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LuEsther T. Mertz Library
Plant & Research Guides

Divine Daylilies: Fragrant Daylilies

Hemerocallis citrina; photo by Ivo Vermeulen
Hemerocallis citrina; photo by Ivo Vermeulen

Daylilies are generally grown for their large, trumpet shaped blossoms that jump out at you in a mixed planting, shouting ‘look at me’. And you should; they come in a vast array of shapes, colors and sizes and there are over 52,000 cultivars to choose from, many of them garden worthy companions.

When you are navigating catalogs and descriptions to find a daylily that suits your gardening style there is a basic terminology that is helpful to know. The throat is the interior of the flower, the eye zone lies just above it forming a band of color on the petals, and a halo is a faint band of color. Some daylilies are bi-colored, some are doubles and some have a graceful recurved (curling backwards) shapes. While size, color and form are generally the attributes that gardeners assess when buying a daylily, fragrance is another factor to consider.

Daylilies as a whole are not a particularly fragrant perennial. The majority of the cultivars on the market possess no fragrance. Cultivars marketed as fragrant often possess a fragrance that is so subtle that it is difficult to detect even the faintest whiff of an aroma.

There are some daylilies, however, that are intensely or noticeably fragrant and worth getting to know. A favorite with bright lemony flowers is called ‘Hyperion’. It has an intense fragrance that is truly floral and not overpowering. ‘Northbrook Star’ has a slightly paler yellow and a sweet fragrance that is similar to ‘Hyperion’, but perhaps a bit more lemony. 

A species daylily named Hemerocallis citrina has pale lemon yellow flowers and a lemony floral fragrance. This daylily and another species Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus (syn. flava) are the parents for many of the fragrant yellow cultivars. The former is known as the citron daylily and the latter as the lemon daylily. They are worth searching out and are ideal, low-maintenance additions to a fragrance garden.

Fragrant Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus at NYBG; photo by Ivo Vermeulen
Fragrant Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus at NYBG; photo by Ivo Vermeulen

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