December 1, 2011

Digging Daylilies

this one was highly fragrant
On the first of the month Joene sponsors GOOPs, or Gardening Oops.  It's an opportunity to confess what you have done in the garden that you just shouldn't have done.

I should not have planted daylilies.  At least not where I planted them, weaving in and out among mixed plantings.

I love daylilies and I particularly like ditch lilies that are so orange and so summery when they explode all along the roadsides in July.

arange daylilies crowding a young doublefile viburnum

They look best in big colonies, or in long rows, massed together where each new day's flower can mask the stalks of the spent ones and the untidy foliage blends together in a big sea of green.  But in a mixed border scattered about with other plants they just don't work.  

First, daylilies are crowders.  I wanted to fill all that empty space in the big bare swaths of mulch that were my early garden, so I thought planting dozens of them would be just the thing.

They quickly took over and shouldered aside anything else I wanted to put in the border.

Second, daylilies flop about.  I wanted mounding, arched foliage to fill spaces with a lovely cascading effect.  I got wildly unkempt fountains of strappy leaves that laid down all over the other plants. 

this wasn't the cascading foliage effect I was going for, it's just messy
Third, they don't flower. The deer eat the buds, never the leaves. They were all messy foliage and few redeeming blooms.  Using lots of smelly deterrent spray I did get them to flower at points during the season and I have pictures to show me that they were pretty in bloom.  But it was a struggle for the occasional pop of bright color.

Finally, they add nothing to a mixed border.  They are too unstructured and too big to play well with companions.  They need space of their own.

They need to be massed.

These escaped the deer one season
This fall I dug most of them up to give away, and the beds look better already, cleared of all the chaos.  I left some, but even those should be dug and moved.  I have plans for that next spring just as soon as I can find a separate new spot for a daylily patch.

I never kept the labels to know which cultivars I had.  I would have liked to know what the magenta one was, or the name of the very fragrant yellow daylily.

It was a lesson learned, an oops from a beginning gardener.  I thought so many daylilies interplanted in curving sweeps among shrubs and perennials would be such great garden fillers, but they weren't.

Now I am digging up daylilies.

Do you see the mistakes in this beginner garden?  Everything too close (the doublefile viburnum on the left will get immense and swamp everything), and those strappy daylilies in the middle will soon engulf their neighbors.  It all looked so tidy for a while.


  1. Laurrie,
    I had no luck with day lilies until I was able to plant them in an area fenced from deer. They really shine in the mid-summer garden. To mask declining foliage this year I planted gomphrena (an annual that must go into my deer-protected beds). I forgot the day lily foliage was there.
    Your scented yellows may be Hemerocallis 'Hyperion' which is a tall variety with a fresh, lemony scent. It's one of my faves. The magenta one may be Hemerocallis 'Prarie Blue Eye' but ther are other magentas as well.
    I understand your frustration with day lilies in your mixed beds. Hope you find a place to mass and enjoy them.
    Thanks for playing along with the GOOPs meme.

  2. I agree with joene. The yellow fragrant one is Hyperion, especially if it was very tall??
    Right plant, right place, but if you do make the viburnum planting error and plant it too closely, limb it up! I do have several daylily varieties, but I don't expect much from them.
    I think your garden looks great!

  3. Joene and Sissy, thanks for the ID on the tall fragrant yellow daylily, I do think it is Hyperion. I kept a few of those.

    Sissy, I am not sure about limbing up a doublefile viburnum. Its attraction is the horizontal wedding cake of tiered branching... but if anyone has done it, I'd like to see how it looks with lower branches taken off!

  4. Funny post Laurrie. I have seen these type of daylilies many places they really don't belong. In fact, they are all over my neighborhood in the city. Wrong, wrong, wrong. But you might find, when you think you got them all, those tenacious little buggers persist. I love seeing them along the roadsides. They could not be prettier there.

  5. I've never had daylilies before but am just learning how tough these plants are (makes me respect them a little more actually). In the spring we took leftover daylilies from our plant sale and dug holes around the parking lot and chucked the plants in with a bit of manure. Terrible ground, tiny holes and these plants have still managed to grow tremendously. Kind of amazing. Very unfortunate about the deer though, not sure there's any way around that other than fencing them.

  6. Donna, I agree, I love seeing daylilies along roadsides. They just belong there, not in the garden the way I used them.

    Marguerite, You can't really kill daylilies, they are so easy to grow and they grow anywhere happily.

  7. I'm a lover of daylilies--wish I'd been nearby when you were giving away all of yours:) But then I don't have deer bothering mine; without any blooms, I can see why you wouldn't want to keep them. I can certainly relate to planting things too close together, though! I need to do some major overhauling here next spring because of that.

  8. Rose, your garden sounds a lot like mine, with stuff too close together!

  9. I agree that orange daylilies are at their best along roadsides, or in an otherwise naturalized area. It's too bad the other daylilies didn't work out either but it must have been frustrating not to even be able to enjoy the flowers. The deer started eating my daylilies (after 15 years) last year, and spraying peppermint extract on them worked, although I had to do it every day. To tell the truth I'm surprised it worked although they did reek of peppermint. lol

    I don't think you should call your last picture a beginner garden (even if it was); it looked great, and moving things around is always necessary as other plants mature.


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