Tawny Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)


Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Other Names:

common daylily, daylily, Eve's thread, orange daylily, tawny orange lily.

Origin and Distribution:

Tawny daylily is a hybrid member of a genus native to the temperate regions of Asia. Legend indicates that it was brought to North America by sea captains, who presented the flowers to their wives after traveling the Orient. Following its introduction, tawny daylily was widely cultivated in North American gardens, and escaped plants may now be found scattered throughout temperate regions of the continent. Tawny daylily is especially troublesome in the northeastern U.S. It is common throughout Ohio, and can be found growing weedy along roadsides and banks, and in neglected meadows and other waste areas. Plants grow best in rich, damp, gravelly soil, and can tolerate full sun to partial shade.

Plant Description:

Tawny daylily is a clump-forming perennial, characterized by its beautiful orange flowers which line the roadsides in July. This species is not a true lily, as indicated by its unspotted blossoms and leafless stems. Tawny daylily reproduces primarily by rhizomes (horizontal underground stems) and tuber-like roots, and rarely by seeds.

  • Root System:

    Tawny daylily develops rhizomes (horizontal underground stems) and fleshy, tuberous, spindle-shaped roots, with thinner, fibrous roots growing from both to form a dense system.

  • Stems:

    Stems are smooth, round, leafless and branched at the top, growing 2 to 4 feet tall (sometimes up to 6 feet). A few small, leaf-like bracts may develop in the upper portion of the stem.

  • Leaves:

    Sword-like leaves are arranged in pairs and grow only at the base of the plant. The leaves are 1 to 3 feet long, narrow, smooth and slightly folded, with a central ridge running lengthwise down the back of the leaf.

  • Flowers:

    A few to several upward-facing flowers are borne in a branched cluster at the top of the stem. The blossoms are orange, funnel-shaped and unspotted. Each flower opens for only one day, and is composed of 3 petals with wavy margins and 3 petal-like sepals. The petals and sepals are fused below the middle to form a tube, but spread widely at the top to form a blossom 3 1/2 inches wide. The blossoms do not have a fragrance.

  • Fruits and Seeds:

    A three-sectioned capsule is produced. Since this species is a hybrid, most plants do not produce seeds, but if produced, seeds are rarely viable.

Similar Species:

The yellow daylily (also called lemon lily, Hemerocallis lilio-asphodelus, Hemerocallis flava) is another introduced species from Asia that has spread from cultivation. It can be distinguished from tawny daylily by its fragrant, yellow, spring- to summer-blooming flowers, and its smaller stature. Tawny daylily may be confused superficially with the native wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum), a true lily whose orange, upright flowers may be seen blooming along roadsides and in clearings. However, the wood lily has spotted flowers and leaves growing along the length of the stem.


The tawny daylily blooms from June through July. Flowers open in the morning and close around dark, never to open again. However, because there are many flower buds on each stem and many stems in a clump, plants may bloom for several weeks.

Tawny daylily is a hybrid species, and plants found in the U.S. tend not to produce seeds. Instead, plants spread by rhizomes and tuberous roots. Control of tawny daylily involves plowing and raking in the fall, followed by clean cultivation, or hand-removal of the root system for small infestations.


Although all parts of the plant are edible, some reports warn that consumption of large quantities of young shoots can be hallucinogenic and should be avoided.

Facts and Folklore:

  • The genus name of tawny daylily, Hemerocallis, means 'beautiful for a day', and the species name, fulva describes the tawny orange color of the flower.

  • All parts of the daylily are edible, and plants have been cultivated for thousands of years in Asia for food. The buds or new flowers are regularly cooked and eaten in China and Japan. In addition, the rhizomes can be chopped and cooked like potatoes, and are said to be as sweet as sweet corn. The tuberous roots have a nutlike flavor, and can be eaten raw or roasted. Young shoots have been prepared like asparagus, but consumption should be avoided (see Toxicity).

  • Many new daylily hybrids have been or are being developed in this country, providing a wide variety of flower colors, shapes and sizes, as well as flowers that may last a week or more.