For Terry Pitts, planting daylilies has grown from a hobby to an obsession. Before retirement, Pitts, who lives in Sterling, worked in landscaping and grew this annual for fun.
After retirement, daylilies became Pitts’ primary focus. Others around the country have the same passion for this blossom, which blooms for one day.
"They come in every color except blue," said Georgia’s Scott Elliot, the president of the American Daylily Society. "They have stripes and spots and they range from one inch to 14 inches in diameter."
More than 5,600 daylily growers are members of the ADS. Because daylilies are versatile, they grow throughout the U.S. And although the flowers last one day, one plant may have dozens of blooms in a three-week period.
"You need to match the daylily to your climate zone," Elliot said. "Yellow and orange are the most popular. They’re more toward the original species from China and Japan."
Some gardeners grow the flowers for pure passion, and like Mary Lou Lundblade, who is vice president of the Wichita Daylily Club, give the plants to friends and neighbors. Jess Danner, of the Topeka Daylily Club, has worked with the flower for more than 25 years. Both Lundblade and Danner buy new plants each year to add to their collection. Plants range from $5 to $200, depending on genetics and popularity.
According to Elliot, there are 93,000 varieties of daylilies, of which more than 60,000 will grow successfully in Kansas.
"They like heat," Danner said. "Anybody can grow them. It’s very addictive."
All the daylily shows were canceled this year, but the Wichita chapter will hold a tour on June 27 and then a sale at Botanica on the last Saturday in August. The Topeka chapter is holding a sale on Aug. 22 at the Topeka Farmers Market.
Three other chapters meet in Kansas. These include Prairie Winds Daylily Society in Wichita, Bluestem Daylily Society in Salina and Flint Hills Daylily Society.
Although daylilies bloom throughout the summer, Donner said they peak on July 4.
Pitts sells many of his 10,000 seedlings throughout the flowering season. A few years ago, he began hybridizing and creating new colors and patterns.
"I have four generations of my own genetics," Pitts said. "My goal is to hybridize for flowers that other breeders would want to use in their hybridizing flowers."
For Pitts, digging in the dirt and creating beauty go hand in hand. He is selling his daylilies from 8 a.m. to noon for the next five weekends on his daylily farm, Teardrop Farm Daylily Patch, near downtown Sterling. People come to his property, view the flowers, tag them and pick them up in September.
Pitts gets customers from around the area. In addition to the daylilies, he makes shallow cement butterfly and bee baths that collect water for the pollinators and look like leaves.
"Sometimes people come back year after year and show me pictures of their ‘kids’ (daylilies)," Pitts said. "I’m a daylily addict."
Teardrop Farm Daylily Patch: 620-204-0494.