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Galveston Monthly

The Daylilly

Oct 02, 2019 12:44PM

  The daylily’s botanical name, Hemerocallis, means “beauty for a day,” as most daylilies open in the morning and die at night. Each flower may have twelve or more buds for continued bloom over many weeks. Often called the “sure bet” perennial, the daylily thrives from zones three to nine, tolerates a wide variety of soils, is not bothered by pests or disease, and blooms dependably for many years with little or no maintenance.

 However, an occasional maintenance chore that is necessary every four to five years is the “divide” when the daylily becomes too crowded for continued good performance. In this region, that should take place in the fall months with October being the optimal period. Flowering is prettiest when daylilies form clumps, so for the best blooms do not divide them any more frequently than necessary.

  Using a sharp knife or spade, dig up the individual clumps, separating the young plants with obvious sturdy and robust root systems. Cut back the remaining foliage and replant immediately in compost-amended soil or if transferring to another location, place in containers for safe keeping or for passing along to friends. Discard any small or diseased plants.

  Some of the most highly prized daylily varieties are sold for exorbitant prices of up to five hundred dollars for a single plant. One interesting member of the species, Hemerocallis citrina, is a daylily that blooms at night. This herbaceous perennial opens its blooms at dusk and remains open all night and into the early morning displaying pale yellow spider-shaped blossoms.  

 The most common daylily species available for purchase are the Hemerocallis fulva, known as the roadside or ditch lily and easily recognized by its pale orange blossoms, and the Hemerocallis flava or fragrant lemon lily. But there are thousands of cultivars of daylilies and personal preference is the best guide for when purchasing your collection. Cultivars are generally grouped by several means such as bloom time (early, mid, late) by flower color (white to yellow, pink to purple) by height (six inches to three feet) or by blossom type (trumpet, double, ruffled).

  It is suggested that selecting by bloom time and height will ensure a long summer of new and differing blooms in a breathtaking daily showcase. Plant in groups of three to five bulbs, pairing with small shrubs or ornamental grasses or design a mass of lilies along fences and walkways.

  Daylilies prefer full sun of six hours in well-draining soil and do not require fertilization except for a dash of compost in spring. Plant in the spring and water well in the first year of growth and at times of little rainfall. Keep the area free of any diseased or spent foliage.

 Daylily Varieties Recommended for Galveston:

Early bloomers- Mary Todd and Bertie Ferris

Mid-season bloomers- Ruffled Apricot, Double Decker, Fragrant Light and Pardon Me

Late bloomer- Sombrero Way

 Terms Pertaining to Daylily Cultivars

Miniature: compact varieties from twelve to twenty-five inches tall with smaller blooms, good for small spaces or borders

Evergreen/semi-evergreen: best for warm climates, foliage remains healthy through winter

Re-blooming: cultivars that bloom intermittently throughout summer months, deadheading spent blooms encourages the re-bloom process

Can You Eat Daylilies?

  Plain old “ditch” lilies (hemerocallis) are not poisonous to humans or dogs, but they can be lethal to cats. Some people may experience vomiting or diarrhea if eaten raw. Try a few bites when first experimenting with them, increasing the portions in small increments.

  When eating them raw, cut them off at the soil line before they reach eight inches tall, discard the outer leaves and eat the tender inner portion. Try dipping them in ranch dressing or a vegetable dip. The taste is mindful of asparagus and green peas.

  Sautéed is another option, cook the unopened buds in a little butter or oil, salt and pepper to taste and enjoy, or try one of these unique recipes.


 Pickled Daylily Buds

3½ cups of fresh daylily buds (pick when they are about one and a half inches long and almost open)

1 cup white wine vinegar

2 cups water

½ cup sugar

1½ Tbs kosher salt

1tsp ginger

¼ tsp whole spice

½ tsp dried hot chili pepper

½ bay leaf

 Whisk all ingredients except the daylily buds together over high heat in a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Meanwhile, pack canning jars tightly with daylily buds. Pour the hot brine over the buds and cover with two-part lids. Cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator. These tangy and spicy pickles will keep up to six weeks in the refrigerator. Serve with cheese or use as a cocktail garnish.

 Daylily Fritters

1 cup unbleached white flour

1Tbsp baking powder

½ tsp sea salt

1 cup cold hard apple cider or soda water or beer

2 to 3 cups of grapeseed oil for frying

1 to 2 lbs of fresh daylily buds

 Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together until fully mixed. Add 1 cup of cold apple cider, soda, or beer, gently whisk (do not over mix a few lumps are okay). In a skillet, heat grapeseed oil to a temperature of 350 to 375 or until a small drop of batter starts to sizzle and bubble. Make sure the oil is hot enough to keep the buds from becoming greasy. Carefully dip the buds with tongs into the batter (no more than five at a time so the oil will not cool), fry until crisp and golden, turn over and repeat till crisp and golden. Remove fritter and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Eat warm with your favorite dipping sauce. Serves eight as an appetizer.

A word of caution: do not use Tiger lilies or any commercial lily varieties, hybrids or cultivars, some of which can be toxic. Be sure to properly identify the type of lily that you are using. Hemerocallis daylillies are not poisonous to humans.