Spotlight on Daylilies

Joe Gadbois, June 22, 2024

Joe Gadbois
Joe Gadbois, Perennial Department Manager

The daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) is a no-brainer perennial for Alberta gardens. They’re extremely winter hardy (to zone 2a), many have a long bloom period with beautiful flowers in numerous colours, and they have attractive foliage which looks great all season. They are versatile and reliable. Because they’re not true lilies (or even in the lily family), they are unaffected by scarlet lily beetle. They’re so good, in fact, that they are consistently one of the first perennials I recommend to people, especially beginner and low maintenance gardeners.


Daylilies form a tidy clump of grassy foliage, above which rise scapes carrying many lily-like flowers. Garden cultivars are not weedy like the old-fashioned orange daylily (Hemerocallis fulva). The name “daylily” refers to the fact that each individual flower lasts only a day, but because each scape produces so many flowers and they open in succession, the bloom period lasts a long time. Mature clumps produce many scapes at a time, creating a dazzling display of flowers.

Hemerocallis Fooled Me
Hemerocallis 'Fooled Me', image courtesy of Walters Gardens, Inc.

Extended bloom varieties have flowers that last well into the evening, so they can be admired when you have guests over for dinner and cocktails. Reblooming varieties throw out successive sets of scapes, blooming for most of the summer. There is a vast array of different daylily shapes and sizes: shorter varieties under 2 feet tall will have flowers about 3-4 inches across, while cultivars at 2-3 feet or taller can have blooms up to 8-9 inches across in some cases. There are those with the classic lily shape, some with ruffled blooms, and others with long, spidery petals (aptly called spider types). There are even double flowered varieties. Daylily flowers come in many different colours, including creamy white, yellow, orange, various shades of pink, red, and purple; and many varieties are multicoloured. There is a daylily cultivar for almost every taste!


Plant daylilies in sun or part shade on well-drained soil and follow the standard advice for planting new perennials. Old plants may need division after 5-7 years, if they stop blooming well. This can be done in fall or early spring. Established plants are drought tolerant but will appreciate some supplemental watering during long periods of extreme heat and drought. For best results, mulch around the plants with 1-2 inches of compost each spring. The only other maintenance required is to cut plants back to ground level each fall or early spring.


Daylilies are rarely troubled by pests or disease. Daylily midge is occasionally encountered and is a small fly that lays its eggs in flower buds. The larvae – tiny yellowish maggots – begin to eat the buds from the inside and cause them to turn hard and deformed, eventually dropping to the ground. Pick these buds off the plants to disrupt the insect’s lifecycle and prevent it from overwintering. Fungal diseases can be an issue during wet springs where soil drainage is poor. Remove and destroy leaves that show yellowing and browning on newly emerging shoots in spring. Remember to plant daylilies on well-drained soil.

Here are a few of my favourite daylily cultivars:

Hemerocallis Joan Senior

'Joan Senior'

One of the best whites, having fragrant, 6-inch, almost pure white blooms with green throats. This is an extended bloom and reblooming variety reaching 2 feet in height and 18-24 inches wide.

‘Moonlit Masquerade’

This cultivar has creamy white 5.5-inch blooms with a slight pale peach cast, and deep purple eyes. It grows 26 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide.

‘Golden Zebra’

A unique cultivar with beautiful, variegated foliage. The 2-inch golden yellow flowers should be considered a bonus. Reaches 12-18 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide.

Hemerocallis Happy Returns

'Happy Returns'

One of the best yellows with well-formed, fragrant, 3-inch, bright yellow blooms. This extended bloomer and rebloomer actually has indeterminate scapes, which will continually produce new buds. Reaches 18 inches high and 18-24 inches wide.

Hemerocallis Passionate Returns

‘Passionate Returns’

An everblooming variety with 4-inch, fragrant, deep rose flowers with a green throat. Grows 18 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide.

‘Strawberry Candy’

This classic cultivar is reblooming and has extended bloom, with strawberry pink flowers having a darker rose eye and golden throat, exceeding 4 inches across. Grows 26 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide.

Hemerocallis Everydaylily Red

'Everydaylily Red'

An everblooming variety with loads of 3-4 inch orange flowers with red ribbing. Compact grower with extra-fine foliage, reaching 12-15 inches tall and wide.

'Spacecoast Firestarter'

This reblooming cultivar has large flowers exceeding 6 inches across, in a deep orange shade with red centre and yellow throat. Grows 30 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

Hemerocallis Red Hot Returns

‘Red Hot Returns’

One of the best reds; everblooming and extended bloom with 4-inch cherry red flowers with a green throat. Grows 24 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide.