How to Identify Daylilies and Irises

"Differences between iris and daylily…In the foliage and root department, the daylily has a kind of rosette like base for the straps, with lots of smaller roots with little nodule like pieces along them. Iris have a large tuberish root, and the leaves come out of it in a definite flat fan-like way. Bearded iris flowers have six petals; three upright petals (called standards) and three hanging petals (called falls). A fuzzy line or beard runs down the middle of each fall, hence the name. Each individual flower blooms for a week or so,  Daylily flowers have 3 petals and 3 sepals that look like petals, but they don’t have the turned up and turned down appearance of the iris’ standards and falls. They also don’t have that fuzzy line, although some are doubled and look ruffled. Also, each individual daylily flower only lasts about a day, with the remains hanging around while the next flower blooms."  - Source:

Daylily (

Photography by Jim Bolner, Sr.

Daylilies grow from thick,
tuberous roots that are easily divided. Daylilies are popular with hybridizers and there are over 30,000 named varieties. They all have the following characteristics in common.

Foliage: The leaves are a dead giveaway as to which plant you have. Daylilies have long, flat strap-shaped blades that grow in clumps from the crown of the plant, at the soil line. Daylilies grow from about 1' high up to 4'.

Flowers: Each flower is in bloom for only 1 day. The name Hemmerocallis comes from the Greek words "hemera", which means day and "kallos", which means beauty. Most plants have multiple buds that will bloom over a period of time.

The flowers are borne on thin stalks, or scapes, that grow from the base of the plant. The scapes may be multi-branched.

Lily (Lillium)

Phootography by Jim Bolner, Sr.

All true lilies are grown from a bulb of overlapping scales. There are about 100 species of lilies, but lilies are generally defined by their classification, such as Asiatic, Oriental and Martagon (Turk’s cap).

Foliage: There is one central, unbranched stem from a lily bulb, with the flower buds forming at the top of the stem. The leaves grow around the entire length of the stem, in whorls or spirals. Lilies can grow from about 1 ½' tall to a towering 10'.

Flowers: Lilies always have 6 petals and 6 anthers. Each bloom lasts a week or more. The lowest buds on the stem will open first and the remaining buds will open sequentially through to the top most buds.

Lilies flowers also come in a variety of forms, including: trumpet-shaped, bowl-shaped, funnel-shaped and recurved.


Even More Confusing, What’s a Tiger Lily?

Tiger lily is a common name given to orange lilies that have naturalized along the side of the road. The name was originally given to a true lily (Lillium) that has bright orange blossoms speckled with dark-brown spots. Blooms are orange or reddish orange and have dark-brown speckles covering the petals. The petals of the tiger lily curve backwards and the whole blossom droops downward.

There is an orange daylily that has also naturalized along roadways. Many people refer to these daylilies as tiger lilies, but the weren’t the plant originally designated as the tiger lily. These orange roadsides lilies have their own, less flattering common name - ditch lilies.