Tenacious daylily deserves a little love

Jerry Apps

One of the first things I noticed when we bought our farm was the orange daylilies growing along the south and east sides of the pump house. They bloomed for weeks and required no care whatever. 

Jerry Apps' brother Darrel has introduced some 420 new types of daylilies—real beauties each one.

Now, more than fifty years later, the daylilies are still there, tough as nails. Deer eat them, rabbits eat them, dry weather slows them down, winter doesn’t faze them.

A couple years ago I did a little research on this vigorous daylily that grows wild alongside roads and many other places across the country. Because of where it is commonly found, it is often called a “Ditch Lily.”

I learned that daylilies have been around for thousands of years, originating in Asia and soon spreading around the world. Daylilies bloom for but one day—but a single stalk can have many flowers on it. The genus name for daylilies is Hemerocallis, which comes from two Greek words, hemeros, which means “day” and kallios which means “beauty.”

My brother, Darrel knows daylilies. As a professional plant breeder and former nursery owner, Darrel has introduced some 420 new types of daylilies—real beauties each one.

While the old orange daylilies were called Ditch Lilies, Darrel’s carry such names as Pardon Me, Happy Returns, I’ll See You Again, Original Score, and Majestic Heights to mention a few names. No Ditch Lilies for Darrel. See photo above for a few examples of his creations.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Add a little color to your life. Plant some daylilies.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to