Daylily Spirit, A Delicious and Sturdy Wild Plant Spirit

Daylily Spirit, A Delicious and Sturdy Wild Plant Spirit July 17, 2020

When I envision the perfect daylily spirit I always see it growing in ditches along highways along with chicory, its best bud. (Pun intended) It’s a summer plant, but I’ve seen it bloom anywhere from late May through July in my zone 5b climate. It’s likely that heat and lack of water trigger blooming, since in years when we had a hot and dry spring, it bloomed much earlier. The daylily is a useful and beautiful perennial. Once you’ve planted it, it will come back year after year. Once established it doesn’t need much watering and it fills that summer heat with beauty, the buds are edible, and the spirit of the daylily makes an excellent protector ally.

A digital watercolor painting of a daylily spirit with pink poppies and mustard in the background

How to Identify Daylily

The daylily has long skinny leaves that grow in a bunch directly from the ground, unlike Asiatic Lilies which grow on a stem with leaves coming off from the sides of the stem.  The Asiatic lily is toxic, so make sure that you’ve correctly identified the common daylily. The flowers of the daylily are above the leaves on a long stem that has no leaves at all. Each stem has a number of buds, with one blossom open and a bunch of buds that are not yet opened, each a little smaller than the last.  This is why it’s called a daylily.  Each blossom only lasts for one day, and each day a new bud gets ready to open.  There are a number of fancy hybrid daylilies including the ubiquitous yellow Stella D’Oro Daylily that seems to be the favorite of every landscaping company ever. The daylily I’m speaking about is the wild variety. It’s larger than its tamed cousins, and the blossoms are bright almost tomato-y orange on top and a lighter pumpkin orange underneath. I don’t recommend eating the buds of the hybridized ones that come in pretty colors like yellow and pink.  You really only want to eat the wild ones.

How to Eat Daylily Buds

Make sure you’re not gathering from the roadside, where heavy metals can accumulate in the soil. Also, make sure you’re harvesting where there’s plenty to harvest from.  A good rule of thumb is to take no more than a 5th of any stand.  Better yet, grow your own! You can pick all the daylily buds off a plant if you want, but then you don’t get any more flowers. I like to pull just the one or two largest buds, which means I only have to wait for a day or two to get flowers again. The root is also edible, if you want to eat it, but the leaves are not edible.  Mostly, I just eat the buds because it’s easy. I often toss them in with my pea or bean harvest.

Daylily Lunch-y Stirfry Recipe

  • 2 handfuls of daylily buds
  • a bunch of green onions chopped
  • a couple of leaves of kale, chard, or collards, whatever you happen to be growing or have bought, chopped into bite-sized pieces.
  • a handful or two of some snap peas or beans, depending on what’s in season.
  • some oil or butter
  • salt to taste
  • an egg or two

Toss the leafy greens in first with the oil and let them fry a bit while you scramble your eggs. After a couple of minutes, add the daylily buds, green onions, peas, beans, or whatever other veg you have.  Let that cook for a minute more.  Then if the pan looks a bit dry, I will add a bit more butter or oil, then drizzle in the scrambled egg and give it a quick last few tosses to cook. Salt and pepper to taste. You can top it with whatever you’d like. I’m partial to pickled red onions, a little bit of fish, like sardines or smoked salmon, and maybe a bit of salsa or mustard.

The Daylily Spirit

The Daylily spirit is a good ally to have. It is friendly to those who it likes, but it has good boundaries.  Have you noticed how tightly the roots pack? They can easily exclude other plant species, though they do grow happily with chicory along roads and in ditches.  Call on Daylily when you need good boundaries, or when you need to be steady and bloom day after day.  Remember, just like the daylily a human can’t bloom forever. So if you are calling on the daylily spirit to make you strong, productive, and positive, plan in some break time afterward as well.

The best way to connect with the daylily is to grow some in your yard or find some in a garden or wild area. Once you’ve found a patch you like, examine it.  Look at the shoots and the buds, dig your fingers into the earth a bit and peer at the roots. If you’re the artistic sort, draw a picture of it. If you prefer writing, bring along your journal and write down your impressions of the plant and surrounding species. If it doesn’t feel too exposed, maybe do a little daylily dance or prayer.

Prayer to the Daylily Spirit

Bright Daylily I see you, sending your stems upward
Blooming Daylily I see you, every day a new blossom
Blessed Daylily, I see you, giving so much of yourself
Thank you for giving us food and beauty and guarding the boundaries.
Smiling one, you shine like the sun and I thank you.
May you lend me your gifts, may I be sharing like you, productive like you, strong like you.
May it be so.


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