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Drought Tolerant and Hardy, Consider A Daylily – the UnKillable!

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Flowering Perennial Plant

Dear Casual Gardener,

What is the single most “unkillable” flowering perennial plant for full-sun? I have killed them ALL. I need your help!


Plant Murderer

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flowering perennial plant

Flowering Perennial Plant

Take heart dear reader, there is one plant I have had unrivaled success at growing: the daylily! It survives in partial shade to full sun, wet spots, dry spots – heck, I even grow them in pots. No matter your gardening skills, you can plant a daylily and have it survive. For some inexplicable reason, my Mother hated a particular variety of daylily which grew in a large 20-foot patch near an old fence row on the farm I grew up on. It took her three dedicated years of mowing those suckers down EVERY WEEK for them to finally die. I am not sure I would say it was a battle of good versus evil, but a battle to kill that plant was quite evident and the daylilies almost won!

My neighbors, Bob and Kim Ladeur, generously gave me a big dig of old-fashioned orange daylilies from their garden years ago and I have split them twice already, watching them generously spread. My mother-in-law picks the daylily flower bud and eats it right out of the garden when she visits. Most cultivars are edible and are used frequently in Asian cuisine. It is sold in Asian markets as dried “Golden Needle”.

Shawna's back garden - summer daylily view.

Flowering Perennial Plant

Life, for the flower of the daylily, otherwise known as a Hemerocallis by its Latin name, is quite short. The daylily got its name by having one flower which will bloom for one day on each stem. It does not last long as a cut flower, yet in the perennial bed, it can bloom for weeks – one lily at a time – one day at a time. They are quite beautiful with arching greenery that stays green all season and a tall stem that lifts the gorgeous flower high above its green base. Daylilies are not true Lilies – a traditional Lily is from the Lilium family and has a different growth habit, but the daylily has beautiful flowers which resemble a true Lily.

Although there are over 60,000 registered cultivars of the Hemerocallis, there are only a few which rebloom or have a strong scent. Every flower consists of three petals and three sepals. The center section of the flower called the throat sometimes has a different and contrasting color. Amazingly, daylilies can be grown in USDA planting zones 1 through 11, making them some of the most adaptable perennial and landscape plants. Most of the cultivars have been developed within the last 100 years, and almost all are quite a drought tolerant.

A friend of mine called me last year saying her husband had a “few extra” daylilies as he was rearranging his garden. I came over to pick them up and was surprised to have a five-gallon bucket handed to me bursting with daylily fans and roots swimming in water. I had never received plants in such a messed-up heap before and had no idea if they all looked the same or if there were multiple varieties. Were they tall or short? Big or small? What to do?Orange Day Lily

In the end, I decided to have a three-week-long planting party. It took me that long to plant all the roots all over my yard, out the back garden gate, and down the street. Every single one of them bloomed their first year in the ground – even if only one green leaf made up the entire plant, even if they were in the shade, EVEN if I did not water them! WOW! I was amazed.

Quite frankly, I have never seen anything like the beautiful daylily show seen this year. Last summer I was in daylily Heaven. I now have daylilies in more than the traditional yellow and bright orange color range – I have vibrant reds, dark rust, deep burgundy, almost purple, greenish flowers, crème colored flowers, pinkish flowers, and the loveliest salmon color you have ever seen. Everyone comments on them and they were the hit of my July garden.

Believe me; a daylily survives it all. I have faith you can do this. Plan now – during the cold winter – for amazing flowers next summer. Get yourself a daylily (preferably for free from a friend) and plant that baby in a sunny spot in the garden. The first year take a little extra care to water it regularly. After that, you have nothing to do but enjoy their smiling faces!

Now that is what I call murder-free gardening!

Shawna Coronado says Get Healthy! Get Green! Get Community!

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  1. I think I'd have to agree with you there, Shawna! The Daylily is one plant that is hard to kill- even for me! I had a few varieties I loved when I lived in Portland (just recently moved to Redmond, OR- brrrr!)

    I haven't been around for a while- moving, surgery, etc. I hope you are having a great New Year so far 🙂

    Happy Gardening!

  2. …and Shawna, what if you don't like daylillies? My yard is covered with them and I'm not a huge fan. Seeing as how they are so dang hardy – what's the best way to off the suckers (or at least uproot them, give them to a daylilly-lovin-pal and not have them come back ever ever again)?

  3. Alexson, I have the perfect solution for you. Call your city and find out if you have a gardening club, or a group of retirees who are building community gardens. Ask them if they will come dig them all up and take them away. Free for them – good for you. 🙂

    If that doesn't work, call all your neighbors and ask them the same thing.

    If that doesn't work, call the local elementary school principal and ask him the same thing.

    If that doesn't work, call the local church and ask them the same thing.

    All you have to do is dig them out and they'll be out of your hair. Give them to someone and show you care.



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