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The Daylily Place: Foliage Habit

Dormant, Evergreen, or Semi-evergreen?

To answer some questions about how to evaluate foliage habit in the early winter garden, this page suggests the approached used in our survey of daylily cultivar foliage habits.

First, it may be too early to evaluate some of the plants, which may not have made up their minds yet. I suggest making some notes on what you are seeing now, and look at them again in 3 to 4 weeks for comparison.

The usual definition of "Dormant" (= deciduous) is that all the mature foliage is dead, all the way down to the crown. Even the most dormant of daylilies however tend to keep at least a "button" of live, healthy green foliage right on the crown. If that "button" is not more than 1" tall, I still call it "dormant." If that green button is gone, what you are looking at is probably a "Dead" daylily -- at least the main crown might be.

If there is no sign of entire leaves being shed (that is, all foliage is green and is healthy at least right next to the crown) then you can consider it to be "Evergreen." A better way to judge "evergreen" is to look for signs of "ever-growing" foliage through the winter. An Ever-growing daylily will send continue to elongate the smaller leaves every time the weather hits a mild spell, right through the whole of winter. Eventually, all the leaves of an "Evergreen" will be green -- possibly green mush -- toward the base, but in very cold weather they may be killed at the outer ends.

If some or even many of the mature leaves have died clear to the base, but there is a cluster of short green leaves (but taller than 1 inch) still in the plant, call it "Semi-evergreen" -- SE. It is necessary to make some judgement calls in some cases, which may end up being a bit arbitrary in any one single case. However, if we pool results from 5 or 10 different gardens for such cultivars, we may get more of an idea of how it behaves. That is one purpose of the Dormancy Database.

Also, it seems highly likely that the concept of "Semi-Evergreen" as defined by Stout may apply rarely or never. What I think we are seeing is that there is a broad spectrum of foliage habits in daylilies, ranging from fully "Dormant" (deciduous) cultivars at one extreme to fully "Evergreen" (ever-growing) varieties at the other. Most cultivars will likely fall somewhere in between, and in fact the vast majority of reports in the first Dormancy survey showed an overwhelming majority of SE observations, overall. A few were Dor everywhere, and a few more were Ev everywhere. Most were reported as chiefly SE with scattered reports of Dor or Ev.

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Revised last on 19 November 2002

© Copyright 2002 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.