Come on over to daylily’s dark side

Hemerocallis 'Black Arrowhead' (Roberts 2002)
Hemerocallis ‘Black Arrowhead’ (Roberts 2002). Oddly, a lot of dark daylilies have Native American themes with Apache often somewhere in the name. No comment on why I think this is so.

Imagine, for a moment, Darth Vader holding a daylily scape in his hand instead of a light saber. He’s exhorting Luke Skywalker to come on over to the dark side, but instead of talking about the Force, he’s speaking of velvety soft and dark daylily blooms. How could Luke ever resist?

My garden will never be without H. 'Laura Harwood' (Harwood 1997) because of its great big yellow halo and green throat.
My garden will never be without H. ‘Laura Harwood’ (Harwood 1997) because of its great, big yellow halo and green throat.

Okay, maybe you don’t like the Darth Vader analogy. I always did have a certain sympathy for him even though he was a baddie in bad mask and a black cape.

Hemerocallis 'Midnight Madness' (Peat 2002)
Hemerocallis ‘Midnight Madness’ (Peat 2002) was one of the first dark daylilies with a ruffled edge. It is having its best year ever in my garden. Just look at the size of that clump! Must be all the rain.

Instead, imagine another black-caped character, this time a crusader who comes complete with his own mansion and bat cave. What if he also had a garden? What kind of plants would Batman place within its borders? Money would be no object in this garden of the Dark Knight. Daylilies of every dusky persuasion would definitely be there along with dark-hearted ‘Black Dragon’ coleus or perhaps ‘Patent Leather?‘Purple Knight’ alternanthera, ‘Black Knight’ cannas and ‘Velvet Cloak’ smokebush would definitely be on the plant list.

H. 'Evening Enchantment' (Stamile 1995) is planted next to 'Evening Seashell' in a play of light and dark.
H. ‘Evening Enchantment’ (Stamile 1995) is planted next to ‘Evening Seashell’ in a play of light and dark.

Ooh, I simply must do a Batman garden post someday. I was never into Superman, all perfection, truth and the American way–whatever that is. Instead, give me the darker, smoldering heroes who fight for justice under their own particular code. Wolverine, anyone?

Hemerocallis 'Derrick Cane' (Brooks-B., 1992) is my darkest daylily. Planted with a bit of afternoon shade, it holds its nearly black color all day.
Hemerocallis ‘Derrick Cane’ (Brooks-B., 1992) is my darkest daylily. Planted with a bit of afternoon shade, it holds its nearly black color all day.

Twice a year, my daylily club, the Central Oklahoma Hemerocallis Society, has a sale. Club members always steer the purple and red daylily aficionados over to me with wry smiles and bemused head shakes. Seems they don’t understand the call of smoldering red and purple twilight. All daylily lovers have their favorites, ruffled, spidery, trumpet-like, UFs and spiders, but hardly anyone in the club enjoys the dark reds and purples I grow. I still soldier on with the idea that I’ll convert someone…anyone to my side.

Even Hemerocallis 'Eyes on the Prize' (Emmerich 2002) has a heart of darkness. Just kidding.
Even Hemerocallis ‘Eyes on the Prize’ (Emmerich 2002) has a heart of darkness.

Come on over to daylily’s dark side with me, and I’ll show you a real good time.

H. 'A Cut Above' (Niswonger  2007) is a classic stay fast red.
H. ‘A Cut Above’ (Niswonger 2007) is a classic stay-fast red. It doesn’t have super large blooms, but it does bloom very tall above the foliage.

Like Darth Vader in his famous, yet unsuccessful scene, I’m making a case for daylilies of the purple and red persuasion. Here goes.

  • H. 'Red Volunteer' (Oakes 1984) was the second daylily I bought, and it will always be in my garden because of its blue-red good looks. I have it planted near 'Chicago Apache'  (Marsh-Klehm, 1981), another old favorite.
    H. ‘Red Volunteer’ (Oakes 1984) was the second daylily I bought, and it will always be in my garden because of its blue-red good looks. I have it planted near ‘Chicago Apache’ (Marsh-Klehm, 1981), another old favorite.

    Dusky purples and burning reds set off lighter blooms with the panache that only intensity can provide. For it’s only against the darkness, that you can truly perceive the brightness and beauty of the light.

Hemerocallis 'Persian Ruby' (Trimmer 1998) is so beautiful this year that I'm in awe.
Hemerocallis ‘Persian Ruby’ (Trimmer 1998) is so beautiful this year that I’m in awe.
  • The original complaint of daylily fandom was that dark colors “melted in the sun.” Well, all daylilies melt in summer’s hot rays. Daylilies are primarily made up of water. It’s the price they pay for all that diamond dusting and shiny new blooms each day. We may notice that the dark ones feel the sun’s rays more quickly, but hybridizers have, in the last few years, made huge strides in creating daylilies that are more sunfast–at least until 4:00 p.m.
Hemerocallis 'Rocket Blast' (Niswonger 2001) has a lot of blue in its red. It also has a darker eyezone that you might not notice at first.
Hemerocallis ‘Rocket Blast’ (Niswonger 2001) has a lot of blue behind its red. It also has a darker eyezone that you might not at first notice.
  • They also say dark daylilies show more thrip damage. Guilty. They do. However, once the weather gets hot, thrips seem to disappear. If you choose dark daylilies that bloom later in the season, you won’t see as much damage. There is a bit of thrip damage on ‘Wild Apple Autumn’ below, but who cares?
H. 'Wild Apple Autumn' (Trimmer 2010) is one of my absolute favorites this year. Such gorgeous color. Photo is not enhanced.
H. ‘Wild Apple Autumn’ (Trimmer 2010) is one of my absolute favorites this year. Such gorgeous color. Photo is not enhanced except for clarity.
  • Dark daylilies show water spots. Again, yes, but if you don’t water overhead with sprinklers, this isn’t a concern. I water with drip irrigation. In Oklahoma, we shouldn’t be watering with overhead sprinklers anyway. Tell that to my husband who insists on watering the vegetable garden with a sprinkler, but that’s another story for another day.
Hemerocallis Chicago Apache
H. ‘Chicago Apache’ with a lighter unnamed pink daylily behind it. I plan to paint the arbor the same light green as the others this fall.

You may be wondering if my entire garden is dark and tiresome looking. Not so. There is plenty of other color from daylilies, shasta daisies, black-eyed Susans and other plants that the darkness is no worry.

Hemerocallis Pocket Change with Annabelle hydrangea
H. ‘Pocket Change’ with the once white, but now green-again blooms of ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea.

Intensity can come from deep orange daylilies too. Just look at the double. H. ‘Guadalajara’ below. It’s finally starting to double now that summer has heated up. Oh, and don’t forget daylilies like H. ‘Black Sheep’ and H. ‘Orange City’ with their sultry eyezones either. I think ‘Black Sheep’ would look great with a dark purple daylily just behind it and to the right. Another one to shop for! Maybe ‘Ancient of Days’ would fit the bill.

H. 'Ancient of Days' (Korth-P.-Korth-L., 2009) as seen in Michael Bouman's garden at the St. Louis regional.
H. ‘Ancient of Days’ (Korth-P.-Korth-L., 2009) as seen in Michael Bouman’s garden at the St. Louis regional.
H. 'Guadalajara' (Carpenter-J., 2003) which is finally doubling in this heat. Yay!
H. ‘Guadalajara’ (Carpenter-J., 2003) which is finally doubling in this heat. Yay!

I hope my photos and words tempt you a little to take a walk on the dark side. Just take in all this vampiric beauty and tell me you don’t want to play a little on the darker side of life–in the garden anyway–that is.

Hemerocallis 'Bella Lugosi' from the side.
Hemerocallis ‘Bella Lugosi’ is worthy of the great vampiric actor’s legacy.

43 Replies to “Come on over to daylily’s dark side”

  1. Thanks for creating such an inspiring blog for us all to enjoy. A fellow Oklahoman who is an experienced and excellent gardener and is kind and helpful to newbies. She wrote an awesome book called the 20/30 Something Gardening Guide and it is amazing!
    I have nominated you for the very inspiring blogger award and you can find all the details here

    Keep up the good work! 🙂

  2. These are so stunning. My husband and I are starting to get into day lilies. We have a darkish one that hasn't opened its blooms yet – you may have just convinced me to come over to the Dark Side.

  3. I have an unknown daylily similar to Derrick Cane but not as dark. It is beautiful when viewing the blooms from behind — when the sun shines through and lights up the yellow throats.

    1. Hi Ray, I know, isn’t that the best? All of my plants look so beautiful with sunlight streaming through them. Yellow and black is such a great color combo too, like bumblebees and sunflowers.

  4. I will have to try some newer reds. The reds I have are old-timers (ie cheap) and a lot of them get a brown look, which I wonder if it’s due to cold nights. I loved seeing your dark selection. I would have no problem growing any of them. I am not fond of the golds, myself.

    1. Hi Kathy, no, it’s not due to your cold nights. The earlier reds did have a lot of brown in them. It was only through hybridizing that they isolated that gene and discarded it. I like the newer blue/reds. It took decades of work.

  5. Tis the season! Our Open house starts this week and many of the ones you have pictured here will be our top sellers. They are just eye catching and unique. Thanks for posting!

  6. Dee, I’m a convert! I did have a Bella Lugosi once, but it disappeared. I’ve slowly been collecting daylilies over the past years to place next to my many roses, as well. They are both favorite plants in my garden. Will be looking for more of these at the next daylily sale I find. Thanks for sharing your lovely specimens!

  7. Wow! you are such an enabler you! that H. 'Derrick Cane' is a knockout. I must find that cultivar. I've been removing some daylilies from my gardens in the last few years because I couldn't keep up with the deadheading. Do you deadhead them every day I used to go around in the evenings and do it before they turned to mush overnight.

    You have a fantastic collection. Love them all

  8. I loved the title of this post! The Daylilies are starting to burst forth here, too. Actually, I enjoy a variety of colors when it comes to Daylilies–I even enjoy (unlike a lot of other gardeners) the orange “ditch” Daylilies. You have a beautiful collection!

    1. Thanks Beth! I thought it was pretty funny too. I had a great time writing it. I have lots of different colors, sizes and shapes in daylilies too. I love the ditch lilies also and have a separate place for them in another bed. In fact, I have a red ditch lily. I’m sure it’s just an older cultivar, but we won’t know which one. The only one I don’t like is ‘Kwanso’ because years ago, it ended up in one of my good beds. It has spreading roots and tries to take over every year. I grab the garden fork and dig it out only to find more the following year.

  9. Hey Dee,

    Something went wrong with my subscription to you some time ago, so have missed being in your aura. Had to create new details under a different email. Was wondering if you black balled me? Ha, ha (nervously)

    You’re after my heart with the almost black daylillies. Years ago when I was a kid I ordered ‘American Revolution’ from the one-page, b&w Gilbert Wild’s ad in Horticulture. I have a couple of very dark selections from an amateur breeder friend and former EMG with me. Will post about then next week.



    1. Hi Patrick, I can’t imagine why you weren’t able to get the subscriptions. Glad you got it fixed. I didn’t blackball you. Great on the dark daylily selections. It’s that time of year to enjoy them.

  10. Dark red, purple and near black daylilies lend so much drama to a garden bed. I don’t have daylily beds, I have daylilies in beds with other plants, so the colors match up or harmonize, like Little Business edging Knockout Roses and Pandora’s Box with purple plants.

    1. Nell Jean, I’m with you there. My daylilies are all mixed in the regular beds. That way, when they quit blooming other perennials and annuals take over. It makes for a pretty harmonious garden. I love ‘Pandora’s Box’ by the way. I have it too.

  11. Wow, those are gorgeous! I'd take any of them, some of those deep purples would look awesome next to my bright orange!

  12. "Come on over to the dark side and I'll show you a good time." Tempting, those are lovely flowers! Bwahahahaha!

  13. You have PURPLE daylilies??? Be still my heart. I have to say that because of you I’ve begun to add a few more daylilies back into my garden. Just ordered Derrick Cane and Baby Bear from Oakes. You truly are an enabler.

    1. Oh goodie! ‘Derrick Cane’ really is that black in my garden. Just put him in a bit of shade to keep him happy. Just a bit. Yay! A convert.

    1. I did laugh. it’s so funny!!!!!
      I agree who cares if they aren’t totally perfect

  14. Holy moly, those are gorgeous! I’ve been a mostly light yellow daylily fan but a few weeks ago I decided I needed some more dark reds. Well really, I didn’t need ANY new daylilies but you know how that goes. I bought ‘Winter Roses’ and then promptly went on vacation and so I didn’t see most of the blooms. I can’t decide which of those that you showed are prettiest, but I would be happy with any of them!

    1. Hi Jean! Yes, I loved your vacation photos. So nice to walk with you and Victoria. Yup, I didn’t even show all of my purple and red daylilies. There are so many more. They help unify the garden. By the way, I love lemon yellows too.

  15. I haven’t bought a daylily in a long time. After seeing all of your gorgeous colors I want to get out to a daylily farm and make some purchases. 🙂 You have a beautiful collection.

    1. Ah Lisa, I have way too many, but I have an excuse for more because our club is hosting the 2017 regional. Maybe I’ll be an open garden or something. That means all my daylilies must be named and have signs. I’m working on it now. 🙂 Go buy some more. Let me enable you.

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