When I first started perennial gardening, daylilies were all the rage. They have strappy foliage that looks like a very robust grass and pretty flowers that resemble asian lilies and are only open for one day (hence the name). Hybridizers went crazy with them, and the flowers come in a huge array of sizes and colors and peak bloom time.
Everyone said they were low maintenance, and they probably believed it. The plants will probably live forever and they can tolerate a wide variety of conditions - so if all you care about is survival, than they are very easy to grow. If you want them to look good in the garden, they require a lot of daily fussing during their entire bloom season. You see, each flower lasts only for a day, and there will be tons of flowers, but they don’t fall off on their own. Every morning new flowers are opening right next to the soggy dead mass that was yesterday’s flowers. They look like used kleenex, and if the flowers are large or vividly colored, they look like you have a bad sinus infection.
So everyday, the gardener has to remove dead flowers without injuring today’s flower or tomorrow’s buds, and after the bloom the dead stalks need to be removed. It’s not a horrible job, but it gets to be a drag. If you want the plant to have a big impact on your garden, you need to have a lot flowers which means a lot of deadheading. They require a fair bit of maintenance after they flower, too. Some rebloom, but they need a little encouragement: consistent moisture and assiduous deadheading (don’t let them set seed). Even if they don’t rebloom, you have to decide what to do with the foliage, which can look very tatty as the summer wears on.
There is no point having a showy flower if it just draws attention to the unattractive parts of the plant. There are many plants that have a high maintenance reputation even though they just need to be staked in late spring or divided once a year, and I think daily fussing is a lot more work than a single annual job.
I bought quite a few during their heyday, but they have been culled. I kept the plants that have flower colors I particularly love and bloom during lulls (it’s not easy to keep a perennial garden blooming consistently from March to October). My favorites are the old fashion orange daylilies, Hemerocallis fulva, (which are actually pretty shade tolerant) and a pretty hybrid that has a soft yellow flower with pink highlights (I don’t remember its name). I don’t care for orange-yellow daylilies (like ‘Stella d’oro’) or the purple/red ones, which flower less and have particularly ugly deadheads.