Some people mistakenly refer to the tawny daylily as a native wildflower. It is not, but it is easy to think so by seeing how it thrives along Georgia roadsides, in ditches and at abandoned homesites.
This common daylily does not have the ability to produce seeds; it is sterile. It overcomes this by being a vigorous spreader with a hearty constitution. Every patch of tawny daylilies you see blooming in May and June was originally planted by someone, perhaps an elderly bonneted farmwoman who purchased a few plants from an ad in the Market Bulletin, a young couple beautifying their first home with one of the cheapest and most readily available perennials, or someone with a less aesthetic, more practical reason of using them to control erosion on an embankment.
Other daylilies are more refined in color and form. The orange of the tawny daylily’s flowers is muddied and dull compared to the pure yellows, vibrant scarlets and subtle peachy pinks of newer varieties. And the ruffled, reflexed petals and enormous blooms of modern daylilies can make the old tawny look scrawny and plain. But no one would ever mistake these new varieties as being wild. Nor are they likely to outlive the person who planted them and become a beautiful part of the landscape the way the tawny daylily has.
I love the old tawny. Whenever I see it growing at some forgotten wayside spot, I thank a past gardener, perhaps long gone, who took the time to add some color to the Georgia landscape.