Daylilies do best in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sun each day, so many possible flower and other plant replacements will do quite well in the same garden area. The key point is making sure you know just what you want—and what will thrive—in the daylilies’ spot before spending time and money on a garden replacement project.
Be clear about why you’re removing your daylilies, which will clarify replacement options. Do you want different or more varied flower colors? Would you be happy with the same general garden profile—medium-tall bedding or border plants—or something dramatically different? Do you prefer plants with one fairly brief annual blooming period, like daylilies, or something quite different, perhaps even several seasons of blooms? Would you prefer permanent perennials that are similarly low maintenance, or an ever-changing array of annuals requiring more effort? Answer these questions, talk with local master gardeners and visit local and regional botanical gardens to generate ideas.
Daylilies do well in rich, loamy, well-drained soils, but they are also adapted to a wide range of soil types and pH ranges. If you’re not sure about your soil’s fertility and other characteristics, do simple home-soil testing and get more information. This too will help focus your replacement search—and will also give you a jump start on making soil improvements, if that becomes necessary.
If planting a permanent replacement is the top priority, replace daylilies with true lilies, or any plants from the genus Lilium, including Asiatic, Oriental, tiger and trumpet lilies. These are very showy but hardy easy-care plants, and by selecting an array of early, mid-season and late blooming varieties you’ll enjoy them from late spring through summer. Iris plants are another option, also easy, hardy and offering a similar garden profile with a rainbow range of colors and drought-tolerant gray-green foliage. Or consider crocosmia, with iris-like foliage, graceful arched stems and blazing bright blooms. Summer blooming bulbs to consider include gladiolas, dahlias and calla lilies, though these are less hardy.
If you’re removing daylilies because you want something different yet equally traditional, a cottage garden may be the way to go. Cottage gardens lend an old-fashioned sensibility, offering permanence yet a wide variety of plant shapes, textures and blossoms—and season after season of fragrant cut flowers. Depending on personal preference, your cottage garden might include both perennials and annual flowers, from roses, lilacs, hollyhocks and foxgloves to baby’s breath, daffodils, sweet peas and zinnias. Classic cottage gardens, designed for utility, also include a variety of herbs and other medicinal or edible plants as well as fruit trees, berries and flowering shrubs. Their primary drawback may be stylistic, given they can seem out of place in many modern urban and suburban settings. They also require skilled attention to establish and maintain them.
Cottage gardens fulfilled the daily needs of everyday people living in the Victorian era. Consider designing a practical, present-day variation of the same general approach for your sunny site—an eclectic garden that reflects your own family’s needs and preferences. Culinary herbs, both perennial and annuals, might combine well with striking native shrubs that support local bird populations. Plan for four seasons of favorite cut flowers and also leave space for favorite summer vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers. Get creative and come up with a garden design that suits your home’s style and setting as well.