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Easy Asters and Durable Daylilies

In the plant world, mid-summer is when the going gets tough and the tough get going. Most flowers have spent their colorful energy and retreated into dull dormancy till next year. But right about now is when certain heat-loving blooms go plum crazy. The Asters and Daylilies are big bloomers during hot summer days.

The Asteraceae, or daisy family, is a big, boisterous clan with 21,000 species. Among others, it includes the giant sunflower, bright yellow goldenrod, popular chrysanthemum, and the lowly ragweed, hated by allergy sufferers. Most are native plants, ubiquitous in temperate regions of North America. The African daisy is a popular import with a huge following, often cultivated indoors because of its tropical nature. Some of the easiest to grow and appreciate are the annuals--the pot-grown marigolds (Caladium), China asters and floss flower. Many nurseries are intensifying propagation and experimentation, specializing in various species. For example, 15 Florida growers deal in nothing but caladiums. You can stick bulbs in the ground and leave them there in warmer zones, or north of zone 7 cultivate them as annuals. Greenhouses are experimenting with wild colors for marigolds, so it's not just your basic yellow anymore.

The daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.) are hardy perennials with 2,800 varieties. Their one-to-three foot stalks support blooms that just keep on blooming. Although each individual flower lasts a day or so, more blooms take its place to create a show that lasts for weeks. Another advantage is their rapid growth and reproduction. Two-fan clumps can multiply into 30 fans within five years. Their long, blade-like leaves and curled petals are a distinctive touch planted in groups or blended into a mixed border.

Daylilies prefer full sun and well-drained soil in zones 3 through 9. Don't plant too deeply, or the plants may rot. After successful planting, your only job for years to come will be watering, fertilizing once in the spring, and thinning and dividing these long-lived, prolific performers. Your best bet is to plant a mixture of early, mid-, and late season cultivars, in groups of at least three for full visual impact, or long drifts. Remember to deadhead the spent blooms to stimulate additional flowers.

Sources used to create this article include Country Living Gardener magazine.

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