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Tiger Lily

The ‘Stella d’Oro’ daylily blooms all summer and into the fall. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

This is the final article in a three-part series.

In the past two weeks, we’ve taken a look at plants with the word “lily” in their name that aren’t true lilies and then true lilies. Now, what about daylilies?

The daylily is in the genus Hemerocallis. The flowers of some daylilies are edible and are used in Asian cooking. Hemerocallis are perennials and are grown for their gorgeous flowers, which resemble true lilies. Since, for the most part, the flower opens at sunrise and only lasts until sunset, to be replaced by another the next day, they are commonly called daylilies. In fact, the term Hemerocallis translates as “beauty for a day” from the Greek.

Daylily blooms generally last just a day. You can see the spent flowers above, along with today’s blooms and buds waiting to open.

Daylilies come in a wide variety of colors. There are bi-colors (like ‘Moussaka’ with its white and maroon flowers) and ruffled flowers (like ‘Bestseller’ with its lavender and yellow-green, frilled petals). ‘French Lingerie’ has lavender-pink petals edged in gold.

The American Hemerocallis Society was formed for the perpetuation and study of daylilies. According to the society, Hemerocallis are extremely popular because of their wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors, their drought tolerance and pest and disease resistance. There are varieties that bloom from late spring until autumn and are suited to a wide range of climates.

They are natives of Asia and, as with Easter lilies, were brought to the west around the 1930s. Since then hybridizers have worked to improve them, resulting in the large variety of colors, petal shapes and sizes. Hardiness varies depending on variety with some being extremely hardy and others quite tender. Always check the tag that comes with your plant.

There are literally thousands of daylily cultivars. I’ve read over 80,000 but can’t confirm this number. Daylilies, as their name implies, produce flowers that just last a day but will continue producing flowers for a number of weeks. Since there are so many cultivars, it would be impossible in this column to go into detail about even a few of them, but several come to mind since they are so popular.

Tiger lilies

Tiger lily (Hemerocallis fulvas) one of several lilies known collectively as tiger lilies. It is native to North America. Tiger lilies can be found growing along the roadside, hence the nickname “Ditch Lily,” as well as in cultivated gardens. They do well in moist soil, which explains why they grow well in ditches where water tends to collect. They are hardy from zones 3 through 9. Like Easter lilies, keep tiger lilies away from cats since it can cause a variety of symptoms including kidney failure.

‘Stella d’Oro’ is a compact rebloomer, comes in shades of yellow-gold and forms dense clumps, so dense that it can be used as a ground cover. They bloom practically all summer and into the fall.

H. ‘Purple d’Oro’ is a dwarf reblooming daylily that looks great planted in clusters as ‘Stella d’Oro.’ It blooms in late spring to late summer and does well in sun and part shade. It comes in shades of dark purple and yellow.

Remember, the easiest way to tell lilies from daylilies is to look at the leaves. True lilies have leaves and flowers on the same stems and the flowers last for many days. Daylilies have flowers on a separate stem and last just a single day. Daylilies, unlike true lilies, have long, slender, fibrous roots and no true bulb. Since daylilies last just for a day, they are usually not used in floral arrangements.

For further information on daylilies, go to The American Hemerocallis Society at www.daylilies.org or lidaylily.org.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

Under ideal conditions, Asiatic lilies can grow to about six feet tall.

By Ellen Barcel

This is the second article in a three-part series.

Last week we looked at a number of plants that have the word “lily” in their names but aren’t true lilies. Now, let’s take a look at true lilies.

What botanically is a lily? According to the North American Lily Society (www.lilies.org), “The bulb is the most distinguishing characteristic. It is composed of fleshy scales without a protective outer coating. A true lily is never dormant … it must be considered and treated as a living perennial plant. … Lily flowers, though completely varied in size, shape and color, always have six tepals and six anthers.” The society also comments on the fact that lilies are very fragrant flowers and have leaves on the same stem as the flowers.

Note how the lily buds are on top of the stems filled with leaves. Photo by Ellen Barcel

There are over 100 species in the genius Lilium. Check the variety you are considering because the cultural requirements are not necessarily the same across the board. In general, lily bulbs are planted in fall since they need a cold winter to thrive. Like daffodils, if they are planted in the deep south, they need to be refrigerated first before planting.

Lilies need a fair amount of sunshine to thrive and do best in a moist but well-drained soil. They do well in an acidic soil, down as low as a pH of 5.5 but do tolerate a higher pH. Remove spent flowers but take no more than one-third of the stem since it’s filled with the leaves, which are helping the plant grow.

Always check the package tag, but in general, lilies need to be planted deeply as they grow very tall. Since once planted, lilies will return year after year, you need to periodically apply fertilizer. I prefer natural fertilizers like compost, compost tea or fish emulsion, but the choice is yours. With Long Island’s generally sandy soil, make sure you add compost when planting them.

Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum) is a scented native of the Ryukyu Islands. The white Easter lily is sold throughout the United States, usually for the holiday. Easter lilies are hardy in zones 7 to 9. As a result, you may find that your holiday plant will not survive in your garden if there is an unusually cold winter or if you have not heavily mulched the bed where they are growing over winter. Be careful with Easter lilies as they are toxic to cats.

Lilies come in a variety of colors including red, yellow, white, pink and orange. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Tiger lily (L. lancefolium also known as L. tigrinum) is one of several lilies known collectively as tiger lilies and are natives of Asia, known for their showy orange flowers. Bulblets can form along the stem at the leaf axis and can be used to propagate these plants.

Asiatic lilies (L. asiatica) tend to bloom earlier than Oriental lilies. They come in many colors and sizes ranging from just about a foot tall to about six feet tall.

Oriental lilies (L. oriental) bloom in mid to late summer and can grow quite tall, some almost eight feet tall. Flowers tend to be white, pink, red or bicolored.

Dwarf Oriental lilies are as their name implies quite small, some that can easily be grown in containers. They are hardy in zones 5 through 9, so yes, you can comfortably grow them on Long Island.

Next week we’ll take a look at daylilies.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.