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What is a Daylily?

Brightly colored orange and red streaked patch of daylily flowers growing in an ornamental garden

Genus Hemerocallis

The daylily (sometimes spelled day lily) is a flowering plant part of the genus hemerocallis, and the asphodelaceae botanical family. Though the daylily is not actually a truly lily, nor part of the liliaceae botanical family. Their flowers look very similar, but daylilies grow from fibrous roots, and true lilies grow from rhizomes.

The scientific term for this plant genus is derived from the Greek. The Greek word hemera, translates to “day”, and the word kalos, translates to “beautiful”. This is because daylilies sometimes only bloom for one single day before they perish.

Hemerocallis species are highly valued among passionate gardeners, and over 80,000 daylily cultivar types are available today. They are so popular because of their stunning and elegant flowers, and for their exceptionally easy care. Some have actually referred to the daylily as the “perfect perennial”.

Whether you are a novice gardener, an expert gardener, or you’re just beginning, there is always something new to learn about plants. Head on over to our extensive list of Flowering Plants to keep the learning alive!

Two beautiful yellow and magenta daylily flowers growing among dark green lanceolate leaves

Related: Orange Flowers | Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors

Stunning peach colored daylily flower with ruffled leaves growing in front of dark green leaves

What do Daylilies Look Like?


Though they are not true lilies, the day lily is very similarly shaped. Flowers are comprised of 3 petals and 3 sepals with the midrib of the petal usually a similar color to the petal color.

The centremost part of an individual flower – which holds 6 stamens, each with a 2 lobed anther – sometimes called the throat, is commonly a slightly different color than the main petal color.

There are over 80,000 daylily cultivars, and so it is difficult to label their most common flower color. Almost every color under the sun has been achieved except for pure blue and pure white. Wild varieties will commonly be an orange, yellow, or red. There as also diploid daylily cultivars, meaning that an individual flower will have 2 colors.

An interesting aspect of the daylily is its blooming period. Each individual will bloom at a different time, and it will only bloom for a single day before perishing. The flower bud will open at night, remain open for the day, then close the same night and die.

Some flowers will bloom in the early spring, some in the late spring, whereas other will wait until late summer or even autumn. Some are reblooming daylilies, and others are not. It’s pretty much a complete toss up, though the reblooming variety is more popularly cultivated.

Incredibly unique purple yellow and white ruffled petals of the daylily flower growing among long sword shaped leaves


Daylilies grown quite long and linear leaves. Each leaf is lanceolate in shape, and they are grouped into opposite fans with an arching shape. Foliage is a deep green, glossy color, though other varieties can sometimes have streaks of magenta or bronze. This plant is not only admired for its beautiful flowers, but for its beautiful daylily foliage as well!

Growth Pattern

The daylily grows from fibrous fleshy roots, and the plant itself occurs in clump form. Each clump has its own set of leaves, scapes, crown, roots, and flowers.

What are Some Daylily Species?

Orange Daylily or Tawny Daylily (Hemerocallis Fulva)

Just blooming orange daylily flowers growing in the wild at the end of long green stems on a cloudy day

The orange daylily or tawny daylily is native to Asia, though it is now grown in the wild in North America. It can commonly be found growing along roadsides all over Canada and the United States.

Flowers are a shade of red or orange or both with a lighter shade of middle vein. This variety also only blooms for one day, and this usually happens in mid spring to mid summer.

Lemon Lily (Hemerocallis Flava)

Small patch of beautiful golden yellow day lily flowers in full bloom amidst long thin green leaves

Also known as yellow daylily The lemon lily is the most important foundational species for modern daylily cultivars. This is because it is exceptionally resilient to climate and to diseases and pests as well.

The lemon lily bears sweetly fragrant yellow flowers that bloom for just a day, but throughout spring to autumn.

Where are Daylilies Native to?

The daylily is a native plant to eastern Asia, specifically in China, Korea, and Japan. Records show that daylilies have grown wild throughout China, Mongolia, India, Korea, and Japan for millennia. There are very old paintings depicting the daylily very similarly to how it looks today.

Since then, they have become naturalized all over the world. They can exist in every single USDA growing zone, which is quite rare for one single plant. They were brought from Asia to Europe through the silk trade, and were then brought from Europe to North America through colonization.

Incredible expansive field of blooming bright orange daylily flowers growing in a meadow on a clear sunny day

How do you Grow a Daylily?

There is a reason why the daylily is such a popular garden plant. They are extremely tolerant to both drought and flooding, they can exist in every USDA growing zone, they are entirely low maintenance, and they are exceptionally beautiful. It has been labelled the “perfect perennial” for all of these reasons.

Planting your own daylily is also an absolute cinch! If you can dig a hole, you can crow a daylily. Growing daylilies can be done either through sowing seed, by plant division, or by purchasing an already established plant from the garden center.

Firstly, pick a spot on your property that (preferably) receives full sunlight in the morning . If your property soil is particularly sandy or clay derived, simply incorporate a bunch of organic matter to help increase nutrients and drainage.

Next, dig a hole that is about twice as deep and wide as the plant crown (if you’re propagating by plant division) and ensure that the crown is a full inch below the soil.

Fill the hole and water very generously. While a plant is very getting established it appreciates generous watering, though it is extremely drought tolerant once it is well established.

You can plant daylilies in every growing zone and climate, and they do not need to be removed from the soil in the winter in order for them to come back the following year. They are rigorous and robust growers, and will survive the harshest winters.

Several different daylily cultivars growing in a garden patch next to a short rock wall

What are the Growing Conditions of the Daylily?

Soil Type

Though the daylily can tolerate almost any soil type, it will prosper under certain conditions. It enjoys existing in slightly acidic soil that is incorporated with plenty of compost. A layer of mulch can also be added to keep the weeds down, though the large leaves of the daylily plant will usually shade them out.

Sun Exposure

The daylily is also capable of tolerating any level of sun exposure, though it will thrive under full sun or partial shade. If you are living in a region that is particularly hot, full sun could possible scorch the daylily leaves, and so partial sun may be more appropriate.

Water Level

Though most plants tend to perform best when they have moderate water levels, the daylily will tolerate anything. It is completely drought tolerant and completely flood tolerant as well.

Red and orange daylily flower garden growing in large public park next to trees and wooden bench


The daylily is one of the most cold hardy and heat tolerant plants available. There are not many plants that can exist in every single growing zone, but that daylily exists in USDA zone 1 through 11.


Daylilies respond very well to fertilizer, and it is something that can really lengthen their blooming season. A basic 10-10-10 fertilizer can be added in the early spring and during the blooming season to increase bloom time, or even encourage a second bloom.


Daylilies grow in a very attractive manner all on their own, but removing dead leaves as they perish will help the rest of the plant to prosper. Additionally, removing seed pods will increase the likelihood of a better blooming season the following year.


The cool thing about the daylily is that it is gorgeous, and that is truly does not have any intolerances. This is truly a plant that thrives off of neglect, and will keep coming back every year.

Purely daylily garden filled with various cultivars of different colors in a large ornamental garden

How are Daylilies Used?

Ornamental Plant

Daylilies are a very popular garden plant because they are extremely easy to care for, and this exceptional perennial will continue coming back every year. They can be grown in any green garden, rock garden, green house, alpine garden, as a container plant, or any other way you could imagine growing a plant. They are often paired with ornamental grasses.

They are not a very popular cut flower variety for formal flower arrangements, though they make for a wonderful casual flower bouquet as their flowers continue to open and close for several days after they are cut.

Edible Plant

The daylily flower itself is also edible! It is a common ingredient to incorporate into traditional Chinese dishes. It is sold either dried or fresh, and it is known under the name of gum jum or yellow flower vegetable. It is commonly incorporated into dishes like hot and sour soup or moo shu pork.

Beautifully arranged chinese style meatball soup with daylily flowers floating in broth next to cut flowers on a wooden table


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