There are very few perennial plants better suited to landscape design than daylilies. They come in an astonishing spectrum of colors. They are adaptable to just about any type of soil, and they grow just about anywhere in the landscape that has full sun all day, or bright morning sun with dappled shade in the afternoon. But finding the right companion plants for your daylily garden can be a challenge because of the same qualities that make hybrid daylilies garden showstoppers.
Hybrid daylilies have especially vibrant colors. They can clash with poorly chosen companion plants. The latest varieties of daylilies come in saturated hues. They make a unified garden design more challenging. The unparalleled beauty of hybrid daylilies, and their unusually long blooming season, means that they require more care in placement than many other landscape plants.
Questions To Ask Yourself Before Planting Daylilies
The first consideration in choosing the right daylilies and the right plant companions is how you want your daylilies to be featured in your summer landscape.
Do you want your garden to be dominated by daylilies? Or do you want daylilies to be a focal point in a broader landscape?
- What is the background of your landscape? Does it require tall, medium-height, or low-growing daylilies? Or should there be a mixture of heights?
- How will the color and size of your daylilies blend in with existing plants?
- Do you want to emphasize a particular blooming season by planting a mass of daylilies that all bloom at the same time, or do you want at least a few daylilies that bloom before or after the peak blooming season?
- Do you need darker colors for a daylily bed with afternoon shade, or maybe a night-blooming Fragrant Lemon Citron Daylily next to a patio? Or maybe dwarf varieties for a rock garden?
Choosing the right daylily is about more than choosing the right color. Height, blooming season, shade tolerance, and the ability to bloom at night all make a difference in picking out the right daylilies for your garden.
Check out our guide to growing Asiatic lilies.
Landscaping With Daylilies
Here are some general principles for using daylilies in landscape design:
- Use daylilies to make landscape maintenance easier. Put them in areas not well suited to mowing, such as around garden statues and ponds, in rock gardens, and along sidewalks, driveways, fences, and property lines.
- Think massed, not mixed. A large number of daylilies of the same color blooming at the same time gets a lot more attention than a collection of daylilies of different colors that bloom at different times. For instance, a large planting of red daylilies growing next to a large planting of daylilies in cream or yellow is more effective than a large planting of red and yellow daylilies growing in the same bed.
- Use either the darkest hue or the lightest hue for the focal point of your landscape. Place increasingly darker or brighter varieties of daylilies around them.
- Use low-growing daylilies as foundation plantings near trees. Use taller daylilies near buildings or at the back of a garden bed.
- Choose colors that blend well with backgrounds. Red daylilies show up best against a background of green, white, or yellow. Blue and purple complement yellow and pink. Pink daylilies look good on a background of silver or gray.
- Plant fragrant varieties in small areas where their scent can be appreciated. They are most effective near sitting areas or at the entrance or exit to a garden.
- Daylilies love a sunny spot. Planting them against the backdrop of a fence or wall that blocks the late-evening sun will keep them facing forward.
Now, let’s consider how to choose the right companions for daylilies.
Planting Daylilies with Other Flowering Plants
Let’s take a look at the best companion plants for daylilies.
The best way to display daylilies is to plant them in sun-drenched spots in your landscape with other flowering plants that love lots of sun. Spaces between clumps of daylilies can be planted with bulbs and perennials that bloom before them, with them, or after them in late summer.
Daylilies and daffodils are a popular combination. Plant daffodils between daylilies at the back of the bed. The daffodils offer a burst of color in early spring. Then the foliage of daylilies conceals them as they begin to die back.
Perennial companion plants for daylilies
1. Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
2. Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum)
3. Coneflowers (Echinacea angustifolia)
4. Columbines (Aquilegia vulgaris)
5. Gayfeather, also known as blazing star (Liatris)
6. Black-eyed-susans (Rudbeckia hirta)
7. Stokes’ aster (Stokesia laevis)
8. Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)
9. Bee balm (Monarda)
10. Balloon flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus)
A few other perennials that complement daylilies:
- phlox (how to grow creeping phlox)
- ornamental grasses
Annual daylily companions
Annual flowers that complement daylilies include:
18. Floss flower (Ageratum houstonianum)
19. Wax begonias (Begonia cucullata)
20. White petunias (Petunia axillaris)
21. Dwarf marigolds (Tagetes patula)
Don’t overlook plants that have striking foliage, such as Russian sage and hostas. Companion plants can keep the whole bed vibrant with color and textures throughout the summer and fall.
What Are The Best Growing Conditions For Daylilies?
It is hard to fail when growing daylilies. They are often referred to as a plant for lazy gardeners because they are so tolerant of neglect.
Or at least this is true of the old-fashioned “roadside daylily” (Hemerocallis fulva), since some modern hybrids are not as tolerant of abuse. Still, daylilies are not as demanding as some other popular flowering plants, such as camellias and roses.
Here are some guidelines for getting the best possible performance from your daylilies:
Keeping the soil moist, but not soggy, is essential when daylilies are sending up scapes and developing flower buds in the spring. Daylilies can stand mild summer drought, but you will get better results if they never experience water stress.
Test the soil by digging down 2 or 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) with a garden trowel of your fingers. If the soil below the top two inches (5 cm) of the soil is dry, then you need to water it. Clay soils need less frequent watering than sandy soils. Try to water deeply less often rather than giving your daylilies just a little water more often. Moistening the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) is ideal.
Avoid overhead watering during the day during the blooming season.
It is always best to get a soil test from your local Agriculture Extension Office before you choose a fertilizer for your daylilies. Use that test to guide your choice of fertilizer for your daylilies.
Any commercial fertilizer you give your daylilies should have nitrogen in a slow-release form. You want a product that is at least 50 percent nitrogen in a slow-release form. Soluble, readily available nitrogen in 10-10-10 and 12-12-12 fertilizers, as well as ammonium nitrate and urea, cause excessive growth of leaves and stems at the expense of flowering. They can also burn leaves if applied as a liquid spray.
Apply fertilizer in the spring, but not when the plant is dormant. Give plants a low-nitrogen, high-phosphate fertilizer like 3-12-12 or 4-8-12 when they have finished blooming for the season.
Daylilies can grow in either alkaline or acidic soils, but they prefer a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Lower the pH of alkaline soil by incorporating peat moss when you are setting out your daylilies for the first time. If you skip this step, you can acidify the soil by applying sulfur, but you will need to do this about every other year. Raise low pH by adding lime, preferably in the form of calcium carbonate pellets.
Mulching conserves moisture and stops weed growth. As mulch slowly decays, it fertilizes the soil. Choose mulches on the basis of cost, availability, and appearance. Bagasse (chopped sugar cane stalks), shredded leaves, pine straw, and hay are all acceptable mulches.
Keep mulch a few inches (about 5 cm) away from the crowns of your daylily plants during the growing season to prevent water accumulation and rot.
The best way to remove weeds is to pull them out and dispose of them in the compost heap. Mulching all prevents weed growth, as does cutting back on the water in the summer.
FAQs about daylilies
Should daylilies be planted in groups?
Daylilies always look better planted in groups, all of the same color. Just imagine mass plantings of orange daylilies, or shades of purple (dark purple, pale purple, deep purple). How about a mass of yellow flowers from a cluster of Stella D’Oro? However, individual plants can be used in odd corners and edges of the garden for contrast or a splash of color. A lily garden is beautiful no matter how you mix the lilies.
Do daylilies like sun or shade?
Daylilies thrive in full sun. The more sun, the better. Do not try to grow daylilies in locations that do not get at least six hours of sun every day. Dappled shade in the afternoon is OK.
What’s the best type of soil for daylilies?
Daylilies need good drainage. Lightening clay soils with peat moss helps adjust pH. Don’t add sand to heavy clay: the result can be cement!
How often should I water daylilies?
Water daylilies when the soil 2 or 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) below the surface is dry. Give them a deep watering, moistening the soil down to a depth of 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm), and then let the top layer of the soil dry out.
Do daylilies need fertilizer?
Giving daylilies too much nitrogen makes them spindly, and reduces flower production. Use slow-release nitrogen in the spring, and then give your daylilies phosphorus at the end of the growing season.
Should I prune and deadhead daylilies?
Grooming your daylilies is not strictly required, since spent blossoms will fall off the plant in two or three days. However, there is nothing wrong with removing dead flowers every day. Remove seed pods at the end of the season so the plant can direct all of its energies into getting ready for the next blooming season.
Adriana Copaceanu is a passionate nature lover living in the country on her dream property where she grows vegetables, lavender, and wildflowers that she shares with the wildlife they attract. When she's not in the garden, she loves spending time with her chickens and planning her next nature project. Check your her books below: