The Common Orange Daylily, or the Ditch Lily as it’s increasingly known, elicits more passionate views from all directions than just about any other flower out there. By turns, you’ll hear that it’s a menace, a joy, a beauty, a beast, a Typhoid Mary, a planting solution for bad soil, a plant bully, a feast for the eyes, a gaudy weed, a road beautifier, an important heirloom, and a first sign of summer. And that’s just from one person!
Where’d That Come From?
The Common Orange Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) is so intertwined with the cultural and familial history of America that many simply believe the plant is native to this country. However, the Orange Daylily is actually native to Asia where it’s roasted buds have been a daily staple of many Chinese diets for thousands of years. The Daylily didn’t arrive in America until our colonial period, quickly spreading across the continent with the same die-hard determination that possessed the original settlers who brought it along for the ride. It makes for an ironic twist that the invasiveness of the daylily in America now, is almost solely due to the invasiveness of the American settler then.
The Ditch Lily is not a true lily. Where true lilies grow from bulbs, the Orange Daylily grows from a tuberous root system. Where true lilies leaves are dragon tooth shaped running the length of a single stem, daylilies have long blade-like leaves, making them ideal for competing with weeds for ground space. Also, the bloom of a true lily lasts weeks longer than the one day bloom for which the Daylily is named. And let’s dispel a common misconception right now, please do not call the Common Orange Daylily a Tiger Lily, they are two entirely different flowers. The Tiger Lily is a true lily with all the lily characteristics mentioned above. The Tiger Lily and the Orange Daylily do share one thing in common, however, they’ve both been labeled with the “invasive” tag in America.
They’re Everywhere! They’re Everywhere!
Personally I’m torn concerning the Orange Daylily. On one hand they have become so profuse and invasive that you see them at every turn, like some bad zombie movie. But, in this particular movie the Zombies look like supermodels (albeit supermodels who wear a little too much makeup, but supermodels nonetheless) causing you to stop for a moment and question your very sanity for trying to get rid of something so alluring. So I guess the more appropriate movie analogy would be that they’re floral “Stepford Wives”.
However, for anyone who has had to literally take an ax to an Orange Daylily root to remove it from a garden, the concept of too much of a good thing quickly makes itself apparent. Once Orange Daylilies’ root systems take hold in a garden, they quickly go from being that beautiful, no maintenance house guest you think you have the first year or two to the gardening equivalent of the dead beat brother-in-law who won’t leave and is eating you out of house and home.
Having said all that. I still love the Ditch Lily. If you are stuck with a bad patch of yard that just won’t grow anything, the ability of the Orange Daylily to grow anywhere can save the day. If you have a dreary daily commute to work, spotting a patch of Ditch Lilies along the way can remind you there is beauty in unlikely places. If you are new to gardening and fear killing your new flowers, the Orange Daylily will help you feel like you can grow anything. And finally and unfortunately, if this economy gets any worse, we may all be thankful that every part of the Orange Daylily is edible.
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