Daylilies just don’t get the respect they deserve. They’re like peanut butter. From the time we’re young, peanut butter has been a staple in our diets. But for all the pieces of bread it’s been on, or maybe because of all the bread it’s been on, it just hasn’t been elevated to its rightful place in our world.

So it is with daylilies. Our first experience with them may be partially responsible for how they’re often viewed. Simple orange lilies are common to all of us in this area, growing with wild abandon in ditches, cemeteries and on old farmhouse properties. In fact, one of their common names is “ditch lilies.”

Before we go any further, let’s get one thing straight. Daylilies are not true lilies. Yes, they’re in the lily family and the flowers actually look a lot like lilies. But true lilies, like the Asiatic, trumpet, and Oriental types all belong to the genus Lilium, whereas daylilies belong to the genus Hemerocallis.

For as much as their flowers resemble each other, it’s simple to tell the difference between the two. Daylilies bloom atop a long, skinny, bare stem while true lilies have leaves all along their stems. Individual daylily blooms only last a day (hence, their common name), but true lily blooms can last for several days. Finally, daylilies grow from roots and true lilies grow from bulbs.

Adding to the confusion, those ditch lilies are also commonly called tiger lilies. But they aren’t true tiger lilies either. Tiger lilies belong to the genus Lilium and are spotted with freckles. Though they aren’t native to the U.S., they’ve become naturalized in many areas, so you may see those growing in random locations similar to ditch lilies.

Before anyone starts feeling sad that daylily flowers only bloom for a day, consider that each stem on a daylily contains several flowers and they don’t all bloom at once. I’ve got one daylily that is an overachiever that typically has a dozen flower buds on one stem. It can take up to two weeks before all the buds open, because only one or two flowers will be open at a time.

Daylilies are easy to grow. I’ve often joked that all you need to do is dig a hole, throw the daylily in, firm up the soil around the roots, and water. It really doesn’t take much to keep them happy. For best performance, make sure they get at least six hours of direct sun per day, although I’ve got several that are in bright shade that perform very well.

Like many flowering plants, there are early, mid-, and late-season varieties. My first daylily bloom this year was in early June and is also a rebloomer, ‘Black-eyed Stella’. The last daylily to bloom in our garden every year is ‘Orange Clown’, and its first bloom was on August 1st. We’ve still got several other daylilies blooming, so as you can see, the daylily season can last as long as two-and-a-half months.

Daylilies will multiply over time. Each plant forms what is called a “fan” and each fan will typically have one flower stem (called a “scape”) that will emerge from its center. Sometimes they will send up two scapes per fan, but it’s not typical.

With over 80,000 named and registered daylilies, there’s sure to be one or two (or ten) that you’ll like and will add color and beauty to your gardens. Let’s not take them for granted. There’s probably not another plant that will reward you the way daylilies do, with such little effort on your part.

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