Edible Weeds? Yep! The Series: Broadleaf Plantain, Yum.

I love to study nature. I recently started studying the weeds in my garden and I discovered that many of them are edible and some even have medicinal uses. It is so exciting to research this topic and learn more about the plants that have been growing naturally in my garden all along.

The Broadleaf plantain is a great example of a usable plant that is abundant and accessible in the landscape. Plantain can be eaten raw or cooked and is loaded with vitamins and minerals.

Broadleaf plantain
Broadleaf plantain: Photo by Wanette Lenling

Broadleaf plantain is native to Europe and Asia.  It was likely brought to North America by European settlers where it naturalized and became pervasive enough to make the list as a weed.  However, there is evidence that it was once used as a food crop by ancient peoples.  It was also used medicinally as well.  Broadleaf plantain contains the compounds allantoin, aucubin, and mucilage which contain, among other things, antimicrobial and antiviral  properties. It has also been used as a diuretic and has cooling, tissue healing properties when used as a poultice or ointment on injured skin. (Hint* It is fantastic for insect bites.)

As an edible plant, broadleaf plantain contains a multitude of vitamins and minerals.  It contains large amounts of Vitamin A and Vitamin K.  It also contains Vitamin B1, ribolavin, and calcium. Young raw leaves are a tender and tasty addition to salads but they can also be cooked like spinach or kale.  Older leaves tend to have a more  bitter flavor and are a little tougher in texture but they contain more healthy phytochemicals than young leaves so simply blanch them before eating to tenderize them a bit. To store long-term, blanch the leaves in hot water and then freeze to use later in soups and stews or sautéd with vegetables for a healthy meal.  Leaves may also be dried and crushed to create a tasty herbal tea.

Last but not least are the seeds which are also edible.  The seeds, which appear on long peculiar flower stems, can be eaten raw or cooked or dried and crushed then added to flour to create tasty breads and cakes.

broadleaf plantain
Broadleaf plantains: photo by Wanette Lenling

(Note* Please be absolutely sure edible weeds that you plan to consume are clean and have NOT been sprayed with chemicals.)

Who knew that this plain looking plant with the odd flower spikes was entirely edible and a tasty, nutritious addition to a healthy diet. What a wonderful world!

Happy gardening!

Quote of the Day

“They whom truth and wisdom lead, can gather honey from a weed.”

-William Cowper, English poet




INTERVIEWS WITH EXPERTS: Dana Althoff, Commercial Grower and Retail Manager

Dana Althoff is the retail manager at a large greenhouse and landscape center in the Midwest. She has a degree in horticulture with minors in business and agronomy.  Dana has experience both as a commercial wholesale grower and in retail sales at several different locations in several different states.

Allium flower Photo by Wanette Lenling

On a sunny Saturday morning, I sat down with Dana at her kitchen table to learn more about her vast experience and love of gardening.   I wanted to find out how she got started in the gardening business and where her love of gardening came from.  I also wanted to know what advice she had for new and experienced gardeners alike.

Dana’s Gardening Tip #1:  “Water it or it’ll die.”

What is your background in gardening?  How did it become an interest of yours?

Dana said she began gardening with her mom and her grandmother as a little girl.  Her mother let her take over the planning, planting, and care of the flower beds when Dana was in the fourth grade just as her grandmother had allowed her mother to do  as a little girl.

As an adult, Dana went on to study horticulture and agronomy in college during which time she worked for her uncle at a whole sale nursery.  Dana recounted the joy she had working in the vast flower fields at her uncle’s nursery.

Do you have a specific plant group that you like to work with?

Dana said she enjoys working with all plants, including annuals and perennials, but she has a particular fondness for hostas.  She said the ‘Sum and Substance’ Hosta is among her favorites.  For those of you that have never seen a ‘Sum and Substance’ hosta, it’s a beautiful giant yellow variety that can reach 2 to 3 feet in height with a spread of 5 to 6 feet!

Dana’s Gardening Tip #2:  “Don’t get tied up with the idea that growing a certain plant is hard to grow.  Just try it!”

Do you enjoy working in the garden on your time off?

Dana said she does enjoy working in the garden at home but only in fair weather.

Planter created by Dana, photo by Wanette Lenling
Planter created by Dana, photo by Wanette Lenling

Working in the retail business requires Dana to work in all kinds of weather so she prefers to be comfortable when working in the garden at home.

I mentioned that one of the assumptions that customers always had of me when I worked at the garden and landscape nursery was that my gardens at home were immaculate.  Dana laughed and said she gets that too.  Dana said that most of her gardening energy is spent at work with little left over for home, so home gardens tend to suffer.  It’s akin to a plumber having a broken faucet at home that never seems to get fixed.

What questions do you get the most frequently and how do you answer those questions?

  1.  Question: “How do I plant this tree?”  Answer:  Dig the hole 2 times as wide as the root ball and plant it no deeper than the root flare.
  2. Question:  ” How do I water this plant?”  Answer:  It depends on what the plant is and where it’s planted.  In general, keep it moist for the first few years, then supplement with water when dry in the years after that.

You have worked as a commercial grower as well as a home gardener.  How is commercial growing different from home gardening?

With commercial growing, you must please the customers so the plants must be of generous size,  a visually pleasing shape, and attractive coveted colors while the home grower must only please themselves.  However, with both types of growing, the gardener must still use diligence in fertilizing and awareness in scouting for the early signs of disease.

What advice do you have for hobby gardeners that would like to start growing in a home greenhouse?

Pansies photo by Wanette Lenling

Start simple.  Start with a handful of different types of plants and be prepared to care for them every day.  There are no days off.  Try growing some plants that are easy to grow from seed like tomatoes and peppers for vegetables and marigolds, petunias, and zinnias for flowers.

Dana’s Gardening Tip #3: “Don’t be afraid to try new things.  Plants die.  Keep going.”

You have worked a great deal with encouraging children to engage in gardening.  What is your motivation?

Container 2 planted by Dana. Photo by Wanette Lenling

Dana explained that she was encouraged at a young age by her mom and grandmother to engage in gardening. She mentioned the fact that some of the kids she worked with have never touched soil before.  She said that during her children’s potting class, kids get the tactile experience of touching and smelling the soil and the plants and working with the plants in order for them to grow in the child’s flower pot creation.


Dana’s garden book recommendation:  Small Space Gardening by Melinda Meyers.

Finally, you were trained in horticulture and agronomy before organic gardening became a trend.  How do you feel about organic gardening?

According to Dana, organic gardening has its place.  Dana said she understands the desire to use organic gardening with food plants for safety but not with ornamentals because you don’t eat them. She said she tried using organic methods in commercial growing but she didn’t have any luck with it so she reverted to the use of synthetics.

Big thanks to Dana for taking time out of her busy schedule to sit down with me to discuss gardening, a topic we both love.  Gardening is all about learning whether through your own research or by asking the experts.  Keep learning and growing my gardening friends.

Happy Gardening!

White spirea flower, Photo by Wanette Lenling

Quote of the Day

“Success is no accident.  It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

-Pele, retired Brazilian professional footballer

Acidifying Garden Soil Naturally

Gardenias, azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, blueberries, spruce, pine, maple, oak – the list goes on and on of plants that grow best in acidic soil. If you love acid loving plants and the ph of your soil is below 7, you won the acid soil lottery.  Plant away! But what if your soil is alkaline and you have a love for acid loving plants?  There are many synthetic means available to acidify your soil but there are also ways to do it organically.  By adding specific amendments to the soil, you can lower the ph naturally.

Tip:  Creating an acid soil situation where there wasn’t one before may injure alkaline-loving plants nearby.  If you choose to acidify your garden soil, use care  so you don’t  damage nearby plant life.

Amending The Soil

If you have plants that prefer acidic soil or you would like to add plants to your garden that prefer acidic soil, you can amend the soil to lower the ph if necessary.  Plants prefer acidic or alkaline soil because the chemistry of the soil determines which types of nutrients in the soil are amending the soilavailable to your plants. For example, alkaline soil chemically binds up the  iron that is already in the soil.  This makes most of the iron in the soil unavailable for plant use.  Because acid loving plants require a good deal of iron to thrive, this situation results in iron deficiency.  A lack of iron results in a condition, called chlorosis.  It is generally identified by a yellowing of the leaves on the plant.  When the soil is amended to create a more acidic soil condition, the iron that is already present in the soil is chemically released and becomes available for use by the plant.

Tip:  Changing a soil’s ph level is generally a slow process that may take several applications and a lot of time before it takes effect, even with chemical treatments.  Have patience my friends!

Sphagnum Peat and Peat Moss (Best Option)

Sphagnum peat and peat moss, which are highly acidic, are the best means of lowering the ph of your soil naturally. (Hint:  It also adds organic matter to the soil which improves soil structure!)  These materials lower the ph of your soil while they break down.  Adding peat or peat moss along with compost to your acid loving plants every year will make your acid-loving plants very happy and it will  improve you soil structure as well.  Also, in my opinion, this is the safest and easiest way to acidify your soil naturally.

bag of peat moss

The soil in my area is quite alkaline.  I planted an azalea with a soil mixture of  50% soil and 50% sphagnum peat moss.   Then every year after that, I added a hardy layer of sphagnum peat moss around the azalea and it grew quite nicely.

Mulching with Pine Needles

There are current ongoing arguments over the idea of whether or not pine needles will acidify the soil.  Scientists are saying that while pine needles are acidic while they are on the tree, they lose that acidity fairly quickly once they fall to the ground and by the time they are decomposed their ph is at a neutral level.  But, life-long gardeners swear by using pine needles as a natural mulch to acidify the soil.  In this debate, you will have to choose a side but my advice to you is this:  if you have pine needles readily available, use them as a mulch around your acid loving plants.  It won’t hurt.  Even if pine needles don’t acidify the soil, they will improve the soil structure as they break down into compost.

The arguments concerning pine needles are the same with oak leaves. Again, it never hurts to mulch with them or add them to your compost!


While conducting research for this article, I read numerous articles and watched a multitude of videos about watering plants with a water/vinegar solution to acidify soil. Personally, I wouldn’t try this. Vinegar is a natural herbicide (i.e. plant killer).   It would be far too easy to burn or kill your beloved plants. And from what I read, it only acidifies the soil slightly and the results are short-lived which would require the process to be repeated frequently. My suggestion – don’t do it.

For more information on acidifying garden soil,  check out the Iowa State University Extension website.

Globe Blue Spruce
Globe Blue Spruce photo by Wanette Lenling

My best advice to you  is to grow plants that like alkaline soil if you have alkaline soil and acid loving plants if you have acid soil.  If you really love a plant that likes acid soil and you have alkaline soil, grow the plant in a pot with potting mix for acid loving plants and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

Happy Gardening my friends!

Quote of the Day

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

-Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian




Compost Tea, A Healthy Beverage For Your Plants

Compost is the wonderful “black gold” that’s created when organic matter like leaves and other garden refuse decomposes. It’s full of nutrients that feed your plant.  It improves soil structure too.

“Ok, I understand what compost is,” you say, “but what the heck is compost tea?”

Compost tea is quite literally an organic liquid fertilizer that’s brewed from compost.


How is Compost Tea made?

It’s easy to make compost tea.  Simply place a good shovel full of fresh compost in a 5 gallon bucket or other waterproof container.  Then fill the container with water.  Allow this mixture to steep for about a week, stirring it daily to get a good brew.

*Hint: I use a ratio of approximately one part compost to three parts water but many gardeners use a 50/50 ratio.  So do your own experimenting and find what works best for you.  The fun in gardening is that it’s a lot of experimentation.

How to use compost tea.

To use the compost tea, simply strain the mixture to separate the liquid from the solid compost. Make sure the liquid is cool to the touch (it may be warm if it’s been brewing in the sunlight). Put the cool compost tea in a watering can and water your plants as normal.  It’s that simple.

compost tea
compost tea

You can use it to water the soil around the plant’s roots but  you can also use the compost tea as a foliar fertilizer by allowing the compost tea to wet the plant’s leaves. This allows the plant to take in nutrients through the leaves and not just the root system. However, if your plant has a fungus on the leaves, don’t use the foliar feeding method. It could make the fungus worse or spread it to plants nearby.

How often should compost tea be applied?

Once a week is a great schedule to water with compost tea.  If you put fresh compost on the soil around your plants either in the fall or in the spring and then supplement with compost tea once a week, your plants should grow lush and healthy. And once you use the compost tea you just brewed, refill the bucket with new compost and water and make some more.  This is a great way to get kids excited about gardening too!  What child doesn’t like to play in dirt and water?

Making your own fertilizer is cost effective and it also feels good to know exactly what you’re using on your plants, especially edibles like fruits and vegetables because what they eat, you eat.   And, the lush flowers and abundant produce you’ll get from the process will put a big smile on your face!

Happy gardening my friends!

Quote of the Day

“When I am quiet in the garden, I can hear my own song.”

-Author unknown



Shade Loving Heuchera, a.k.a Coral Bells

Heuchera, also known by the common names Coral Bells or Alumroot, is a sensational shade plant that is very easy to grow. These plants are generally pest-free and require little care once established.  This shade loving perennial is grown almost exclusively for its vibrant colorful foliage and they are gorgeous! Check out these colors:



Heuchera are a herbaceous perennial plant that is native to North America and it’s root is known to have medicinal qualities which is where the common name alumroot comes from.

Heucherella 'Alabama Sunrise' by Bluestone Perennials
Heucherella ‘Alabama Sunrise’.

Heuchera have been placed in the Saxifragaceae plant family which also includes perennial favorites like astilbe, bergenia, and tiarella (foam flowers).  In fact, the tiarella has been crossed with the heuchera to create the heucherella!


The heuchera is a relatively small perennial at between 10 and 20 inches tall with flower stems that reach 1 to 2 feet above the colorful foliage. The size of the leaves vary by variety.  They can quite petite or as large as your hand!

Foliage and Flowers

The foliage of the heuchera is the main attraction to this plant.  With so many colors of foliage to choose from, there is just the right heuchera to light up a shady corner in any landscape.

Heuchera does produce lovely delicate flowers on long 1 to 2 foot stems in early to mid summer.  The flowers are less showy than the foliage but they do add subtle beauty. The flowers also attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden.  The flowers make a beautiful filler for any cut flower arrangement.

Heuchera 'Berry Smoothie' in bloom. Photo by Bluestone Perennials.
Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’ in bloom. Photo by Bluestone Perennials.

Growing Requirements and Care

Heuchera will grow as a perennial in zones 3-8, depending on the variety.  These plants grow best in part sun, although different varieties tolerate different conditions.  In general, darker colored varieties are able to withstand more sunlight than lighter colored varieties.

Heuchera grow best in neutral to slightly acidic moist well-drained soil. Good drainage is a must in order to avoid root rot situations.  Add a good amount of compost to the soil when you plant your heuchera to improve soil structure and add nutrients to the soil.  Once your newly planted heuchera begins to sprout new leaves, add a slow release fertilizer to the soil to give the plant an extra boost.  Every spring add a good helping of compost and some slow release fertilizer to your heuchera plant to keep it happy and healthy all season long.

  Heuchera should be watered deeply once or twice a week depending on temperature and soil conditions.  Heuchera grow best when the ground is mulched to keep it moist but keep mulch one to two inches away from the stem to avoid stem rot issues.

Heuchera can be a beautiful addition to rock gardens, especially on slopes where the drainage is good.  Additionally, it’s easily grown as a potted plant to provide just the right punch of color for a mixed planter!

Trouble shooting


  • Powdery Mildew is a fungus that looks like baby powder on the leaf of the plant. It may also infect the stems, fruits, and flowers.  During hot wet weather, use a preventative fungicide before symptoms appear. Natural neem oil  is effective at preventing and treating powdery mildew.  As always, carefully read and follow the directions on any garden chemicals before use.
    • Powdery mildew fungi will overwinter in plant material so any plant debris (like fallen leaves) affected by this fungi should be thrown away.  Do not place infected plant material in the compost or it will spread the disease.
    • Spores spread on the wind and will take up residence on wet plant leaves so water using soaker hose or drip irrigation system to keep root moist and plants dry.
Powdery Mildew on lilac leaf. Photo by Iowa State University Extension.
Powdery Mildew on lilac leaf. Photo by Iowa State University Extension.
  • Downy Mildew is caused by a parasitic organism that is not a true fungus but has some fungal qualities. Downy mildew tends to appear in spring during cool damp weather. It appears as a  fuzzy white, grey,  purple, or brown growth on the underside of the leaf.  Yellow or brown spots may  be seen on the top of the infected leaf.  There are few chemical controls available to the home gardener for this disease but  Bonide makes a product called “Liquid Copper Fungicide” that can be used to help control downy mildew.
    • Remove infected plant material as soon as possible and  as Downy Mildew survives the winter on dead plant material, clean up dead plant material in the fall. Discard it in the trash.  Don’t place it in the compost pile or the disease will spread.
    • This disease is spread through water so use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to water plants.
Downy Mildew on a leaf. Photo by PennState Extension.
Downy Mildew on a leaf. Photo by PennState Extension.
  • Stem Rot can be caused by a number of issues from injuries to fungal issues related to overwatering and wet conditions.  To avoid stem injury, keep all mulch several inches away from the stem.  This will also help with wet conditions.  Make sure to water deeply once or twice a week and avoid quick frequent waterings, especially water on the leaves and stem. It’s best to water the ground around the heuchera and avoid getting the plant wet.  Stem rot can also be caused by a fungus so care in watering is very important.
    • Once stem rot has occurred, a fungal spray may help but most often the plant will need to be removed.

Insect Issues:

  • Aphids are a common pest among garden plants but they are relatively easy to control.  I use a soap and water mixture as a natural remedy to control aphids.  You can also encourage carnivorous insects like ladybugs and lacewings to take up residence in your garden to help control unwanted insects like aphids. Manufactured sprays containing pyrethrins can also be used to control aphids but some of these sprays will kill beneficial insects like butterflies and bees so use with caution.
  • Weevils may cause damage to the leaves and roots of the heuchera. In the larval stage, weevils look like worms or grubs in the ground.  In the adult stage, these bugs look like black beatle-type insects. To control root weevils, parasitic nematodes are added to the soil to kill the larvae and a shallow bowl of water will attract the adult beetles.  The adults will crawl into the water and drown.  Synthetic pesticides can also be used to control weevils as well.  Read and follow the directions on all manufactured pesticides before use.
Heuchera 'Delta Dawn' Photo by Bluestone Perennials
Heuchera ‘Delta Dawn’ Photo by Bluestone Perennials

Heuchera is an exquisite garden perennial with colors that will light up any shade garden.  They are extremely easy to grow and are versitile enough to grow in planters as well as a rock garden.  Add a few to your garden to add a shock of color!

Happy Gardening!

Quote of the Day

“Happiness radiates like the fragrance from a flower and draws all good things towards you.”

– Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Indian Philosopher

INTERVIEWS WITH EXPERTS: Renita Kainz, Master Gardener

Renita Kainz has been a been a serious gardener since her early 20’s.  She has worked in the commercial garden industry for most of her adult life.  In 2008, Renita furthered her experience as a gardener by gaining formal horticultural training in the Master Gardener program.

Tip:  If you would like more information about becoming a master gardener, contact your local extension service for details.

I met with Renita for an enjoyable morning interview, after which she took me on a guided tour to view her large collection of potted plants, landscaped gardens, and amazing backyard greenhouse.  We talked about how she became interested in gardening and how gardening has played a central role in her life.  I asked her a few questions to learn more about her long-term dedication to the hobby she loves so much.


How did the interest in gardening begin?

Renita said grew up on a farm in a rural area watching both parents work the ground,  her mother through vegetable gardening and her father through farming.   Then, when Renita was in her teens, her mother brought home a collection of houseplants that tickled Renita’s passion for plants.  Renita said it was in her college days that she dove head-first into gardening herself when she came into ownership of her own large collection of houseplants.

How did that interest become a lifelong activity?

Renita said that in her 30’s, she began work as a seasonal greenhouse worker and once she began working at a greenhouse full-time, she was content and happy.  At that point, her passion for gardening stuck.

“Remember, every gardening year has successes and failures, just like people.”          – Renita Kainz          

Renita’s garden organization participation.

The Garden Plotters

Renita explained that in 2006, she, along with greenhouse co-workers, started a garden club known as the Garden Plotters. The club has evolved into a fun social group that allows members to share their passion for gardening.  The club meets monthly to share ideas, view local gardens, and listen to speakers among other things. The club members also volunteer time, energy, and money to Kuhnert Arboretum.  To date, the Garden Plotters have raised nearly $17,000 for Kuhnert Arboretum with their club’s annual plant sale.

Aberdeen Garden Plotters Photo from Kuhnert Arboretum Facebook Page
Photo courtesy of Kuhnert Arboretum Facebook page.

The 2018 Garden Plotter’s Plant Sale is celebrating its 10th Anniversary.  For more information about the annual plant sale, please check out the club’s Facebook page at Aberdeen Garden Plotters.

Master Gardener Program

Renita started her master gardener training in 2008 and became certified in 2010.  Since then she has been involved with the Prairie Partners Master Gardener Club,  holding office for six years, including serving as president for three.

Hardy Rosarians of South Dakota

Most recently, Renita joined the Hardy Rosarians of South Dakota. This club also volunteers time and resources to Kuhnert Arboretum, having designed and installed the recent rose garden addition which includes 100 roses of 51 varieties that are hardy in South Dakota’s Zone 4 climate zone.

Kuhnert Arboretum rose garden
Kuhnert Arboretum rose gardens. Photo courtesy of Kuhnert Arboretum Facebook page.

Any areas of specialty or favorite type of plants?

Renita said she doesn’t really have a favorite plant or area of gardening which she prefers.  She said that in general she loves landscape plants which include a variety of trees, shrubs, and perennials.  But, Renita said, as a hobby, she has a fondness for airplants, orchids, succulents, and exotic geraniums.

Gardening books Renita recommends:  Silent Spring by Rachel Carson,  The Truth About Garden Remedies by Jeff Gillman, and The Truth About Organic Gardening, also by Jeff Gillman.

Why is gardening organically important?

Renita said she has always loved nature.  She said she prefers organic gardening, as opposed to using synthetic chemicals, because not only do chemicals “smell bad” but as she has learned more and more about synthetic chemicals, she realized just how dangerous they are to people and the environment. Renita pointed out that synthetic chemicals sometimes kill off the beneficial microbes in the soil which help keep plants healthy and strong.

“If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your plants.” –Renita Kainz

What are three frequently asked gardening questions?

Renita said the most frequently asked question is, “How often should I water?” followed by, “What’s wrong with this plant?” and “What can I plant that I don’t have to do anything with?”  These are all very common garden questions that most gardeners face at some point.  The answers to these questions of course, rely on the details of the garden, the plant, or the gardener involved.

Column evergreen with metal flower

What are three gardening tips or hints every gardener should know?

  1.  “Tough love is better than too much kindness.”  Renita and I laughed about this hint because we agree that more plants are killed from too much attention than not enough.
  2. “Don’t be afraid to try anything.”  Renita said that she has killed far more plants than she has ever successfully grown, which I think most gardeners could agree with!
  3. “Do your own research, either through books, magazines, the internet, or by asking experts.”  Renita recommends educating yourself on your topic of interest prior to planting.  She cautioned that in regard to internet searches, it is best to use sites that end in .edu or .org as these sites can usually be trusted for accuracy. Use caution with information from other sites as the information may not be reliable.

What are the benefits of becoming a master gardener?

Renita said that master gardeners are trained in horticulture by experts in the field.  The “job” of the Master Gardener is to pass along this information to educate the public.  She said the experience allowed her to meet like-minded people and the training  satisfied her deep desire to keep learning about gardening, a subject she is very passionate about.


It was great fun to interview Renita about her passion and expansive knowledge of gardening.  And, I was very honored to have a tour of her beautifully landscaped yard and awesome backyard greenhouse.  I hope this interview stoked your passion for gardening and all the joys that come with it.

The next interview in the Interviews with Experts series is with expert commercial grower and retail operations manager, Dana Althoff.  Until then,

Happy Gardening!

Quote of the Day

“The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.”

-Gertrude Jekyll, British horticulturalist



Growing The Nearly Indestructible Daylily

For new gardeners, the vast sea of flower choices for a new perennial garden can be overwhelming.  Hemerocallis, or the daylily as they are more commonly known, is a great place to start.   Not only are daylilies easy to grow and hard to kill, but they also come in a rainbow of colors and many sizes.

Fun Fact:  The common name “daylily” comes from the fact that each individual bloom on the hemerocallis plant lasts only 1 day.

Origins of the Daylily

Hemerocallis or common daylily
Hemerocallis: photo by Wanette Lenling

Daylilies are perennial plants that have been grown in Asia for thousands of years.  These plants were relished not only for their beauty but because they are also edible and used for medicinal purposes.  Daylilies are thought to have been introduced to Europe around 400 years ago and then were imported into the United States by early Europeans.

Fun Fact:  There are now more than 80,000 registered cultivars of hemerocallis.

Plant Description

Daylilies are fast growing easy care perennials that come in a wide variety of colors and sizes.

double daylily bloom
Peach double daylily bloom: Photo by http://www.alldaylilies.com


Daylilies grow in a vase-shaped arching clump of dark green grass-like foliage with blades that are 1-2 feet long and up to 1 inch wide. Daylilies can grow anywhere from 12 to 36 inches or more in height and between 12 to 24 inches wide.

Hemerocallis 'Swirling Waters'
Hemerocallis ‘Swirling Waters’: Photo by Wanette Lenling


Hemerocallis blooms generally have six petals centered around a tube-shaped throat, however some recent cultivars have double blooms meaning they have more than 6

Hemerocallis 'Seal of Approval'
Tri-colored bloom from Hemerocallis ‘Seal of Approval’: Photo from Bluestone Perennials

petals (see peach double bloom daylily pictured above). Daylilies  come in shades of nearly white, yellow, blue, red, pink, orange, purple, and black. Many cultivars have blooms with dual or triple color combinations as well.

Petals on more recent cultivars have also been bred to exhibit a ruffled appearance. The tri-colored cultivar ‘Seal of Approval’ (right) exhibits such ruffled petals whereas the ‘Swirling Waters’ cultivar (above) has the more traditional smooth petals.

How to Grow a Daylily

Daylilies are extremely easy to grow and generally take care of themselves. Daylilies naturalize well in open areas but they don’t compete well with trees and shrubs.   The plants are adapted to grow in zones 3-9.  Plant in average well-drained loamy soil.  For best results, grow in full sun to partial sun.  Dead-head spent flowers and remove old flower stalks to keep a tidy appearance and to encourage re-bloomers to continue blooming.  Water established plants deeply only once or twice per week unless there are drought conditions, extreme heat, or sandy soil, in which case plants may need watering for frequently.

Fun Fact: Some newer cultivars are referred to as “re-bloomers” which means that they  will bloom more than once or continuously throughout the summer.

Trouble Shooting:

  • Few to no blooms:
    • Over-fertilization can reduce the number of blooms. Add compost in the spring around your hemerocallis or a small amount of general all-purpose slow release fertilizer to feed your daylily all summer long. High nitrogen fertilizer will reduce the number of blooms.
    • Low light can reduce the number of blooms.  Move the plant to a full sun location if the plant fails produce abundant blooms.
  • Over-watering:
    • Over-watering can lead to many issues including fungal disease and root rot. In general,  water deeply only once or twice per week.
  • Diseases:
    • Leaf streak fungus: This fungus is not normally deadly to the plant but causes cosmetic issues. Remove infected leaves.  Water and fertilize the plant to encourage new growth.  Water with
      daylily leaf streak fungus
      Daylily leaf streak fungus infestation. Photo by University of Wisconsin Extension

      soaker hose or drip irrigation which puts the water directly on the ground to stop the spread of the fungus.  Apply fungicides containing chlorothalonil, mancozeb or thiophanate-methyl  during wet weather to prevent the disease.

  • Insect trouble:
    • Aphids and thrips may take up residence in your hemerocallis.  Remove dead foliage and treat with a soap and water mixture or a commercial insecticide.

Daylilies are a fantastic addition to any sunny garden. They can be used in a formal as well as informal garden and require little care for the beauty they produce.

Happy Gardening!


Quote of the Day

“A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition.”

-William Arthur Ward, American writer