You can't go wrong with daylilies

KENNEWICK -- Want a perennial that will perform in the garden but require little care?

You can't go wrong with a daylily, especially some of the newer reblooming types that provide color over several months.

Many gardeners, especially those who have lived in the eastern part of the country, may think daylilies are a native plant. Not so.

They're actually native to Asia. The orange-flowered Hemerocallis fulva was introduced into the U.S. from England in the 17th century as an ornamental. It escaped cultivation and has become naturalized in open areas.

Today, there are more than 35,000 registered modern hybrid daylilies.

These produce plants that are more compact, better flowering and produce a wide variety of flower forms and colors including pink, yellow, orange, red, magenta, purple and more.

With so many cultivars, it's obvious that daylily fanciers delight in the many forms and colors available to them, but the everyday gardener who wants to add color to their landscape probably will want to focus on the smaller, more compact reblooming daylilies.

"Reblooming" means a particular cultivar has an extended period of bloom. Some "rebloomers" bloom early in the summer and again in the fall. Others bloom for several months or more with only short pauses between multiple bloom periods.

One of the most popular and extremely common cultivars being used in home and commercial landscapes is Stella de Oro.

Some may say it's overused, but it's a consistent performer. In fact, I've used it in my front landscape for its golden yellow flowers, bright green foliage and its compact dwarf form. It grows 12-18 inches tall and is one of the longest blooming daylilies available on the market.

While Stella dominates the market, there are a number of other compact, reblooming daylilies: Happy Returns (18 inches tall) with lemon yellow flowers, Little Show Stopper (20 inches tall) with rose-red double blooms, and Strawberry Candy (26 inches tall) with strawberry pink flowers with rose-red eyes.

Daylilies are easy to grow. They do best in a sunny spot but will tolerate partial shade if they get at least six hours of sun. They're not fussy plants, preferring moist, slightly acid, well-drained soil that's high in organic matter, but tolerate less hospitable conditions if the soil is well-drained.

After planting, they don't require much attention. Just remove the dead leaves each spring and fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer in early spring and again in midsummer. You'll also want to remove spent blossoms and seed pods to encourage rebloom. Once all the flowers on the flowering stalk (scape) are finished blooming, remove them near the base.

Because daylilies are vigorous growers, they will need to be divided every four to seven years. You'll know it's time when their flower production starts to decrease. Divide them in late summer or early fall by digging up the entire plant clump and using a sharp knife to separate it into sections, each with several strong fans or crowns. Replant the sections after cutting away dead and broken roots and cutting back the tops to 8 to 10 inches tall. Be sure the crown is not set any deeper than one inch. You also can divide and replant in early spring, but you may lose your bloom for that year.

It's that easy. You just can't go wrong with daylilies.

* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension Office.