How to Grow the Orange Daylily

Orange daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) blossom

Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images

Also known as the ditch lily, the orange daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) is a low-maintenance, easy-to-care-for hardy perennial with showy blooms. It sports grass-like foliage very similar to ornamental grasses, making it beautiful even when not in bloom. However, once the flowers arrive the real show starts.

The daylily flower only lasts one day, hence the name, but these plants are never short on fresh blooms. Their famous three to four-inch star-shaped flowers can be slightly ruffled on their edges. They boast varying shades of orange on each flower, offering a vibrant display. 

Botanical Name Hemerocallis fulva
Common Name Orange daylily, ditch lily, tawny daylily
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Moist, well-draining, rich
Soil pH Acidic, neutral, or basic
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Orange
Hardiness Zones 3 to 9, USDA
Native Area Asia

Orange Daylily Care

Caring for established orange daylily plants is very simple and they require little maintenance. Occasional pruning and water will do, but, for the most part, these are hands-off types of plants.

For the best results, try to plant your orange daylily in the spring or fall. Adding some compost to the soil is recommended, but these hardy flowers are tolerant of many soil conditions. Be sure to plant them in full sun for the most blooms.

Depending on where you live, you may need to use some deer repellant to keep your beautiful flowers from becoming a midday snack.   

Light

These cheery flowers love plentiful sunshine. Planting them in a location with morning sun is best, accompanied by some shade in the afternoon. While they can still grow in more shaded areas, they will not produce as many flowers.   

Soil

The orange daylily isn’t picky when it comes to soil conditions and can tolerate many different soil types. They are known as ditch lilies because they are often found in ditches or on the sides of roads where the soil may not be the best.

Though these plants are very hardy and adaptable, daylily plants do the best in moist, well-draining, rich soil. 

Water

In keeping with its low-maintenance nature, the daylily does not require much watering unless you are experiencing drought conditions or very little rainfall.

When first planted, they do appreciate a drink every couple of days. After the plant is established, you can cut back watering to once or twice a week. By the second year, depending on your area, you may not need to water much at all. 

Temperature and Humidity

The hardy daylily can be grown from USDA zone 3 to zone 9, so they can tolerate both summer heat and humidity as well as the frost of winter.

Fertilizer

Because these plants are not picky when it comes to soil type, they don’t require much fertilization unless you have very poor soil.

Avoid the trap of overfeeding by giving it some fresh organic matter or a dose of fertilizer just once a year. Spring is usually the best time to do this. 

Toxicity of the Orange Daylily

Though the orange daylily may make a tasty addition to salads for us, it is toxic to cats and can even be fatal. Symptoms of daylily poisoning in cats include vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, and kidney failure.  

Pruning

To keep your orange daylily vibrant and healthy, some minor deadheading may be needed. If all of the flowers on a flower stalk have bloomed, you can cut the whole stalk down to the ground to keep a tidy look. Feel free to remove any unsightly foliage or seed pods as well.

As winter approaches, it is best to leave the foliage in place, allowing it to die off and cover over the plant. This will help with insulation and act as a protective layer throughout the winter.

Propagating Orange Daylily Plants

The daylily can spread quite rapidly through its underground rhizomes. To keep them from getting overcrowded and to create more daylily plants, you can divide your plant in the fall. Here’s how: 

  1. Wait until your daylily is done blooming.
  2. Gently dig up the root system.
  3. Using sharp garden snips or a spade, divide the entire plant into two or more sections. 
  4. Replace your daylily in the dirt and move the divided sections to a new location.

Harvesting

Though the orange daylily is not the first garden plant you may think of when talking about edible plants, this perennial is often used in Asian cuisine. The young shoots, blossoms, flowers, and tubers are most often used for salads or roasting. For young shoots or flowers, simply nip them off of the plant.

To harvest daylily tubers, gently dig up the plant in early spring and remove most, but not all, of the tubers from the root system. Then replace the plant in the ground to allow it to keep growing.

Before attempting to harvest or eat a daylily, be certain you have properly identified your plant. Though the daylily can be used for food, lilies in the Liliaceae family are toxic. Always be well informed and cautious when eating edible plants and herbs. 

Growing In Containers

Growing orange daylily plants in containers isn’t much different from growing them in the ground; both are easy and low-maintenance.

When planting in containers, it is a good idea to fill the bottom of your pot with rocks. This will allow water to drain as well as provide some added weight to the pot, therefore preventing it from tipping in the wind.

Mix some compost into your potting soil, place your daylily inside, keep in a sunny area, and enjoy your potted plant. 

Lily vs. Daylily

With flowers almost identical in looks, the daylily and the lily are often confused for each other. However, there are some key differences. First, the foliage on a daylily is long and sprouts from the ground. They closely resemble ornamental grasses. Their flower stems do not have any foliage beside the flowers. The lily, on the other hand, holds both its foliage and its flowers on one stalk. Lily foliage branches from a stalk in spikes, similar to a pineapple.

A daylily also contains tubers in its root system, while a lily’s root system stems from a bulb. Lily flowers may point downwards with petals that curl back, while daylily flowers always point upwards. Properly identifying between the two is important, as lilies are toxic to humans when ingested, while a daylily is not.