Growing Together: For high impact, plant lilies and daylilies
How’s your flower knowledge? Do you know the difference between a lily and a daylily, and can you recognize which is which in a flower garden?
It might sound like splitting lily hairs, but it’s actually quite important.
If you want eye-popping color in the midsummer perennial garden, plant lilies and daylilies. If you want nearly all the colors of the rainbow in assorted flower shapes, sizes and plant heights, plant lilies and daylilies. If you want reliability, plant lilies and daylilies.
Now, to the original question: What’s the difference? Blossoms on both tend to be trumpet-shaped, which is why at casual glance they sometimes all get called “lilies.” That’s where the similarity ends, as their botanical structure is miles apart, as is their care.
Lilies grow from actual underground bulbs, while daylilies grow from thickened, fibrous, fanned-out roots. You can easily tell lilies and daylilies apart just by looking, because daylily plants have long straplike leaves that arch outward from a central crown at ground level, while lily leaves are spaced individually along a central tall stalk, and the blossoms form at the top of these stalks. Picture an Easter lily.
Daylilies belong to the genus Hemerocallis, and lilies to the genus Lilium, which makes the latter the “true” lilies of this perennial pair. True lilies grow from bulbs, while daylilies don’t.
To create the most satisfying perennial garden, combine many different types so there’s something blooming and ever-changing from spring through fall. Daylilies and lilies fill the bill for high summer, with their peak flowering about mid-July through mid-August. No garden is complete without several varieties of each.
Here are some tips for best success with lilies and daylilies.
• Lilies prefer full, all-day sunshine, although a little afternoon shade will prolong their flowers. Daylilies offer a little flexibility, flowering in full sun or part sun.
• Lilies grow best in well-drained soil that doesn’t stay soggy during wet periods, and they thrive in soil rich in organic material like peat moss or compost. Daylilies are very soil-tolerant and will grow well in areas of the flowerbed that stay moist.
• Both have cultivars in a myriad of colors, flower shapes and plant height, offering great flexibility in design.
• For the greatest visual impact with both, instead of planting scattered individuals, plant three or five of the same cultivar in a closely spaced grouping for a larger splash of color. If budgets don’t allow purchasing multiples all at once, let the plants grow a season, then divide.
• Plant lilies in spring or fall from dormant bulbs, or all summer from actively growing potted plants sold at garden centers. Daylilies, likewise, are available seasonally as dormant roots, or as potted plants.
• The best time to dig, divide and reset established lily bulbs is September, which should be done every three to five years, if the clump becomes crowded and flowering diminishes. Daylilies can remain in place longer without requiring division, but if they become too crowded, divide the clumps in August or September.
• Among the many types of true lilies, the most common are called Asiatic lilies, with their upward-facing flowers. They’re the most winter-hardy and easiest to grow, but don’t limit yourself. Trumpet lilies are even more spectacular with their huge, fragrant, outward-facing, trumpet-shaped blooms on plants that can reach 5 or 6 feet in height, and they grow remarkably well in our region. Explore these and other types of true lilies.
• If your vision of daylilies is the old-fashioned, small-flowered type, think again. Today’s named cultivars have huge flowers measuring up to 7 inches across in rich, vibrant colors with fun shapes ranging from ruffled to spider-form. Each individual blossom might only last a day, but the huge clusters of buds keep the show going.
• For generous blossoms, fertilize lilies and daylilies in early May and early June with a well-balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer.
• Both benefit from a mulch of shredded wood products or compost.
• For end-of-season cleanup, cut back daylily foliage to several inches above ground level after a hard freeze, because the plants become quite limp afterwards. Stems of true lilies are best left intact during winter and cut down in early spring before new growth begins.
Q: I’m sending you a picture of a 52-year-old cactus plant growing outdoors at our neighbors in West Fargo. If you’re interested, they would be happy to tell their story about the plant. Their names are Harvey and Rosemary Heise. Thanks. — Nancy Frosaker.
A: I’m always interested in a delightful story, and I enjoyed a phone conversation with Harvey and Rosemary. Thanks, Nancy, for sending the beautiful photo, and for putting us in touch.
The story began in 1969 when the Heises were visiting a brother in Wisconsin and brought back a sprig of the cactus in a coffee can and planted it by their home. As they’ve moved over the years, they’ve taken the cactus along with them, every step of the way.
The cactus has been in its present location about 11 years, and the patch measures over 4 feet across. This year, the Heise’s counted over 200 blossoms, beginning about July 1 and lasting several weeks. The flowers are interesting shades of yellow and peach.
According to the United States Forest Service, prickly pear cactuses such as these are the most northernmost cactus found in the world. They’re fully winter-hardy in our zone, as the Heises have found, and native in many states in the Upper Midwest.
Thanks, Harvey and Rosemary, for sharing the fun tale of your pretty cactus!
Q: I read the following about an arborvitae. “Cutting it down to just a few inches off the ground may rejuvenate an arborvitae that is overgrown or weak.” Can that possibly be true? — Sharon Buhr, Valley City, N.D.
A: Your skepticism is well-founded. Arborvitae, which are the evergreens with grass-green, flattened, soft foliage, aren’t able to rebound if cut back as severely as mentioned. Most leafy, deciduous shrubs can be rejuvenated terrifically by pruning back to about 6 inches above ground level in early spring, and they rebound beautifully.
Evergreens, however, don’t have the ability to produce new shoots on wood that is old and bare. Cutting them down to 6 inches above ground level, as we would a deciduous shrub, results in a barren stump, incapable of bursting force with new growth. Evergreen pruning should be limited to the areas of the shrub that have healthy green foliage.
Q: Both of my bleeding hearts have leaves turning yellow starting at the bottom and moving up the plant, finally turning brown. Is it some kind of fungus? If so, will I be able to plant another new bleeding heart in the same place next year? If I get a new bleeding heart, is there something to prevent this from happening? — Cindy B., Fargo.
A: Good news — your bleeding hearts don’t have a fungus; it’s their natural growth habit. Bleeding hearts normally begin going dormant in early July, especially in hot weather. In increased shade and cooler temperatures, the foliage remains green longer.
The rock mulch in which your bleeding hearts are growing tends to accumulate heat, which in turn makes the plants go dormant quicker. Removing the rock from a circle around the bleeding hearts and replacing with shredded bark will keep the soil cooler, and generally prolong the time the foliage stays green.
Although it’s common for bleeding hearts to go dormant by midsummer, they’ll come back just fine next spring. Wait to remove yellowing foliage until leaves and stems are totally brown and crisp. Removing the tops too soon weakens the plants. Many gardeners plant a few annuals around bleeding heart, so that when the foliage is gone, the annual flowers provide color.