‘Summer Wine’, ’Apricot Sparkles’, and ‘Elegant Candy’ are just a few of the charming cultivar names for a beautiful and rugged garden staple—the daylily. Midwest Groundcovers typically sells 120,000 ‘Stella de Oro’ and ‘Happy Returns’ daylilies each year. Growing such large quantities of #1 container plants requires a lot of labor. We have determined that using the old school method of field growing, we are able to produce a bigger, more robust plant while reducing labor costs. Eugenio Castillo, our Production Supervisor, is in charge of the Hemerocallis crop. He started in 1991 as a Grower in St. Charles, and now—nearly 30 years later—Eugenio is in charge of the planning, fertilizing and watering of our 9 acres of daylily Production fields in Glenn, Michigan.
Each spring, Eugenio starts with 10,000 ‘Stella de Oro’ and 15,000 ‘Happy Returns’ bare root plants that are divided by hand to produce our own liners. Using a tractor with a special wheel attachment, a crew of 4 workers plant the bare root plants into our fields. Granular fertilizer is applied 2-3 times per year using a tractor-pulled spreader, although most weeding is done manually. We utilize our own pond to feed two large Kifco Water-Reels® that irrigate the fields; one pass takes about 5 hours. To encourage foliage growth, we cut back the flowering scapes in June and August using a tractor mower set to 8-10 inches. The sheared flowers are left in the field as a natural mulch. Two years later, the mature clumps are harvested and potted up to produce approximately 10 times the number of plants that we started with!
After harvest, we let each field rest for 1-2 seasons. Sorghum or radishes are typically planted as a cover crop to control erosion and suppress weeds and are later tilled in to replenish the soil. Besides Hemerocallis, we also field grow ornamental grasses, Allium, Geranium, Liriope, and Carex pennsylvanica. This growing method has increased the speed of production and resulted in the best quality plants for our customers.
Although native to Asia, Hemerocallis is known worldwide, and there are over 80,000 registered cultivars including a number that rebloom and many that have fragrant flowers. The genus name comes from the Greek hemera meaning “day” and kallos meaning “beauty,” since each flower lasts but one day. Although individual blooms are short-lived, each flowering stalk produces many buds, so bloom period lasts several weeks. Despite their name, daylilies are not true lilies even though the flower has a similar shape. Lilies grow from bulbs, while daylilies have thick fibrous roots which can absorb a lot of water making them very drought-tolerant. Hybrids come in a rainbow of colors with a variety of flower forms, textures and sizes ranging from 3 to 15 inches across. Their beauty, hardiness and adaptability explain why they can be seen in a broad range of landscapes including urban parking lots, country roadside swales and private collector’s gardens.