Gardening with Deb: Daylilies: A good choice for Routt County gardens |

Gardening with Deb: Daylilies: A good choice for Routt County gardens

Deb Babcock/For Steamboat Today

More than 60,000 daylily cultivars (hemerocallis) have been officially registered, and new ones are introduced annually. So many choices, and so little time and space to grow them all!

Although they are not true lilies, daylilies are a wonderful garden plant for borders, patio containers and ground cover that crowds out weeds and offers long-lasting color. Many daylily varieties flourish in our mountain climate. Just look for plants with USDA ratings of Zone 4 (or Zone 3 if you live in higher, colder parts of Routt County.) The Yampa River Botanic Park has tons of these beauties along the Core Trail side of the park.

In addition to providing summer-long color, texture and fragrance, daylilies are drought-tolerant, love our sunshine and are relatively free of pests. The best time to plant daylilies is early spring, when the soil can be worked, or early fall, right after they are done flowering. Generally, a spring-planted daylily will bloom the first year. The bare-root plant should be placed in well-drained soil with the crown no more than an inch below the surface. They multiply quickly and can be divided every three to four years. Although drought-tolerant, be sure to water the plant well until it becomes firmly established in your garden.

While the individual flowers on each plant only last one day (hence the common name), each plant produces a multitude of buds that will continue blooming for two to three months. Some daylilies actually bloom at night, with a flower that will remain open until the following evening, and some varieties will rebloom.

Daylilies are available in an array of colors, including almost everything except blue and pure white. Many are bi-colored or multi-colored, and some have colored bands, colored petal edges, colored ribs or diamond dusting (a sparkly look as though dusted with gold or silver).

The flower heads come in a variety of shapes, too. From less than two inches to more than seven inches across, some form a triangle and some are star-shaped. Some petals have ruffled edges, while others curl under. Spider flowers have narrow petals, and trumpet daylilies have that distinctive bell-shaped form seen in true lilies. These plants can range from six inches to more than 60 inches tall.

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While evergreen daylilies can be found in milder climates, they generally don't do well here. Most daylilies for our area are dormant ones whose leaves die back as winter approaches. Tetraploid daylilies are a new breed with double the normal chromosomes, which produces larger flowers, more intense color and texture, sturdier stems and more blooms over a longer period. Diploid daylilies, a more common plant type, usually have smaller, but more numerous, flowers per plant.

There are so many daylilies to choose from; check out the many colors, sizes and shapes available, and place your order in time for fall planting.

A daylily database showing photos and details about the blooms for each plant can be found at

Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Questions? Call 970-879-0825 or email