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Hemerocallis fulva – Tawny Daylily

Hemerocallis fulva, tawny or orange daylily, has been planted in American gardens forever it seems. As you drive rural roads during early summer, the flashes of orange you see along the side of the road or in abandoned rural farmsteads are almost certainly Hemerocallis fulva, or maybe Asclepias tuberosa – butterfly weed.

Hemerocallis fulva flower
Hemerocallis fulva flower detail.

Watch out, as Hemerocallis fulva will take over a bed completely. Choose where you plant orange daylily in the garden wisely, in places where it may spread and colonize the area completely. If you need to control erosion or have a weedy spot, tawny daylily is an apt choice.

Hemerocallis fulva, orange or tawny daylily, is aggressive in the garden.

Tawny daylily spreads via rhizomes and is a tough and persistent plant. Plants you see flowering along those rural roads mentioned earlier may have been there for decades. Use Hemerocallis fulva’s aggressive and bullying nature to your advantage, planting in sunny out of the way places that need color and require little maintenance.

Orange daylily is considered invasive, but that cat is largely out of the bag, as orange daylily is heavily naturalized across America. Like queen Anne’s lace, orange daylily is here to stay. Refusal to include orange daylily in your garden based upon ecological concerns is largely a symbolic gesture…a gesture I would respect nonetheless.

There are daylily cultivars that are not invasive, for example, Stella de Oro.

Hemerocallis fulva, orange daylily
Hemerocallis fulva in mass in the garden.

Growing Hemerocallis fulva

Flowers are large, 5″ across and burnt orange. Each flower opens and closes for a day, but the scapes hold a number of buds. Leaves are strap-like and healthy. Orange daylily can handle partial shade but blooms best in full sun. It is tolerant of poor soil conditions, excessive heat, and humidity, and will persist reliably season after season.

If you do plant orange daylily with other perennials, make sure they have the fiber to hold their own (grasses are a good choice). I admit to getting loads of pleasure from planting aggressive species in close proximity and watching them compete. There is nothing quite like a pitched battle through the years as plants gain and lose ground depending on what the season brings. Often, a beautiful tapestry will emerge.

Even with its aggressive nature, Hemerocallis fulva is my favorite daylily, most likely because of the way I see it growing in places now abandoned, a faint memory of where people once lived and dreamed. It has poignancy.

Scientific name: Hemerocallis fulva
Common name(s): tawny daylily, orange daylily, tiger daylily
Plant type: herbaceous perennial
Height: 24″-42″
Native status: Asia, heavily naturalized in North America.
Winter hardiness:  3-9
Of note: Beautiful and common daylily that can become very aggressive in beds. Plant Hemerocallis fulva in the garden in spots where it can colonize and dominate the area. Only plant Hemerocallis fulva in mixed perennial garden beds that contain other thugs that can hold their own.
Related Links: Hemerocallis fulva at Missouri Botanical Gardens, notes on the invasive nature of Hemerocallis fulva from the National Park Service.

Hemerocallis fulva
Hemerocallis fulva, commonly known as orange daylily, tawny daylily, or ditch lily.

One Comment

  1. Earl Weyman

    Thank you for the knowledge

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