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Archive for Sunday, July 15, 2001

Queen for a July day

Clumps of carefree daylilies thrive under summer sun

July 15, 2001

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If it's July, it must be daylily time. These wonderful perennials peak during this summer month.

Indeed, daylilies are one of those plants that gardeners are always thankful to have. Easy to grow, they do just fine in poor soil. These utterly beautiful plants thrive in the sun, yet can take a fair amount of shade; they live a long time and multiply over the years.

Plants come in a variety of heights, and blooms come in a variety of colors and shapes. Depending on the variety, bloom time can extend from spring to frost. And the flowers of some daylilies have a wonderfully sweet fragrance.

If that's not enough to convince you to grow daylilies, here's a bonus they are seldom bothered by pests and diseases.

The daylily is a member of the lily family liliaceae and the genus Hemerocallis. Although the daylily originated in Asia, its genus name is derived from two Greek words meaning "beauty" and "day." That's appropriate, because each lovely flower lasts only one day.

Yet each plant has many flower stalks and each stalk has many buds. So even though a single bloom lasts only one day, a daylily clump will flower for several weeks. Some varieties have more than one flowering period.

Daylilies grow with little maintenance. An application of slow-acting fertilizer or compost in the spring provides sufficient nutrition for the entire growing season.

To keep things looking neat, some gardeners remove dead flowers and cut off flower spikes once the buds have bloomed.

After bloom, the arching leaves turn brown and die back. Watering and mulch may delay this process somewhat. However, the foliage eventually succumbs to nature's order.

Decaying leaves should be removed to prevent the harboring of soil diseases. Fall cleanup consists of raking up the remainder of the withered foliage and flower stalks.

Daylily clumps grow year after year. Although they can be left undisturbed for a long time, it is best to lift and divide the clump every three to five years. This promotes plant vigor and ensures good blooms in the years to come. It's also an easy and inexpensive way to increase the number of perennials in the garden.

As carefree as daylilies are, the word from Kansas State University Research and Extension Service is that a case of a potentially serious disease called daylily rust has been confirmed on a single plant in northeastern Kansas. The plant a cultivar appropriately named "Save Our Soul" was purchased from a Florida nursery.

Symptoms of daylily rust are easy to detect and resemble most other rust diseases. Affected leaves develop bright yellow-orange spots or blisters about 1/8 inch in diameter. The dusty spores inside these spots can be easily blown or rubbed off the leaf surface to infect other leaves.

Some of the more susceptible cultivars are Attribution, Pardon Me, Gertrude Condon, Crystal Tide, Colonel Scarborough, Starstruck, Imperial Guard and Stella de Oro.

My guess is that few gardeners who plant daylilies are worried about the disease. They have come to count on this reliable performer for spectacular bloom, color and fragrance. No wonder it's July's Flower of the Month.

Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and garden writer for the Journal-World.

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