Night of the Daylilies

As its name implies, a typical daylily opens lily-like blooms during the day that fade away in the afternoon. However, there are also the garden oxymorons — night-blooming daylilies. These daylilies refuse to flop their flowers with the setting sun and, instead, remain in full floral regalia deep into the night.

Need examples? “Extended” daylilies are classified by the American Hemerocallis Society as selections with blossoms that remain open 16 hours or more. Most daylilies don’t begin showing off until midmorning, so add 16 hours of extended bloom time, and you have flowers that aren’t strangers to midnight.

Just how common are extended blooming daylilies? Look no further than the popular cultivar ‘Stella d’Oro’. This short-growing (12 to 18 inches tall) beauty with golden-yellow blossoms not only flowers well into the evening but also well into the fall, being one of the longest blooming daylilies around.

Molly Weston of Lakeview Daylily Farm in Garner has many favorites with extended flowers. For starters, she says, “‘Love Those Eyes’ is an excellent choice. With bright yellow color and red eye, it is beautiful planted near other red and yellow flowers. In addition, it stays in seasonal bloom longer than many other cultivars.”

Weston also likes ‘Joan Senior’, a ghostly white beauty with a lime-green throat, and ‘Helaman’, a large, fragrant dazzler that has ruffled yellow flowers dusted in bronze — a look, and scent, echoed by another one of her favorites, ‘Smuggler’s Gold’. And she singles out the award-winning, golden yellow ‘Bill Norris’, saying, “It looks good all day, even in the rain. This is the one we send folks to look at late in the afternoon — and most of them buy it!”
Other extended blooming daylilies that shouldn’t be hard to find at local nurseries include two popular pretties: ‘Happy Returns’, a low-growing selection that spends all summer showing off its rich yellow flowers well into the night, and ‘Hyperion’, a fragrant, bright yellow classic. Last year, I even found two extended bloomers at a Cary home improvement center: the sassy ‘Lavender Deal’, with its fragrant, light purple blossoms accented by dazzling yellow centers, and ‘Rocket City’, which ignites in a flame orange.

An even odder group of night-blooming daylilies falls under the classification of “Nocturnal” by the American Hemerocallis Society. These open much later in the day than normal daylilies and remain in flower through the entire night.

Probably the most well known example of a nocturnal daylily is the species selection Hemerocallis citrina, an introduction from China that was very popular with gardeners in this country in the 1800s. With the waning of the day, its lemon-yellow flowers appear in the gathering gloom with puffs of natural perfume to announce their presence.

One of Molly Weston’s favorite nocturnal cultivars at Lakeview is the fragrant rebloomer ‘Sunset Lagoon’. She says, “This large, light tangerine bi-tone was hybridized in North Carolina and grows well in this area.”

More nocturnal treasures to consider include the golden yellow, award-winning ‘Bitsy’; the equally bright yellow ‘Hortensia’; and the fragrant, pleasingly pale ‘Tuscawilla Snowdrift’. These, like many nocturnals, probably won’t be readily available at your local friendly garden shop, but e-searches online will find them.

To get the most out of night-blooming daylilies, carefully select for color and scent. Light colored flowers will be easy to see in the night garden, and will really pop visually under a full moon. And since winds usually die down after the sun calls it a day, fragrant daylilies can cast a special perfumed spell over a garden under the stars.

See for information on Lakeview Daylily Farm.

L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener magazine.

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