Should You Eat Your Daylilies?

Stella de Oro daylilies at the peak of their spring bloom. They will continue to bloom all season long. Should we be eating them?
Stella de Oro daylilies at the peak of their spring bloom. They will continue to bloom all season long. Should we be eating them? | Source

The Important Disclaimer

The information presented here is to help you decide whether to incorporate daylilies (Hemerocallis) into your diet. There is controversy on the subject. Resources are conflicting and difficult to navigate because of the misunderstanding of the Hemerocallis taxonomy and also because of the huge number of Hemerocallis hybrids which have been developed in recent years. This article seeks only to inform about the daylily, its reported culinary uses, and its suspected ill-effects on cats, bovines, and possibly, humans. I do not advise you to eat daylilies or to expose your animals to them without your doing the work of assessing your own risk.

There Is Controversy Over the Safety of Eating Daylilies

Although people around the world have been eating daylilies for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, this nutritious food has never made it into the mainstay of Western cooking. Those of us in the West who know how to enjoy daylilies as food have learned to do so through family and community traditions, but most of us will never see a daylily stir fry or a daylily breakfast hash on any restaurant menu or in any mainstream cookbook. We've come to know the daylily, for the most part, only as an ornamental flower in the garden, or even as a roadside weed, and thus are unaware of its food value, but another hindrance to appreciating the daylily as a food source is that there is controversy over whether the daylily is safe to eat.

Let me define the reasons for controversy in order to help you sort out your own thinking about whether you should eat daylilies.

The daylily from the family Hemerocallidoideae commonly called "Tiger Lily" and valued as a food source for centuries.
The daylily from the family Hemerocallidoideae commonly called "Tiger Lily" and valued as a food source for centuries. | Source
The lily from the family Liliaceae, commonly called "Tiger Lily". Definitely poisonous.
The lily from the family Liliaceae, commonly called "Tiger Lily". Definitely poisonous. | Source

Reason 1 - The Common Terms “Daylily” and “Lily” are Often Confused

Much of the confusion of whether daylilies are safe to eat is caused by the semantic legacy surrounding the word “lily”. The common names “daylily” and “lily” have become, at some times and in some places in the world, interchangeable terms for describing plants belonging to two very different plant families.

Take the common term “tiger lily” for example. I know “tiger lily” as a name applied to two different plants, one a daylily (the family Xanthorrhoeaceae, subfamily Hemerocallidoideae) and one a lily (the family Liliaceae). The first is generally agreed to be safe to eat, while the second is well-documented as being toxic to animal forms including human.

I think you can see how one person might say, “I had such a wonderful tiger lily hash for breakfast this morning,” while his friend might respond, “You’ll be dead by nightfall. I'm calling 911!”

Reason 2 - The Scientific Classification of Daylilies Changed in 2009

Prior to 2009, the scientific classification of daylilies put them into the family Liliaceae. Many Liliaceae species, including that toxic tiger lily just mentioned (along with the commonly named Easter and Asian lilies), have long been known to be harmful to forms of animal life including humans, and so some came to assume that daylilies shared the specific toxic properties of lilies. They do not.

In 2009, under the APG III system, daylilies were removed from the Liliaceae family and assigned to the Xanthorrhoeaceae family, subfamily Hemerocallidoideae.

The Old and New Classifications of Hemerocallis

Old Classification
New Classification - APG III
Kingdom: Plantae
Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)
clade: Angiosperms
Superdivision: Spermatophyta (Seed plants)
clade: Monocots
Division: Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
Order: Asparagales
Class: Liliopsida (Monocotyledons)
Family: Xanthorrhoeaceae
Subclass: Liliidae
Subfamily: Hemerocallidoideae
Order: Liliales
Genus: Hemerocallis
Family: Liliaceae (Lily family)
Genus: Hemerocallis L. (Daylily)

Unfortunately, many sources on the web and elsewhere have not taken this change into account.

The most amazing example I found of this lack of updating was on the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) website, where the old taxonomy continues to be published, while at the same time another page features a study done in 2004 that states, “All parts of the daylily (Hemerocallis sp.) are edible.” Technically (taxonomically) in the most narrow sense, these two USDA pages are not at odds with each other; however, they continue to confuse the understanding that a daylily is different from a lily, because neither the USDA taxonomy nor the reference to “Hemerocallis sp.” in the 2004 study reflects the 2009 change in classification, while the latter says that all parts of the daylily are edible. Confused yet? Wait…it will get worse when we talk about purported daylily toxicity related to felines, bovines, and humans later on in this article.

Daylily Foliage and Flower Orientation

Reason 3 - To the Untrained Eye, a Daylily Can Look Like a Lily

You can tell the difference between a daylily and a lily such as the tiger, Easter, and Asian lilies mentioned earlier (lilies in the genus Lilium and the lilies most commonly confused with daylilies) by looking at them as they present above the ground and below. The two have structural differences in foliage, flower orientation, and root systems. The differences are easy to see once you know them.

Lily Foliage and Flower Orientation


Foliage The daylily foliage looks like a fan of long and strappy grass-like leaves emanating from the base of the plant. Lily leaves, on the other hand, are more lance- or arrow-shaped and grow from a prominent stalk.

Flower Orientation Daylily flowers tend to point themselves up from their stems, while lily flowers usually, although not always (as in the above photo of the tiger lily from the Liliaceae family), have a more pendulous aspect, dipping down from their stems.

What you can be sure of is this: If a lily-looking flower has a down-hanging aspect, with its petals curled upwards, then it’s not a daylily.

Daylily Root System


Lily Root System (Bulb)


Root Systems Daylily roots consist of tubers and fibrous roots. Tubers are small, bulbous, potato-looking structures. Lily roots are, for the most part, bulbs consisting of oblong or arrowhead-shaped scales.

For more information on identifying daylilies, take a look at this excellent picture and word guide on how to identify daylilies.

Reason 4 - There Is Debate Whether Daylilies are Poisonous to Cats, Cows, and Humans

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) states definitively that daylilies are poisonous to cats and cows, although it cites no scientific sources and at the same time describes Hemerocallis as belonging to the Liliaceae family.

The American Hemerocallis Society takes no stand on whether daylilies are toxic to cats and cows. Instead, they publish a series of questions on the topic and present the answers they solicited from plant and veterinary experts. This “Q & A” page is a revealing look into the two opposing camps regarding daylily toxicity.

A post on The House on Red Hill blog brings this issue into focus from the point of view of a cat owner and long-time daylily gardener who learns for the first time, from a poster in the vet’s office, that daylilies are lethal to cats. The blog post is short. The more lengthy comments are worth reading, especially the comments from dynochic(Jan) which illuminate the confusion caused by continuing to include daylilies in the Liliaceae family and offer interesting although unconfirmed evidence that daylilies are not poisonous to cats.

Botanist Dr. Peter A. Gail, an expert in daylily and other edible foraged foods, advises that humans approach the consumption of daylilies with caution. Why? Any newly introduced food may trigger an allergic reaction, or, any food eaten in excess may have an adverse effect on a specific individual; however, neither an allergic reaction nor an intolerance to a certain food indicates that the food is classified as poisonous.

Just to add to the confusion over whether we humans should eat our daylilies, “Merriwether”, a Ph.D. research chemist and naturalist, advises that you stick to Hemerocallis fulva, the most well known daylily species, and avoid the newer hybrids, some of which may be toxic.

Daylily - Hemerocallis fulva


Lily - Lilium polyphyllum


Have you eaten daylilies?

  • Yes and I like them.
  • Yes but I don't like them.
  • No but I'd like to try them.
  • No and I'm not interested in trying them.
See results without voting

So, Should You Eat Your Daylilies?

I look forward some day soon to writing an article about eating daylilies where I can affirm that not only are they good for you, they are completely safe to eat. As of now, too much controversy exists about the daylily being a safe food. Until that affirming day, use your judgment, informed by the information referenced in this article and by the advice of real-life daylily-eaters you know, before you introduce this nutritious and beautiful plant into your diet. As with all new and exciting adventures you approach, begin with moderation.

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Comments 48 comments

mecheshier profile image

mecheshier 4 years ago

What an amazing Hub! You definitely did your research. Love the pics and amazing info. Thank you. Voted up for awesome.

Pamela-anne profile image

Pamela-anne 4 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Awesome hub really enjoyed this info something I never knew people ate but for now I will just enjoy their beauty in the garden not in my garden salad loved the pics too! take care pam.

krillco profile image

krillco 4 years ago from Hollidaysburg, PA

Wow. I love to learn stuff like this! Cool Hub!

Kaili Bisson profile image

Kaili Bisson 4 years ago from Canada

Fascinating Hub with great research. Thank you for sharing.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thank you all for your good words and votes. If y'all haven't tried daylilies for food, I hope this hub gives you the information you need to make a decision.

@Pamela-anne, I know what you mean about enjoying them in the garden but not necessarily in the garden salad. :) If you ever decide to introduce daylilies to your salad, I hope this hub gives you the information you need to make the right choice for you.

drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Gee, Sally, I never knew you could eat them in the first place. Think I'll continue to just admire rather than ingest them. Fascinating research, m'dear. Voted up, y'know..

robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey

Gosh-- I never knew there was so much to know about lilies vs. daylilies etc. What a vast store of knowledge you have on the subject ST-- amazing. My tiger lilies are in bloom right now and I do enjoy looking at them, but I don't think I want to eat them so I'll pass on that-- but I voted this fabulous hub up and useful, interesting and awesome.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

drbj and robie2, I love that both of you would prefer to devour daylilies with your eyes rather than with your mouths! Truth be told, daylilies can be interesting to eat, and there are lots of good recipes on the web, but I like to just go munch the flowers raw right off the scape. They are crunchy and mildly "green" flavored (maybe like grass or fresh hay)...I can see why cats would like them.

Thank you both for your good words. :)

b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 4 years ago

What a Wonderful and most Informative Hub, Sally. The differences in the term "Daylilies is Amazing...and I too, didn't know any of them could be Edible. My Son's cat died recently, and it was believed it had gotten out of the house, and ate something from the garden. "Boo" was a house cat. I too have some Large Potted Daylilies...which are Beautiful, but I can't picture myself eating any. Thanks for sharing this important Hub.

I now look forward to Following your Hubs.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

b. Malin, thanks so much for your awesome comment. I'm delighted when I write something and readers tell me it's important and it shows them something new. :)

I'm so sorry to hear about Boo. There's so much trouble for a house cat to get into when it escapes. A house kitty just doesn't have the experience to avoid trouble, and its nine lives run out quickly.

Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

I had no idea you can eat day lilies very interesting...

great hub..good information


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, Debbie. So glad you found this interesting!

Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

Loved your hub, though I may still be a little confused by all the Latin names you've incorporated into your article! :)

Back in the '60's when I was in my "back to Nature" phase, I read Euell Gibbon's books on foraging for wild food and decided to try fried tiger lily blossoms. There were hundreds of them growing along the roadside, so I just went out and picked a bunch, dipped them in batter and fried 'em up. They actually tasted pretty good, though something had a little peppery flavor. Unfortunately, some part of the blossom did not agree with me. While I didn't have to call 911, I did spend most of the rest of the day and night within running distance of the bathroom...

According to your photographs, I'm pretty sure that these flowers were the edible daylilies, but I doubt I'll try them again!

Thanks for an interesting article! I now have several kinds of daylilies growing in my flower garden...hmmm...dinner?

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Stephanie Henkel, thanks for sharing this great story. Bottom line, the daylilies didn't kill you after all. Apparently, from the literature, not all can tolerate them, like some can't tolerate lactose.

About Euell Gibbons, there was a rumor, I don't know if it was ever confirmed, that he died eating foraged foods. That's a sad testament to his life.

As for making dinner of the daylilies growing in your flower garden, well, how about a tiny appetizer?

Thanks so much for your awesome comment.

As for the Latin terms, I was graced by Juliet from Castanea (you can find her blog by following the link under the pic of daylily roots) to help me sort out the taxonomy.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

I know there are various flowers that can be eaten and I think that really is the point as you mentioned, there are so many cross bred flowers not many of us know which ones are safe to eat or not, this was really interesting, and I love the photos too, cheers nell

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thanks, Nell Rose, for your kind words. I'm so glad you found this article interesting and enjoyed the photos. :)

There are a surprising number of flowers which are edible. You may want to check out this list and its accompanying text from the Colorado State Extension Service.

Table 2 lists edible flowers by their Latin names, although it offers no pictures. It is interesting that the only Hemerocallis that appears on the list is fulva, to your point about cross-bred flowers...fulva seems to be universally regarded as "safe" to eat, although the same is not said for hybrid cultivars.

I'm sure there is extensive information from UK sources on the web as well.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Very interesting read filled with info I did not know; the illustrations are quite helpful....I had no idea people ate day lilies. I'm still training myself to eat nasturtiums. :) Great hub!

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

LOL, billybuc, about the nasturtiums. I think it's hard to learn to eat things outside our early experiences. Flowers are for picking and putting into vases, not for eating, which is how most of us grew up. But there's a world of food goodness in flowers. One of my favorites is the chive flower (wrote a hub about that), spicy and dicey like the nasturtium, a perfect addition to a fresh green salad.

Thanks for reading and commenting... daylilies grow in your climate, you know. :) Take a look here:

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Oh, I know, they are all over around here...I just didn't know you could eat the damn things. LOL

trish1048 profile image

trish1048 4 years ago

Ok, so now wasn't a good time to read this. The first two paragraphs made my head swim. I fully understand and appreciate now, why your brain was being taxed as well.

Lovely photos, excellent information (for those who understand this), however, that's not me.

I think I will stick to dandelion wine, thanks :)

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

LOL, trish1048, where's your sense of adventure? I'll tell you what, you bring the dandelion wine for cocktail hour and I'll make the daylily poppers for an appetizer. :) Thank you, my friend, for reading and commenting.

trish1048 profile image

trish1048 4 years ago

Dandelions are as adventurous as I get :) Unless, of course, you want to count the times I've eaten mud, bugs, grass (and no, not the funny kind) and swallowed gallons of nasty ocean water. Those must be the reasons I don't feel daring, brave or adventurous :)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa

Interesting hub. I once took a Chinese cooking class and one of the recipes called for tiger lilies, but that's the extent of my lily eating.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Interesting, Deb...the cooking class called them tiger lilies? I'm sure the instructor knew the difference between the true lily and the daylily, but this is a great example of how the term "tiger lily" perpetuates confusion. Thanks for your comment!

moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

My yard is full of both daylilys and tigar lilies. I won't be eating any of them. This is a great hub with lots of information. I can tell the difference between my lilies but I sure don't know all their names. If their pretty I buy them and put them in the ground. Voted Up...

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 4 years ago

I've eaten many day-lilies and will continue. I've also had cats living in day-lilies. They've lived longer than I - in cat years.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

moonlake, you are not alone! Not everyone wants to eat daylilies. I agree that they are beautiful and have an honored place in the garden as ornamentals, and more.

A friend of mine has planted them for erosion control...once these beauties establish themselves, it takes a tsunami to dislodge them.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Interesting hub for sure! I have grown both daylilies as well as tiger lilies in the past. I think that I would rather have the beauty of them blooming in the yard rather than looking towards them as a food source. Will err on the side of safety for now. Voted up and interesting. Thanks!

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Micky Dee, this is the kind of testimonial I want to see. Your anecdotal experience needs more attention.

There are awesome recipes on the web for daylily flowers, greens, and tubers. I'll bet you could add to that body of knowledge.

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 4 years ago

I've served day-lilies in salads at the Bicycle Inn. Just the leaves. I've eaten them on the plant. They have a light taste or no taste. I'm sure they're better for us than iceberg lettuce.

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

Sally, this is a very interesting hub about Daylilies. I have many in my garden where they look absolutely awesome. I will rather not eat them.

Voted up, well-written and well-presented :)

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

LOL, Martie. There is doubt about eating these very nutritious (although not always tasty) plants. Most of the problem is making sure the right plant is identified. Then, there is the beauty aspect...why eat them when they are so beautiful as flowers? At the same time, they produce an enormous amount of edible material.

TY so much for your comment. :) I'm glad to hear daylilies have wonderful lives in South Africa. Wish I could see them there.

ishwaryaa22 profile image

ishwaryaa22 4 years ago from Chennai, India

An informative hub! I have heard that many ate different flowers for their unique tastes and flavors. In my country, they used roses and lotuses in some of their dishes. Now I learnt the difference between daylilies and lilies thanks to you. An engaging hub with all the reasons of this pretty flower being a strong topic of debate! Well-done!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Interesting. Voted up

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thank you, ishwaryaa22, for your comment. It pleases me to know that others are open to the idea of learning not only the subtle differences between flowers but also are open to the idea of exploring new food sources. Roses and lotuses are not common foods here, and so you bring that good experience from your country to this discussion. And thanks so much for sharing and the good votes. :)

Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 4 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Great hub! I do not think I would ever eat day lilies, but your hub and the images, the info you gathered, is work well done. Voted up and interesting.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Daylilies aren't for everyone, that's for sure! Glad you found this interesting, and thank you for the votes. :)

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

I did not even know that there was a conflict about this--I found your article so informative and so beautifully laid out--

Dardia profile image

Dardia 4 years ago from Michigan

Daylilies have a slightly sweet aromatic flavor. Spiderwort which looks a lot like an Asian lily is another edible flower that tastes similar. Nice hub! Very informative! Voting up and clicking the facebook like button.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

@AudreyHowitt, thank you so much for your lovely comment. :) Until I started researching daylily recipes, I didn't realize there was a conflict, either. But then, I'd always known the difference between a lily and a daylily and knew better not to eat the former. However, this controversy over newer daylily hybrids is absolutely new to me.

@Dardia, I did not know spiderwort was edible. What good information! Thank you for sharing your experiences and for the vote and share. :)

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 4 years ago

I wish I had a day-lily salad right now.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Come on over, Micky. I still have a couple of scapes that will have a blossom or two soon. :)

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA

This is really interesting - I had no idea that daylilies were edible, or that there was so much debate on the topic. They do grow in my garden. I might have to try to taste one next summer.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 3 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Millionaire Tips, I must say I'm not crazy about the taste of daylilies unless they are batter-fried, where all the taste is in the breading. They are such a nice vehicle for a fried batter. However, I do go grazing in the garden and eat a fresh blossom now and again just to celebrate that a beautiful flower can be appreciated by more senses than just smell and vision. Sometimes those fresh blossoms have a bit of insect life in them, but I don't mind. I just pinch the blooms and enjoy the light texture and crunch.

I hope you give them a try next season. You might want to pick a bloom and then rinse well under cool water to get rid of the bugs. I'd love to know what you think. :)

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

Hi Sherri - haven't read one of your hubs in some time. I love a bit of controversy! I've always wanted to try eating daylilies but now you have me thinking. The whole thing reminds me of people who gather wild mushrooms - you better know what you are doing!

loveofnight profile image

loveofnight 2 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

wow.....thanks for all of the information, i found this article very interesting. i must admit that i would like to try them because i am open to new things. I believe that i am now going to be on the look-out for them. i may be able to find them in the eatable plant section of my grocers.

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 18 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Real interesting hub. I love tiger lilies and day lilies and never thought they could be edible. Voted up!

Mai Cheng 3 months ago

Daylily is edible. In Taiwan, China, & most Eastern Asia, it is very common food that has been eaten for hundred years. Buds before opening up are collected & dried which are called "golden needles" sold as dried food in the same way as Oriental black dried mushrooms. Tiger lily is toxic and not edible, however, daylily is edible. I grow both of them in my flowers garden in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Three years ago, I visited my hometown in Taipei, Taiwan. My family had reunion dinner in a Taipei famous restaurant that serve this green daylily buds dish deliciously. It was stir fried. It has a very short period which can be harvested or served in the menu of a famous restaurant. I love & enjoy this real interesting hub, which provides important information how to identify edible daylily and other non edible lilies plants.

Rocky hughes 3 months ago

I've been eating Chinese hot soup for years and daylillies are one ingredient.

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