Daylily vs Lily: What Are Their Differences?

Written by Heather Hall
Published: October 6, 2022
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Key Points

  • Daylilies are not true lilies but a member of a different scientific family entirely.
  • Daylilies have strap-like or grass-like leaves, while lilies have leaves that grow in a spiral pattern up the stem.
  • Daylilies are edible, while every part of the lily is highly toxic, especially to cats.

The names are confusing because they both contain the word lily, but daylilies are not lilies. They are a plant that grows by a tuberous root system, while the lily grows from an underground bulb. They differ in several other important ways, such as growth pattern, toxicity, flower size, flower shape, and climate. We will discuss the differences and similarities in more detail below.

Comparing Daylily vs. Lily


Daylily flowers are primarily orange or yellow, although a few hybrid pinks and purples can be found at specialty nurseries.


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Scientific Familygenus Hemerocallis, family Asphodelaceae. 30,000 varietiesgenus Lilium, family Liliaceae.
100 varieties
Type of PlantA flowering perennial that grows from tuberous rootsAn herbaceous flowering plant that grows from a bulb
Stem Countmultiple stemssingle stem
Petals6 petals grown in layers6 petals – not layered
Anthers2 anthers plus 6 stamens6 anthers plus 6 stamens
LeavesLong strap-shaped leaves grow from the soil line upwardLeaves grow in a spiral pattern around the single stem
Bloom LengthBlooms last for one dayBlooms last for 7-10 days
Flower ShapeCircular-shaped or triangular-shaped flowers. Can be single, double, or ruffledTrumpet-shaped, bowl-shaped, or funnel-shaped. Single or double
Flower SizeCan be from 3 inches to 15 inches wideCan be from 4 inches to 5 inches wide
Plant Height2 to 4 feet tall2 to 10 feet tall
Colorsred, orange, yellow, pink, purplewhite, yellow, pink, red, and orange
ToxicEdibleHighly toxic
USDA Hardiness ZoneZones ALLZones 3-9

Key Differences Between Daylily vs. Lily

The key difference between daylilies and lilies is the length of bloom times, with daylilies only lasting one day. Other differences include growth type and height, growing requirements, propagation, and toxicity.

Let us discuss these things in more detail now.

Daylily vs. Lily: Plant and Flower Description

Wood Lily

The lily grows a single stem right out of the ground and forms a single flower at the top.


The daylily has a grassy appearance, with long strappy leaves that grow from the base of the soil outward. They are usually only two or three feet tall and grow in clumps, much like decorative clumping grass.

Daylily flowers are primarily orange or yellow, although a few hybrid pinks and purples can be found at specialty nurseries. Each plant grows multiple stems of flowers from the middle of the plant. Each flower is three or four inches wide, but much larger hybrids exist. The flowers are triangular or star-shaped and have six petals that grow in layers on top of each other. These lovely flowers bloom in the morning and last for one day only.

The lily grows a single stem right out of the ground and forms a single flower at the top; for this reason, they are often planted in large groupings, as they look rather sad standing alone. The leaves grow in a whorl around the stem.

There are many types of lilies, but they often come in red, orange, and yellow. A true lily always has six petals and six anthers. Each bloom is four or five inches in diameter and shaped like a trumpet or funnel. The flowers are good for indoor vases and last seven to ten days.

Daylily vs. Lily: Growth Type and Height

Daylily, Hemerocallis 'Ruffled Apricot'

Daylilies are not known for their size and stay under four feet tall.

© G Gantar

Daylilies grow by tuberous roots, and the root gets longer and will spread along, sprouting new plants as it goes. Daylilies are not known for their size and stay under four feet tall.

Lilies are bulbs, similar to daffodils and tulips. The bulbs multiply underground and slowly provide you with new flowers. Most lilies are two to four feet tall, but some hybrid growers have varieties that grow as tall as ten feet!

Daylily vs. Lily: Growing Requirements

White water lily - Latin name - Nymphaea alba

Water lilies are beautiful white perennial plants that provide food for


and wildlife.


You can plant either of these flowering plants in the very early spring or fall. If burying your tubers or bulbs in the fall, it is essential to get them in the ground at least four weeks preceding your last frost date so they can put down strong roots before the ground freezes.

Daylilies and lilies both enjoy a garden location with full sun and well-drained, rich soil. These plants thrive in raised beds or pots if you have water-logged soil.

Daylilies are very winter hardy and will grow in any USDA Hardiness zone. Lilies are also very robust, growing in zones 3-10.

Daylily vs. Lily: Propagation


Daylilies are very winter hardy and will grow in any USDA Hardiness zone.

©Serge Goujon/

To propagate a daylily, wait until all of the foliage has naturally died back in the fall. Dig up the whole plant and divide the tuber into sections. You will see where to divide it, as each section has a natural demarcation and its own set of roots.

To propagate a lily, you want to wait several years after planting. At this time, you will see smaller lily plants growing around the mother plant in a crowded formation. Dig up the bulbs in the fall after the leaves have all turned brown and died. Separate the smaller baby bulbs and replant them in a new location. It is generally a good idea to apply fertilizer before replanting everyone.

Daylily vs. Lily: Toxicity

Are Lilies Poisonous - White Lily

Lilies are highly toxic.

©Anton Nikitinskiy/

Daylilies are edible. They are often used in Asian cuisine, both fresh and dried. You can pluck the young shoots, boil the tubers like potatoes, or add the colorful daylily flowers to your salads.

Lilies, on the other hand, are highly toxic. Many cats have died from kidney failure by consuming even a tiny part of a leaf or flower petal from a lily. Small amounts from licking the pollen grains or drinking water out of the vase can be toxic to your pet.

Lilies are also toxic to children and dogs, but to a much lesser degree. If you suspect your child has ingested a lily, contact poison control, as some varieties are more dangerous than others.

If you suspect your cat has eaten any part of a lily, treat this as an emergency and seek immediate veterinary care, as even waiting 12 hours can be fatal.


The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

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