Beautiful but tough

Hemerocallis in Toolooa St, Gladstone.

Gardening with Neil Fisher

When travelling around Gladstone at the moment it is hard not to miss the floral displays of one of the toughest plants you can grow.

The plant is the Daylily or Hemerocallis and has been grown in Central Queensland for over one hundred years. The Daylily’s in the median plantings in Toolooa Street are a credit to Gladstone Regional Council.

These plants are extremely hardy in just about all soil types and from positions of full sun to part shade which enables all kinds of landscape possibilities. I would recommend this plant in areas where the plants would encounter a tough life, like vandalism. As Daylilies can be quite roughly treated on one day and can recover to their natural flowering state within days.

The name Hemerocallis means ‘beauty for a day’ though the modern Daylilies that are available from nurseries will bloom for many months of each year. Many enthusiasts will tell you that they spend a lot of time searching for new Daylily varieties.

The plant itself has also come a long way from the original species that was first discovered in central and northern Asia, as todays modern plant has fan-shaped foliage all year round, unlike its deciduous ancestors. Originally, the plant has flowers in shades of orange, yellow and red.

Since then dedicated growers have produced hybrids in every imaginable shade except for a pure white and a true blue even some iridescent colours that sparkle in the sunlight. Variations occur not only in colour, but in flower shape, size, form and foliage.

There is a daylily for every garden situation, from small miniatures with soft grass-like leaves for use as edging plants, up to very tall growing varieties that are ideal for background features.

Daylilies are quite hardy and well suited to our climate. Daylilies can be planted out from July, either in bulb form or already growing in a pot.

Daylilies multiply, sometimes quite rapidly, so each plant will require sufficient space allow for this. Spacing should be around 50 cm for miniatures, up to around 90cm for the larger growing varieties.

When placing the plant or bulb in the hole leave a mound on which the plant will sit at normal soil level. This can often be determined by a band of white around the base of the foliage where the plant was exposed to air in its original position. This is not always obvious if you are planting bulbs, because usually the foliage and the roots have been trimmed back to encourage new growth after the bulb has been planted.

With enough soil preparation, Daylilies can grow in almost any type of soil, from clay to sandy soil types. When planting Daylilies in clay soil, the soil should be broken down first, with gypsum for example, and then sand and organic materials such as compost or peat moss dug through and mounded to assist with water drainage.

For sandy soil types, organic materials also need to be added, in this case to help prevent water escaping before it can be absorbed by the roots. With material such as compost or well-aged animal manure turned through the sandy soil to a depth of around 20cm, you will find this becomes an excellent base for a well-drained Daylily garden.

A generous dose of organic fertiliser such as Blood and Bone will promote a wonderful display of flowers during spring and summer.

Daylilies will grow well in sunlight or part shade, generally requiring at least six hours of sunlight each day for maximum flowering.

When talking to enthusiasts, most will say that they started by purchasing a single plant, and then found that they could not stop at just one. Could this be you?


The entire Daylily is toxic to Cats. Ingesting any part of the plant can cause complete kidney failure in 36-72 hours. The toxicity may occur by ingestion of, or by mouthing, very small amounts of lily material.