Best fertilizer for daylilies

When do I plant?

You can plant daylilies any time in the growing season, in our area about late April through mid October. The most important consideration is giving the plants 3-4 weeks to establish before a hard freeze. Many people choose to transplant during the spring or early fall, allowing the plants ample time to establish themselves before the next blooming season. Generally spring plantings are best because the plants have just begun to grow, the weather is cool and moist and they will have plenty of time to establish before winter. Daylilies are able to withstand being planted during the heat of summer as well however they will take some time to recover and may not bloom that season.
Keep in mind that as daylilies are perennials you are planting for next year and the years to come and so will get more blooms with each successive year.

How much sun does a daylily need?

The amount of bloom is proportional to the amount of sun. In other words, the more sun the more blooms; but daylilies will grow in any light condition. A half day of afternoon sun is almost as good as a full day of sun. When choosing a location for them, consider how much of the day they would have direct sunlight. The midday and early afternoon sun is the strongest, but morning sun is usually adequate for a good show.

What kind of soil is best for daylilies?

Almost any soil will grow daylilies, but the better the soil the better the performance. Soil should be friable and humus rich with a balanced pH. Use compost for soil amendments and lightly fertilize occasionally, at least every spring.

How do I plant a Daylily?

Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root mass, usually about 6-8″ deep. Once the hole is prepared, place the daylily upright, without cramming it into the space. Holding it so the crown (top of the roots) is about one inch below the surface of the ground, loosely push soil over the roots until the hole is nearly full. Press the soil down around the roots, without covering any green of the plant. Leave a slight depression, or water reservoir, around the plant, about 1/2″ deep.

When planting a daylily, it is advantageous to the plant to spread the roots out in the hole, as shown above

A newly planted daylily with a slight depression for water retention

Do daylilies need to be watered?

Dr. Darrow used to say that water is the best fertilizer for daylilies. While, you can’t beat compost for nutrient and soil value, consider giving daylilies water on a regular basis to enhance their growth and aid in a longer season of bloom. We frequently use a soaker hose on newly planted daylilies. Soaker hoses are a nice gentle way of watering plants efficiently.

Do I need to weed my daylilies?

‘Time consuming’ and ‘tiresome’ is words often used to describe weeding. But far better than chemical herbicide weed killers, hand weeding directly leads to improved health of your garden. By churning in the organic matter decaying at the top layer, nutrients are added to the soil. By removing the ‘weeds’ by hand, wildflowers and legumes can be selectively left to enhance the beauty and health of the soil. And of course mulching helps reduce the need for weeding and helps conserve water.

How do I mulch my Daylilies?

We are strong advocates of mulch. Besides helping to keep weeds in check, mulch aids in soil moisture retention and displays the plants nicely. We mulch with a composted manure layer, and then add a top layer of hay or sawdust. The compost acts as a fertilizing soil amendment, working its way down to the roots of the plants.
Mulch as needed up to 3″ deep, anytime during the growing season. Be sure not to bury the crowns of the plants with mulch. Leave a 2″ mulch-free depression around the base of each plant for breathing room.

What is your opinion about different kinds of Mulches?

Peat moss:
Its best to avoid peat moss as top mulch because it can form a layer, which can act as a water shedding mat.
Grass clippings:
Grass clippings are great! Mostly weed seed free they will also provide a little nutrients as well
Hay and Straw:
Hay and straw are good mulches and are widely available. Ideally, seed-free straw should be used.
Coco mulch and Shredded bark:
Coco mulch and shredded bark are decorative, but will not easily break down, and so are less beneficial to the soil. These mulches are better for permanent plantings. Also they can be quite expensive unless bought in bulk.
Raked Leaves:
Raked leaves are fine but don’t have much in the way of nutrients.
Avoid wood chips and sawdust that may be mixed into the soil as they deplete the soil of nitrogen and will cause problems.

Do I need to fertilize my Daylilies?

One of the great things about Daylilies is they are not heavy feeders. In others words they don’t need a lot of fertilizer. However fertilizing your plants to supply nutrients that they are in short supply of will only help them to grow better. The fertilizer requirements of each soil are different, so ideally you should have your soil tested to determine the nutrients required. We feel safe recommending the inclusion of good compost into the planting hole and a dose of 10-10-10 or such several weeks after planting. Remember over fertilizing can result in large amounts of leaf growth with little or no bloom and sometimes muddying of the reds. Err on the side of moderation when fertilizing any plant.

If I move my daylilies will they bloom?

A clump of daylilies can be moved early in the spring and will usually bloom that year almost as if nothing had happened. Daylilies can also be moved while in bloom if treated with care and watered in well.

What do I do when the leaves have turned brown in the fall?

Nothing. We leave the foliage until spring, when it easily comes away with a rake. The foliage acts as natural winter mulch, protecting the new shoots during the late winter freezing and thawing. If you prefer to remove the dead foliage, mulch with straw or other light material . Heavy mulch should be removed in early spring.

Do I need to groom or clean up the foliage of my daylilies?

In general you will find that there are yellow parts to leaves and spent flowering stems (scapes). Any part of the plant that is yellow or brown can be removed if desired. Any green part of the leaves should be left even if one half is yellow. However it is not necessary to ever remove any part of a daylily. And yellow leaves do not mean a plant is unhealthy.

Generally there is dead foliage at the base of the plant that can be removed if desired.

During this time if desired spent scopes can be removed to clean up the appearance of a garden particularly if it is a formal display garden.

Leaves should be left on the plants until they are all yellow or brown even a small amount of green on a leaf is providing some nutrients to a plant.

Dead brown foliage can be cleaned up from around the clumps. Removal of this material is not necessary. We always leave the dead leaves around the base of the plants, we figure it acts as a bit of mulch to help protect the plant and keep a few weeds from growing. However for a number of years we did clean up our foliage in the late fall and encountered NO problems from doing this.

How do you keep the deer from eating your flowers?

Our four Border Collies have been trained to keep the deer out of our fields. When they were young we would walk the perimeter of the fields and teach the dogs not to stray (not an easy feat). Now they keep the deer out all day and night. They also don’t run off, stay out of garden beds and play Frisbee with visitors in the summer.

If you dont have dogs there are some commercial sprays on the market that may help to prevent deer damage. Remember though, you may have to reapply the spray after rain or overhead watering.

Fortunately deer damage is mostly aggravating to homeowners but will not kill the daylilies

Other options include:Deterrent Sprays, such as Liquid Fence are organic sprays that smell bad

Flashing objects, such as old CD’s or Pie Plates on string

Scented Soap, sliced and put around base of plant

Music: an old radio tuned to a talk radio show.

Keep in mind that almost nothing will work if the deer are desperate for food.

Will I have problems with any pests on my Daylilies?

Pests: Japanese Beetles, Rose Chafers, Spotted Lily Beetles and other common garden pests do not bother daylilies
Here are some of the pests you might encounter when growing Daylilies
Insects: Daylilies are amazingly insect pest resistant. There are some instances of aphid or spider mite infestations. These are usually rare and are more unsightly than life threatening. Aphids can be controlled with a pesticide (Pyrethrum or other botanical is fine) and Spider Mites are easily eliminated with water sprayed on the leaves and crown. Usually a week of regular spraying is sufficient. Thrips can cause some blooms to be misshapen but are relatively rare and not very persistent.

Diseases: Some daylilies are susceptible to leaf streak, a minor leaf disease that causes a little more yellowing on the leaf than you would normally expect. However, some ordinary leaf streak is found on virtually all daylilies. Keeping daylilies well watered and fertilized will minimize any negative appearance of leaf streak.

Examples of leaf streak: Leaf Streak Information


A new disease has appeared on daylilies, known as rust. It is unsightly but will not kill a daylily. There is some evidence that cold New England winters will kill the rust. We do not have rust here at Olallie, and no rust has been reported in Vermont as of this writing. For more information on rust go to

Rust Information Website

Can I plant my Daylilies with other plants?

Daylilies are good competitors and will grow well with other perennials without being over whelmed. Keep in mind though that many daylilies can grow to be quite large clumps and can crowd out smaller less tenacious plants.

Are Daylilies good for planting in locations where nothing else will grow?

Mostly Yes. But remember these are plants not super plants! Daylilies are very salt tolerant and so will grow well near the seashore or on the roadside of salted roads. Daylilies also will tolerate very wet conditions and are also considered to be excellent drought resistant plants. Being that they die down to the ground each winter they will grow where woody plants would be damaged by ice or snow removal.

DON’T expect daylilies to grow: Under the deep shade of pine trees, in a desert of sand, in a swamp which has standing water most of the year, in the trunk of your car or anywhere it is pretty much impossible to grow a plant.

Can Daylilies be invasive?

There is one somewhat invasive daylily. Below is a comment from a customer.
Q:”A few years ago, I bought a house that had nice borders of daylilies planted in the back yard. Since my arrival,

they have aggressively spread everywhere–the neighbor’s yard, between patio stones, into my vegetable patch, you name it. I’ve tried digging them up but they just keep coming. Any ideas on how to control this invasion?”

A: What you describe as an invasive daylily could only be the “Roadside Orange” daylily, a species named Hemerocallis fulva. It has a spreading stoloniferous habit that makes it so ubiquitous. Any running root left with a crown has the potential to grow a new plant. All other daylilies have a clumping habit and do not travel. As for removal, digging them up is one way, but it means work. We are organic growers and do not use herbicide, but a systemic spray like Round-up would probably do the trick. If you want to keep some of them (like in the borders you had) use barriers in the ground that would prevent spreading out into others areas. We think they belong away from the garden, better for along the road. They are well suited to erosion control.

Hemerocallis fulva

How to Fertilize Daylilies for Rebloom

Not all daylilies will rebloom once their original flush of blooms are spent; however, there are numerous varieties among the thousands of daylilies available that are rebloomers. Usually these are found among the dwarf varieties, although there are several other larger varieties that will rebloom, too. When purchasing daylilies, check the tag to see if it says the particular variety you are buying is a “rebloomer” or “instant rebloomer.” Once you have planted your reblooming daylily, there are a few things that you need to know about fertilizing it.

Fertilize in the early spring. Daylilies are extremely hardy and require very little fertilizing; however, a good balanced fertilizer applied in the early spring when the new growth first begins to appear will provide your daylilies with nutrients that may have been naturally leached from the soil over time. This will also encourage your daylilies’ growth and blooming. Use a time-released balanced fertilizer that you can find at your local garden center. Apply according to the instructions on the package.

Deadhead and remove dead parts of the daylily after the initial blooms are spent. Allow the blooms on your daylilies and the stalks from which they are blooming to die back naturally. The spent blooms will normally fall off on their own, or you can just pull them off yourself. Once the stalks have started to turn tan or are completely tan, cut them back to the ground, leaving just the leaves of the daylily plant. (This is a good time, too, to remove any dead leaves on your plants to make everything look neat and tidy.) Also, reblooming daylilies need a short period of rest before they will bloom again. By allowing the blooms and stalks to die back naturally, you are providing your daylilies with the rest they need.

Apply a small amount of the time-release balanced fertilizer after you have removed the dead from your daylilies. Use about half of the amount you used when you initially fertilized your daylilies.


October 7, 2017

Every spring my daylilies bloom for several weeks. This year they are having a second bloom. Is it the extra wet summer or perhaps the Miracle Grow I sprayed on them several months ago? I’m enjoying the double blooming.

I am assuming you are doing a good job watering, as many perennials are going dormant early in these horrid dry conditions. Through daylily breeding, they are actually developing quite a few new varieties with two seasons of blooms. That may be the reason, or it could be the unusually mild year we have had and the early growth this spring. I have heard from gardeners with errant blooms on iris, hydrangeas and now daylilies. Whatever the reason, enjoy them. It should not hamper their blooms next spring.

May 1, 2017

Will roundup hurt your daylilies? Are daylilies of the grass family or the lily family? I am trying to kill the Bermuda grass that is growing in them and want to kill the grass but not hurt the daylilies.

While many resources still put the daylily in the lily family, it has its own family—Hemerocallidacae. Round-up or Glyphosate will hurt daylilies—it is a non-specific killer, it doesn’t matter if it is a grass broadleaf plant. I think what you are referring to is the grass specific herbicides like Poast or Fusilade–commonly called Grass-b-gone, Ornamec, or Over-the-top. Those can be used around daylilies which are not members of the grass family. The key is to use them as the grass is beginning to grow in May not once it is well established, because then you have a lot of dead grass to contend with.

April 22, 2017

I have a patch of the old orange day lilies I have heard them called ditch lilies. I also have a strip of ground down my drive way that stays wet to damp due to my neighbor watering there almost every day. My drive is about 2′ below their yard. Would these day lilies be good plant in this strip? The strip is about 25′ long and these day lilies spread at a very rapid rate. I have had good luck transplanting them. If the day lilies are not a good option, do you have a suggestion?

Hemerocallis fulva is the variety you are talking about and if you have one spot that you can contain, they will definitely multiply and hold the soil. The problem can be that they grow almost too well. If you have other plants nearby they will usually take over and can interfere with other growth. As long as you know the risks and limitations, it will serve your purpose. You could use other varieties which will be a mix of colors but may not be a vigorous.

September 3, 2016

I have a question about the division of the day lilies. When should you divide them? Can I do it now or do I wait until it gets cooler. I live in Cabot.

Daylilies can be divided in the fall as they are going dormant or in the spring as they are emerging.

June 1, 2016

My daylilies (Stella d’or) have not bloomed this year. I planted them three years ago in a bright sunny spot in the front yard (southern exposure). The first summer they didn’t bloom much, but last year they were fabulous. This year the foliage is green and thick but there are no buds. Both years I cleared away the dead foliage before the new sprouts emerged.

The two reasons daylilies don’t bloom is if they are in too much shade or if they are too crowded. We normally dig and divide them every three to five years. Stella’s are typically prolific bloomers, especially early in the season. Once they begin blooming, they often set so many seed pods, that the blooming slows down, unless someone is deadheading them. If they are too crowded, go ahead and dig and divide. This is not the ideal time, but you may salvage enough of the growing season, that they can recover and begin to bloom. Normally we would divide in the fall as they are going dormant, or in the spring as they are emerging.

May 1, 2016

My daylily plants get full sun, but they have way less flowers than they did when I planted them three years ago. They are huge plants with a lot of leaves. Why are they not blooming? Should I fertilize?

Many perennials, including daylilies will not flower well if they get too crowded. We typically recommend digging and dividing them every three years. I would say your plants are too crowded. It would have been preferable to have dug them as they emerged earlier this spring, but since they aren’t blooming now anyway, dig them up and separate them. Replant with two to three crowns per division, and then fertilize with a general fertilizer. Hopefully, they will rebound and set some flowers later in the season, but if not, they should bloom nicely again next spring.

August 2012

I have quite a few different kinds of plants and shrubs- Hosta, hydrangeas, day lilies, caladiums, azaleas, heuchera, lorapetalums, etc. They are shaded, semi-shaded and in the sun. I have set up a “drip” system on a timer and with adjustable heads, so I can vary the amount of water (but not the frequency) to each plant. Can you recommend a reference source where I can get precise information for watering? Most instructions I have seen are very vague.

Unfortunately I don’t think such a guide exists, since there are so many plants out there, and so many variables. Variables include the type of plant, the type of soil—rich, deep soil or pitiful rocky soil; slope of the yard, amount of sunlight or shade the plant gets, age of the plants, and plant spacing. Of the plants you mentioned, hydrangeas, hostas and azaleas would be the most water needy, but again amounts will vary by how much sunlight they receive, your soil, and how much space you have between plants. Caladiums will need more water in the sun than in the shade, and I find that loropetalums are pretty drought tolerant once established. Daylilies can definitely take dry conditions, but it will impact blooming. The key is to really learn your landscape. I have beds in full sun in which some plants wilt regardless of how much I water when temperatures exceed 100, and I have some old established beds with hollies, aucuba and camellias that seem to take what life throws at them.

July 2012

I recently picked a mess of dry seed pods off some lily type flowers. I would like to plant the seeds and am hoping you will tell me if this will work. For some reason, I thought day lilies came up from bulbs!

Many bulbous type plants, including daylilies, tiger lilies and even daffodils and tulips set seeds as well from the spent flowers. It takes a while to get a blooming plant from a seed of a daylily or Asiatic lily, but it is doable. Just lightly cover the seeds with soil and be patient. It usually takes two years before you see a flower, but you will get plants much sooner. A quicker method of propagation is to divide the plant. Many gardeners like to experiment. If you have a lot of daylilies, they will cross pollinate so you will get a different bloom.

March 2012

Could you please tell me what plant I could use as a border for my flowerbed? Right now I have monkey grass and I really don’t like it. Is there something I could plant that stays low and doesn’t spread everywhere. If I keep the monkey grass, is there anything I can spray on it that will kill the bermuda grass but not hurt the monkey grass.

In full sun, candytuft is a nice low growing perennial that makes a good border or edging plant, but it does need to be pruned after flowering. Dwarf daylilies, prostrate rosemary and thyme are also good choices. In the shade you can use heuchera or small ferns. Make sure there is a border between your landscape beds and lawn, or the grass will constantly encroach. Grass specific herbicides such as Grass-b-gone, Over the top, and Ornamec will kill grass without hurting most broadleaf ornamentals, including monkey grass (not a true grass, but actually in the lily family.)

June 2005

Once before you printed a hint about how to make Stella de Oro lilies bloom again once their first blooming period is over. My Stella daylilies bloomed only fair this year. They now have what look like pods at the tops of the stalks. I wonder if I should cut them back or leave them alone. I would appreciate your help with any info you can give me.

While Stella de’oro daylilies are touted as ever blooming daylilies, blooming will definitely be curtailed if you allow the seedpods to remain after bloom. Although most daylilies set seedpods following bloom, Stella’s seem to be prone to an abundance of them. While they are busy making seeds, less energy will go into new blooms. It is best to deadhead the spent blooms at least every two weeks to keep them setting more flowers. This needn’t be as time-consuming as it sounds. Simply snap off the spent flowers or beginning seed pods whenever you pass the plant. Fertilize after the first peak of blooms, and then again six to eight weeks later. Water as needed. Following these recommendations should give you almost continuous blooms. Another thing that reduces blooms is overcrowding. While Stella’s don’t get overly tall, they can grow quite wide. If they are too crowded, blooms will be small and sparse. Division can be done either spring or fall.

June 2008

I have a small flower bed, 4ft. X 8ft. max that has been taken over by the Bermuda grass in our lawn. When I cleaned it up this spring I put wet newspapers all through out and up close to the plants that are there and then mulched well with cypress mulch. The bed has some hostas, day lilies and a peony bush. This is our fifth summer in this house, the grass was sodded when we built the house, and little did we know how it would spread. I thought maybe this fall I would dig up my plants and treat the area and the border around it with something to kill it off. Any suggestions or help you could give me would be appreciated.

Bermuda is a tenacious weed and often seems to grow better where we don’t want it. There are some grass specific herbicides you can use and now is an ideal time to use them. The key is to let the grass green up and start to spread and then treat. Brand names include Grass-b-gone, Over the Top, Ornamec and Vantage. This will kill the grass without damaging your daylilies, hostas or peony. Once the grass is killed, pull out the dead grass and mulch well. Keep a buffer zone between your lawn and flower beds to give yourself an area to keep clean.

July 2006

I need a good sidewalk border that will look good all year round with some.

Do you really need plants running the length of the sidewalk, or can the lawn be enough? If you think you need some type of planting, make sure there is a distinct border between lawn and plants. Many times you see monkey grass or daylilies flanking a sidewalk and they are a mess of grass and plants. A buffer zone that can be edged or weed-eated can help. You didn’t mention if you had sun or shade. If you have sun, perennial verbena can be a nice addition, but usually won’t live more than 3-4 years. Stella d’or daylilies can bloom for a long period of time and are only dormant for a month or two in the winter and candytuft is an evergreen perennial with beautiful white spring flowers. Monkey grass (Liriope) is evergreen and takes sun or shade, but isn’t particularly colorful unless you go with a variegated form. You could always do a mass planting of low growing shrubs, but they usually aren’t necessary the entire length of the sidewalk. For shade plants, try ajuga with great colorful foliage, heuchera–many different colored varieties to choose from and they are evergreen, or pachysandra an evergreen groundcover.

July 2008

I have 12 Stella De Oro daylily plants in my front yard garden. When we first moved into our home in September of 2006, the builder planted most of the daylilies towards the front of my garden. The plants have really grown and produced lots of beautiful flowers this year, but the location of the plants covers some of the other shrubs and flowers in my garden. I would like to relocate some of the plants to the back of my front garden and maybe even divide some and place them in the backyard. When is the best time to relocate and divide these plants?

Daylilies are tough plants and would probably survive a move at any time, however, the best time to dig and divide would be in the fall as they are going dormant or in the spring as they are emerging. Moving them now would be tough on you and the plant. If you can, wait until fall.

May 2007

I think I need to divide my hosta’s and daylilies. What is the best time to do this and the best method?

Hosta’s and daylilies can be divided either in the spring as they are emerging or in the fall when they go dormant. We typically divide perennials based on their season of bloom. Spring blooming plants are best divided in the fall, and fall ones in the spring. Those that bloom in the summer can be divided either spring or fall. You can dig up the entire clump, and then using a sharp serrated knife cut through the root ball, making sure you have at least a crown or two per division. Then replant.

July 2006

I have some lilies in my yard that have finished blooming. Is it okay to cut the stalks now or do I need to wait like one does for daffodils?

Lilies should be allowed to grow until the foliage begins to die back. This is the time period where they are rejuvenating themselves and replenishing their food supplies. Once you see the foliage beginning to yellow, you can cut the leaves back.

February 2005

I have a fairly large garden of assorted plants in my back yard but am by no means a savvy gardener. Could you please tell me when is the best time to thin out my daylilies?

Daylilies can be thinned either in the spring as they are emerging or in the fall as they go dormant. Many daylilies started poking up foliage a month ago, and some of it has been zapped a bit by winter weather. They are tough plants, though, and should bounce back just fine.

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Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Daylilies are not only edible, they are spectacular. After sampling the flowers, flower buds, young stalks and root tubers, I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re so tasty I may grow them as a food crop.

Let me start by saying I am talking about the common daylily, Hemerocallis fulva, as well as its various Hemerocallis friends and relatives; there are thousands. What I am most definitely not talking about are bona fide lilies, like the Easter lily, which, if you are unfortunate enough to eat, you had better hope that the Resurrection is real…

I’d read long ago about the edibility of the common lily of my youth, which we incorrectly called tiger lilies because of their orange stripes. But this would have been in the 1980s, when edible flowers reached their trendy zenith. Nasturtium flowers all over the plate, anyone? Meh. My young self wrote off lilies as part of that prancy fad.

I first foraged for daylilies in Massachusetts, years ago. Any of you ever been to Cape Ann? Gloucester is covered in daylilies, and its ritzier neighbor Rockport has more daylilies than grass. Daylilies are the most common flower on the whole freaking island. So common my sister Lizz and my brother-in-law Mark have tons of them in their tiny yard.

So I am sorry to tell you there will be no stirring tale of high adventure as we stalked the semi-wild daylily. Nope. We just pulled a few plants and picked the flowers and buds from some others that were in the yard.

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

The drama with daylilies is all in the eating.

I first separated the plants into flowers, buds, and tubers — unlike true lilies, daylilies don’t have bulbs, they have little tubers instead that look like miniature fingerling potatoes. I then stripped the outer leaves from those plants that had not yet flowered, until I got to the white part.

Most sources say to saute the unopened flower buds with a little butter or oil and call it a day. Sounded like a plan, especially since I wanted to really taste the plant, not any supplemental seasonings. So in they went, just lily buds, butter and salt.

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Delicious. Briefly cooked, the buds have a bit of knacken, a German expression meaning a “pop.” Yet the insides reminded me of squash blossoms. The taste? Green, with a whiff of radish and a dash of green bean. Honestly, I’d eat this as a side dish any day, any place. It needs nothing else.

We tried some of the stalks, but they were not as good. Texture like lemon grass, only without the wonderful lemon aroma. More like a bland, tough scallion. Certainly edible, and not terrible, but nothing like the buds.

The flowers are OK. They are more for color than flavor, and they are said to thicken soups the way okra or file powder do. The Chinese use them in hot-and-sour soup. Will have to try that more some other time.

That left the little tubers. First thing I noticed was that some looked exactly like fingerling potatoes, while others were pure white, like the inside of jicama. I ate a white one, and it tasted like jicama — only better. Like a raw sweet potato. Or rather a sweet, raw potato, not a yam.

I did the same treatment to the tubers: Butter, salt, saute. Only I added some black pepper this time. I like black pepper on my potatoes, so I reckoned I’d like this, too.

I was right. These are quite possibly the best tubers I’ve ever eaten. OK, that might not sound like ringing praise, but consider that I am including real potatoes in there and you get the picture.

Think really young fingerling potatoes, only with a sweetness to them. White ones are sweeter than the yellow ones. Yellow ones seem more substantial.

The only things daylilies have against them are allergies and size. A small number of people who eat daylily flowers get farty and nauseous afterwards; I hear “less than 5 percent” a lot, but I can’t verify it. Suffice to say you should eat only a little at first, the have at it.

The second “strike” against the lily, if it can be called one, is size: You’d need to uproot about five or six plants for one meal. But when you consider that hemerocallis fulva is considered a noxious weed in many of the 42 states it’s gone feral in, go ahead. Dig away.

Doing a little more research, I find that according to the USDA, the daylily has gone wild in every state except Alaska, Hawaii, Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and, um, my own state of California. Sigh.

That said, you can’t swing a dead cat without seeing a planting of daylilies in a parking lot or person’s house, and they are so common in urban settings Charlotte Bringle Clarke writes about them in her Edible and Useful Plants of California.

Daylilies originally came from Asia, probably China. Chinese cooking uses them all the time, even in such starring dishes as moo shu pork and hot-and-sour soup. You will often see dried flowers called “golden needles.”

Euell Gibbons liked to batter-fry the buds, and lots of other old-timers “creamed” their daylily tubers, which sounds unappetizing. But beyond hippie forager types and the Chinese, I’ve found no other use of the daylily as food.

Pity. It is, as Jimmie Walker would say, Dy-No-Mite.

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

More Recipes and Information about Foraged Foods

A comprehensive guide to growing, using and cooking with daylilies

If you love daylilies, you’ll be delighted to know they’re a delicious option in the kitchen too.

Words: Jenny Somervell.

The daylilies in my garden were on notice of imminent removal when I discovered they were edible.

My twitch-ridden plants are about as far away from the kitchen as they could be. That they are edible was the last thing I would have imagined.

I do enjoy their early summer show. They assert their presence with showy, trumpet-shaped blooms in glorious, bold colours. Orange, bronze, yellow and mahogany-red. They remind me of lions and tigers. But eating them had never crossed my mind.

However, in the Far East the daylily (Hemerocallis sp.) is a delicacy, more often grown for its food and medicinal values than its exotic display. All parts of the plant can be eaten, from young leaves to the white-fleshed rhizomes. Most highly prized are the young flower buds and blossoms, which have a sweet, flowery taste and a sticky, jelly-like texture. They also contain good amounts of protein and Vitamin A.

In Asian markets, the slender, golden-caramel coloured flower buds are sold dried or fresh as gum jum or golden needles. Their earthy, sweet flavour complements steamed or stir-fried dishes, hot and sour soups, daylily soup, and mooshoo pork. The roots are eaten too, lightly cooked or raw. They have a crisp, sweetish, nutty taste, rather like salsify. Even if eating them does not appeal, there are plenty of other reasons to grow these versatile perennials.

Daylily, Hemerocallis sp.


Hemerocallis comes from the Greek words ‘hemera’ (day) and ‘kalos’ (beauty). The exceptionally showy flowers and the plant’s hardiness have made these natives of Asia popular around the world.

As the name suggests, most flowers open for a single day. Some varieties last two to three days, and a few open in the evening. A well-tended clump may produce as many as 400 flowers over 40 days. The trumpet-shaped flowers have six large petals, six long stamens, and a central style. Each flower stalk bears 6-8 flowers.

They are an excellent substitute for lilies. As a cut flower they will not last as long but they make up for it by their adaptability – surviving and thriving where lilies won’t – in drought, cold, and clay, you name it. They flower well in sun or shade. They look great along the sides of paths, in light woodland, and on banks.

My primitive, impoverished collection is a microscopic selection of what is available. But daylilies are a prized garden perennial, and popularity is demonstrated in the effort expended on breeding. A whopping 80,000 registered cultivars have been developed from the 19 recognised species, with hundreds being added yearly. (Warning – not all of them will taste good!).

Hybridisation has vastly extended the colour palette from the yellow-orange-pale pink of the genus to reds, purples, lavenders, greens, near-black, near-white. There’s no true blue (yet), in spite of efforts.

Desirable breeding traits in the flowers include the large flower size, ruffled edges, and contrasting ‘eyes’ in the centre. There is even an illusion of glitter called ‘diamond dust’. Romantic names have been rhapsodised, which confusingly often fail to include their species parentage. Those that have gained The Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit include Beauty to Behold, Mahogany Magic, Fooled Me, Moonlit Masquerade, and Cat Dancer.

The result is that there is a daylily for almost any garden, from short to tall, with single, ruffled and double flowers, and flowering times from early to late summer. Hemerocallis fulva – probably what’s in my garden – is a common species, typically in shades of orange, sometimes coloured with bronze, yellow or red. It is also often known as Tawny Daylily, Tiger Lily, Roadside Lily and Ditch Lily. Less auspiciously, it was named as the Outhouse Lily because people would plant it near outdoor toilets. They are on planting lists for gray water wetlands, an attractive proposition for septic tank fields.

Despite persistent neglect, my daylilies have never missed a beat. Apparently they prefer wetter soils, but mine survive hot summers, just out of reach of the sprinklers. They seem impervious to pests. The only problem I’ve had is invasions of twitch and I can hardly blame them for that.

It seems I may have to rethink my plan to toss my daylilies and find a more kitchen-accessible spot to grow them. With a little more TLC we could be enjoying better and bigger flowers and harvesting some of the excess for the cook to experiment with.


Daylilies look a lot like lilies but they’re not true lilies. Worse, true lilies are poisonous, so you don’t want to confuse them:


• grow from clumps of long, edible white-fleshed rhizomes;
• have long, strap-shaped foliage with pointed tips, arching from a central crown at soil height;
• flowers are made up of two layers of petals (technically the top layer are petals, the bottom layer are sepals) and only last one day.


• have one central, unbranched stem from a bulb;
• leaves spiral off the stem and up around it;
• flowers are at the top of the stem;
• each flower has six petals, and open in sequence from the bottom bud to the top;
• each flower lasts about a week.


Caution: humans
A very small number of people are allergic to H. fulva, usually when its raw, giving them stomach upsets and diarrhoea. It’s best to start with small amounts, cooked, to see how you react. Eating excess amounts of flowers and leaves may sometimes cause diarrhoea.

Caution: hallucinations
The raw leaves, eaten in large quantities, are said to be hallucinogenic, though this has not been proven by research.

Caution: cats
Daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.) and true lilies (Lilium sp.) can be toxic to cats, causing stomach pain, renal failure and death if untreated. As little as two leaves or part of a single flower have resulted in deaths. The whole plant – petals, stamen, leaves, and pollen – are toxic. We have two eight year old cats who have lived alongside our daylilies their whole lives and we’ve never had a problem, but there are cats that will eat them. The best treatment is to remove plant material from the stomach and treat with aggressive fluid therapy within 24 hours.
Sources: A retrospective study of daylily toxicosis in cats (2003); Lily toxicity in the cat (2010).


Daylilies are extremely adaptable to temperature, growing anywhere from cold, hard winters through to the tropics. Some hybrid varieties bred in different climates may be less adaptable. In cold areas, a winter mulch helps protect rhizomes (and keeps weeds down), while in hot areas, a little shade is beneficial.

Daylily roots.

They grow best with regular moisture and an occasional topdressing with blood and bone. Rhizomes vary in vigour. Some form tight clumps, others spread outward. If they spread, divide them every three or so years to encourage more flowering. Plant divided portions in enriched soil just below soil level, in a hole twice the size of rhizomes. Bare-rooted divisions will last a remarkable length of time tossed in the garden shed before replanting!


Have you got the right lily?
First, make sure you have identified your plants! Daylilies look similar in appearance to lilies, which are poisonous.

Do a taste test
There is very little research on the edibility of the thousands of varieties available. Taste reports from a USDA trial on a range of cultivars showed not all daylilies were equally delicious. Descriptions ranged from ‘light, mild, sweet, sightly peach-flavoured’ and ‘salad-like, peppery, earthy’ to ‘bitter, with a bad off-flavour like dirty lettuce’. Taste was related to cultivar more than flower colour. Before eating any daylily, a taste test is highly recommended. Try it in very small amounts, sticking with the roots, flowers and flower buds.

Use the flowers

• Fresh flowers make a beautiful edible garnish, and whole flowers make a stunning container for dips, cheese or grain salads.
• Petals have a crisp texture and make great crudités for dipping. They can also be scattered whole, chopped onto salads, or incorporated into herb butter, soups and egg dishes.
• Whole flowers can be battered and sautéed in oil, or filled with cheese or rice, then dipped in batter and sautéed.
• Dip flowers in batter and cook as for tempura.
• Young buds can be added raw to salads, or pickled like kimchi.

The roots

• Small tender roots can be eaten fresh in salads.
• For larger rhizomes, boil for about 10 minutes, then eat like a vegetable.
• Wash thoroughly and slice rhizomes and either:
– stir-fry with other veges;
– add to soups and stews;
– mash with black pepper and a little cream or yoghurt, and tasty cheese, then form into fritters and lightly fry.

The Golden Needles

‘Golden needles’ or dried daylily buds are popular in Korea, China, Japan, Vietnam and Thailand. Their earthy, sweet flavour works well with steamed or stir-fried dishes, especially pork and chicken. They are also popular in traditional vegetarian dishes.

Suss out an Asian food store and you should be able to find golden needles in clear plastic packs. Choose buds that are a pale caramel colour and pliable. Store in a sealed container away from light as they darken with age.

To use:
• Soak in warm to hot water for about 15 minutes until soft. Remove any hard stems and use whole or shredded.
• Steam with strips of skinned, boneless chicken thigh fillet, fresh or rehydrated mushrooms, a little soy, ginger and Shao Hsing wine. Serve with rice.

How to harvest your own
• Harvest daily – as their name suggests, they usually only last a day. Buds can be harvested until the day before they open.
• To use immediately, swish in water to remove bugs. Remove pistils and stamens and place face-down on a tray or plate lined with a paper towel, so they drain and stay open until ready for use. They will last a day in the fridge.
• To dry for later use, place on baking sheets in an oven with a pilot light on or the oven light turned on until they are free from moisture. Store in labeled glass jars, out of direct sunlight, until next season.

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This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine. Discuss This Article

Daylily Fertilizer Needs – How To Fertilize Daylilies

Daylilies are popular garden plants and for good reason. They are hardy, easy to grow, largely pest free, and require little maintenance. In fact, they are reputed to thrive on neglect. Do you need to start fertilizing daylilies? That can depend on the soil. If the soil is poor, feeding these plants may help them to thrive. Read on for more information on daylily food and tips on how to fertilize daylilies.

Feeding Daylilies

Everyone loves having daylilies in the garden and there are hundreds of cultivars to choose from. The plants accept a wide range of soil and sunlight requirements and stay vigorous for many years with minimal care.

Daylilies grow best in a sunny plot with well-drained, acidic soil but they adapt to their circumstances. While they will grow just fine without daylily fertilizer, feeding daylilies can increase their flower production. And flowers are why you grow the plants in the first place.

Fertilizing daylilies need not be expensive or difficult. There is no special daylily fertilizer you have to buy or daylily food that takes hours to prepare. The idea is to provide your daylilies with the nutrients they need to flower prolifically.

Like any plant, daylily requires basic nutrients but take care when using commercial fertilizer as daylily food. Too much nitrogen will hurt, not help the plants.

How to Fertilize Daylilies

If your daylilies are growing in soil rich in organic materials, they won’t need fertilizer. In average garden soil, you can apply a complete fertilizer (like 5-10-5) in springtime. If the soil is poor, add a second application in late summer or fall.

Broadcast granular daylily fertilizer on the soil around the plants, but keep it off the leaves of the plant. Wet fertilizer can burn leaves at the base.

If you want to start feeding daylilies but don’t like the idea of commercial fertilizer, there are other ways to get nutrients to your plants. Organic compost is a great daylily food and composted manure is also good.

Work compost or composted manure into the soil before planting the daylilies. Then, as time passes, add additional compost to give your daylily food. Sprinkle it on the surface of the soil and work it in.

Tips for growing daylilies

Daylilies are some of the most forgiving perennials around. As long as they have enough sun and water, they’ll perform well. But if truly stunning daylilies are your goal, here are a few easy tips that will ensure your plants live up to their full potential.

Food and water

Daylilies tend to be pretty laid-back about nutrition. They don’t need much fertilizing. Just a single application once the plant is established, and then another each spring are usually enough. Look for a good rose fertilizer — daylilies and roses like the same conditions.

If you live in an area with sandy soil, where nutrients tend to leach out, you may need to fertilize more often. But avoid overfertilizing, or you’ll end up with lush foliage and few blooms.

More important to daylilies than fertilizer is water. Daylilies need generous watering, especially during bloom season. More water equals more prolific and bigger blooms, so set a watering schedule and stick to it. Keeping daylilies well-watered will also help reblooming cultivars to put on a longer show.

Getting started

For the best performance, plant your daylilies in the spring or early fall. This gives them enough time to establish roots before the summer heat or winter cold kicks in. They can survive a summer planting, but be sure to give them plenty of water. When you’re ready to plant, choose a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sun each day. Some daylilies will bloom in part shade, but they can get leggy and weak.

These perennials need rich, well-drained soil to do well. If your soil is poor, no problem. You can easily amend it. When you dig a planting hole for your daylily, set aside all of the soil you pull out. Then mix it with generous amounts of compost until you have about half compost and half soil. If you have clay soil, you may want to add two or three handfuls of coarse sand to really improve drainage.

If you plant container-grown daylilies, add 2 in. of the amended soil to the bottom of the planting hole. Then, before you put your daylily in the ground, check out the plant’s roots. The roots of container-grown daylilies can get pretty tangled. So tease them apart, or, if they’re really tight, make a few shallow vertical slices through the root ball to break them up.

If you plant bare-root daylilies, dig a hole at least a foot deep and wide enough so you can spread out the plant’s roots. Then build up a mound of dirt in the middle of the hole (use amended soil, if needed). This will help you spread out the daylily’s roots. Set the plant on top of the mound of soil, fanning the roots down the sides. Make sure that the plant’s crown is no more than an inch below the soil’s surface. Then fill in the hole around the roots, firm the soil and water well. Learn more about how to prepare and plant bare-root perennials here.

When it comes to spacing, daylilies need room to breathe. In general, small-flowered and miniature cultivars need to be placed 16 to 24 in. apart. Plant large-blooming daylilies 18 to 30 in. apart. But for a fuller effect (in a border, for example), space plants 12 to 18 in. apart, and divide plants more frequently.

The flowers only last for a day, so keep the plant looking tidy by removing the spent blooms. This illustration shows how a flower stalk, or scape, may have buds, a blooming flower and a spent flower all at the same time.

Pests and problems

Daylilies rarely give in to pests, but watch for aphids, thrips and spider mites. If you see them, treat with insecticidal soap or a shot of water from the hose.

Daylily rust is caused by the fungus Puccinia hemerocallidis. The main symptom of infection is raised orange or yellow spots (pustules) on the leaves, especially the undersides. Resistant daylily cultivars may only show a few spots, while other daylilies will eventually turn yellow and die back.

Daylily rust is an airborne disease, so it’s difficult to prevent. However, there are a few things you can do once you see symptoms: Control rust during the growing season by applying a fungicide, according to package instructions. Then clean up and burn or throw away (don’t compost!) diseased foliage in the fall.

Poor drainage and circulation contribute to crown rot. If a healthy plant suddenly turns yellow, withers and drops its buds, it may have rot. Lift it from the soil and check the roots for soft, mushy areas. If the soft area has a foul odor, it’s probably a bacterial problem; if it has an earthy, compost-like odor, it’s probably a fungal problem. Cut off the diseased area and treat the plant’s roots with either a bactericide or a fungicide. Then it’s ready to go back in the ground.

Easy division

Divide your daylilies when they stop blooming vigorously, or when you want to share them. Divide in spring or fall by digging up the plant’s entire clump of roots. Shake off extra soil, and with a sharp knife, cut or pull the clump apart into divisions. Each division should have at least three “fans,” although daylilies can grow back from as little as one fan. Next, mix generous amounts of compost into the soil, then replant and water well.

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