them without chemicals. Repeat weekly.

Onion and potato tops will be turning yellow and dying down soon. Allow them to dry and then dig them up.

Cure them in a shaded dry place for a few days before storing them.

Keep checking for ripening vegetables. Overripe fruit left on plants will reduce the production of new fruit.

Donate your excess produce to the local food banks.

Check sprinkler heads to make sure they are not plugged with grit or hard-water deposits. Consider sprinklers as life support for new plants, and give plants extra water.

If you have several new plants, consider buying a soaker hose (the black spongy kind) and a mechanical water meter that measures in gallons. Loop the soaker hose around new plants and then hook it to the meter and the faucet.

Set it for the number of gallons you want and turn it on. The meter does not use batteries and is simple to maintain.

Consider thinning apples from heavily laden trees. This will allow the remaining apples to grow larger and reduce the chances of breaking a branch.

Reduce clusters of two or three apples by removing the smallest one.

Cut back hanging or potted plants by half if they are getting leggy and are not blooming.

Feed them a good, balanced fertilizer. They should reward you with another show later in the month.

Be sure to check all potted plants for water while it is extremely hot. You may have to water a couple of times a day to keep up with the water lost to heat and low humidity.

If you want to save seeds of a favorite plant, simply shake the seed heads into a plain envelope. Replant them where you want them to grow or for starting early next spring.

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