Daylilies

Daylilies

Daylilies are perennially growing hardy plants found in all regions of the world having temperate climatic conditions. They can be seen bearing flowers in an assortment of hues and every year gardeners develop a number of new hybrid varieties. All daylily plants have their origin in the wild Hemerocallis, which are native to Asia. The name "Hemerocallis" has been derived from two Greek terms - "hemera" denoting beauty and "kallos" referring to day. Since each daylily flower remains open just for a day, the name seems to be quite fitting.

An incredible 35,000 daylily varieties have been identified as well as registered. These plants are exceptionally adaptive and it is likely that you will find some varieties of daylilies even in your neighbourhood. Usually, daylilies are grown as well as developed regionally; it is advisable that you should look for these plants/ flowers in the nurseries and garden shops in your locality.

Generally, daylilies grow to form clumps and each clump may produce anything between 200 and 400 flowers every season. Some of the daylily clumps may become so dense that they suffocate weeds, while their compact root masses are effectual in controlling erosion, especially on slopes. Daylilies have a preference for full sunlight. However, several daylily varieties have even been developed for growing in the shade.

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The original colors of daylilies comprise yellow, orange and red. However, the hybrids of these original daylilies can be found in all hues. Even their petal shapes and sizes differ greatly. The flowers of these plants are borne atop elongated stems known as scapes. Each scape produces varying number of buds. In fact, even the flowering time of different daylily variety and the duration for which they bloom also differ. Several daylily varieties bloom a number of times, usually twice or thrice, every season, which extends from spring to the entire fall in a few instances.

It is very easy to grow daylilies as they need very little after care to survive and flourish. However, they produce more as well as larger flowers provided you take care of the plants by providing good compost and watering them regularly. There are a number of pests that cause problems for daylilies. Some of these common pests include aphids, slugs, spider mites and thrips. It is quite easy to check these pests organically by spraying the daylily plants with insecticidal soap. Similarly, using diatomaceous earth helps to control slugs.

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Apart from the above mentioned pests, daylilies are vulnerable to developing bacterial crown rot, wherein the plants' base becomes brown and soft and starts to rot. If you notice that your daylilies are affected by this condition, you should immediately get rid of the infected plants. At the same time, you need to treat the affected area using garden sulphur. Spring sickness is another plant disease that usually affects daylilies. The symptoms of this condition include distorted leaves, at times having irregular brown margins. Although the reason behind spring sickness is yet to be ascertained, it is advisable that you remove all plants affected by this conditions with a view to prevent the disease from spreading to healthy plants.

People are familiar with daylilies and have grown them for several thousand years. Having their origin in Asia, daylilies have been depicted in paintings as well as folk legends since the time of Confucius (551 - 479 B.C.). Originally, people cultivated daylilies in the form of food or as therapeutic plants. In Chinese, plants belonging to the H. fulva species are known as "hsuansao", which denotes "the forgetting bush". Perhaps the species has derived this name owing to its hallucinatory and tranquilizing properties. In ancient times, people often boiled the young shoots of H. fulva and administered the resultant solution to people who were in mourning.

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According to available documents, daylilies were introduced into Europe through the trade routes. It is believed that Hemerocallis lilioaspheodelus (syn. Hemerocallis fulva) first arrived in Hungary from Asia, while H. fulva arrived at the sea ports of Venice or Lisbon. Works of European botanists/ herbalists including Clusius (1525 - 1609) and Lobel (1538 - 1616) referred to both these varieties of daylilies in their respective works in the 16th century. Mention of these daylilies is found in Gerard's Herbal as well as Historie of Plantes (1597). Gerard (1545 - 1612) also worked during the sixteenth century. The early settlers carried daylilies along with lilacs, peonies and some other ornamental plants to America. They grew these plants in their homestead gardens.

Since the first daylilies arrived in Europe, several other species such as H. minor arrived in Europe from Asia during the past two centuries. Philip Miller (1722 - 1771), who is known for being the Curator of the Chelsea Physic Garden, described the H. minor, but his description of the species is somewhat unclear. During the 19th century, several plant hunters like Forrest, Wilson and Kingdon-Ward, discovered important daylily species, mostly in the countryside in the Yangtze River gorge in western China. Philip von Siebold shipped living plants of the H. dumortieri species to the botanical garden in Ghent. Alexander von Middendorf was the first to collect the species H. middendorffii. He also described the species after the plants bloomed at a botanical garden located in St. Petersburg. Much later, in 1869, H. fulva "Flore Pleno" reached Europe. Charles Sprenger and Wily Muller received the species called H. fulva "Maculata". Later, Muller distributed these species as well as others throughout Europe.

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According to records, in 1893, the first daylily hybrid named "Apricot" was introduced and the Royal Horticultural Society bestowed it with the Award of Merit in the same year. "Apricot" is a cross between H. middendorffii and H. lilioasphodelus. It was introduced by George Yeld (1845 - 1953), a renowned and pioneer hybridizer who also gave the world several other hybrid daylilies. Amos Perry (1871 - 1953) and Yeld were the sole British breeders who developed hybrid daylilies during the early days of the 20th century. It is said that Perry had an exceptional output. Unfortunately, a large part of the hybrids he introduced are already lost. Among the remaining plants he introduced, "Thelma Perry", a hybrid daylily producing potently aromatic yellow flowers, and "Lady Fermoy Hesketh" are valued by gardeners who prefer the older variety of daylilies.

During the mid-1950s, two iris breeders began their own daylily hybridizing programs. "Amersham" and "Missenden", two red tetraploids developed by Harry Randall during the initial days, received First Class Certificated from the Royal Horticultural Society. In the 1960s and 1970s, Leonard Brummitt introduced a number of hybrids, all named with the "Banbury" prefix, and they were regarded highly in their time. However, the creations of Robert Coe soon surpassed these introductions.

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Classification

The genus name of daylilies - Hemerocallis, was given by the Greek botanist Linnaeus in the 18th century. He was also responsible for classifying the genus in the Liliaceae or lily family, which also includes aloes, kniphofias, hostas as well as the true lilies. However, long back, botanists realized that the lily family of Linnaeus was so vast that it was actually not very meaningful. Hence, the plants were classified again and, as per the modern classification, daylilies have been categorized as a family of their own, which is known as the Hemerocallidaceae. This new classification of monocotyledons was actually proposed by three modern-day botanists named Dahlgren, Clifford and Yeo (1985) and is extensively used now. However, it is worth mentioning here that the latest molecular DNA studies have shown that the daylilies are very closely linked to phormium. According to these latest studies, daylilies or phormium would be placed in the family Phormiaceae belonging to the order Asparagles.

Habitat

According to the latest estimates, the genus Hemerocallis comprises about 30 daylily species. All these species are evergreen, partially evergreen or herbaceous. The latter variety of plants undergoes a dormant phase during winter. They are all perennially growing plants that are indigenous to meadow lands or native to marshy river valleys. Many are also found growing naturally in the profoundly rich soils along the forest margins. Chung and Kang (1994) state that plants belonging to the genus Hemerocallis are widespread in Asia. They are mainly found growing on the northern side of the Yangtze river in China, north-eastern Siberia, Mongolia, South Korea (barring the area in its southern-most tip), North Korea, and the islands of Hokkaido, Honshu (the central spine as well as the northern half) and Sakhalin.

On the other hand, H. lilioasphodelus and H. fulva can be seen growing naturally in the uncultivated regions of Europe. However, these plants are possibly not native to the region. The climate in the native habitats of daylilies is described as monsoonal with rainfall lessening from south to north, having humid summers and arid winters.

Botany of daylilies
Propagation of daylilies
Cultivation of daylilies
Care of daylilies
Breeding daylilies
Pests of daylilies
Diseases and problems of daylilies
Miniature daylilies
Single daylilies
Eyed & patterned
Double daylilies
Unusual daylilies' forms
Polytepal daylilies
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