Article - Edible ubiquitous orange daylily

" Be certain that you are eating true edible daylily plants

“The ubiquitous orange daylily is tolerant of drought and poor soil, smothers weeds, and seems to need no care at all.”

The ubiquitous orange daylily is tolerant of drought and poor soil, smothers weeds, and seems to need no care at all.

Paul Barbano

July 20, 2016

It’s summer and time to hit the road. You see them blooming effortlessly along country roads, in ditches and on old farms. The ubiquitous orange daylily or “roadside rambler” is tolerant of drought and poor soil, smothers weeds, and seems to need no care at all. Sometimes mistakenly called tiger lily, there is an unrelated true lily by that name.

Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva), native to Asia, came to North America as an ornamental but escaped to naturalize along roadsides, fields and ditches. The familiar tawny orange daylily pops up from long, sword-like leaves. The daylily is not related to true lilies (lilium species) even though they look similar. True lilies have short, spiky leaves along their flower stalks while daylilies bloom on bare flower stalks.

The best part of daylilies is that they give us four distinct edible harvests: new shoots in early spring, the unopened flower buds in summer, the flowers themselves, and finally the small tubers on the roots that look for all the world like fingerling potatoes.

Cut the new shoots in early spring when they are less than eight inches tall. Chopped up, they are delicious steamed or in stir fries. You can even put hem into pasta sauces. Just be sure you are harvesting true daylilies, and not the similar-looking iris.

Cut as many new shoots as you want; daylilies are notoriously resilient and will easily grow back. Once summer arrives, the plants shoot up flower stalks with thick green buds. These can be picked and used much like green beans. Steam them or boil them, and serve with butter or cheese sauce. Some gardeners even pickle them. The buds taste almost like radishes but with their own distinctive flavor. Traditional Chinese medicine says the daylily buds help alleviate insomnia.

Once the buds open you can harvest the flowers and use them much the way you use squash blossoms. Fry them in olive oil with onions, steam them or stir fry them. Batter them and fry them up as sweet fritters. Stuff them with cream cheese for a colorful appetizer or just use them for edible decorations on any serving dish. You can dry the blossoms to use in soups throughout year. Remember that daylilies are named because they only last one day so pick the flowers early in the morning before they fade. Many find the flowers themselves rather bland, but they do add color to dishes. The daylily flowers are sold in Asian markets as golden needles and are featured in dishes such as sweet and sour soup and moo shu pork.

Finally, in late fall you can dig up the roots. These are a bundle of vine-like underground stems with small tubers attached. If you dig up the tubers in summer they may be thin and mushy as all their stored energy is used as food for the blossoming plants. The tubers are at their best from late autumn until early spring. You don’t have to peel the tubers; simply wash them and use any way you cook fingerling potatoes. They cook up rather quickly, so keep an eye on them. Some say the taste is similar to jicama; others find them decidedly potato flavored. Try them boiled and served with butter.

You can replant any unused tubers and regenerate your daylily patch.

Like any food, some people have a bad reaction to daylilies, so try a few at first to see how your own system handles them. And always be 100 percent certain that you are eating true edible daylily plants rather than inedible look-alikes. Check with an expert if you are unsure.

Find some wild daylilies and pick the buds and flowers, tubers and shoots. What you leave behind will form carefree colonies of orange flowers. No wonder the buds are used to make Jai or Buddha’s Delight, the vegetable stew served on Chinese New Year. With four free foods from a beautiful flowering plant, your luck has just begun."


just about all the older homes have a big patch of these. my daughter has them at her house. im going to steal some this fall and start my own patch in the food forest.


I have eaten those dried orange lily flowers in Chinese dishes for years without knowing they were these lilies.

It was only recently that I found out when my Chinese friends pointed them out to me after I showed them the pic of these “tiger” lilies from my backyard.


Excellent summary of information. But, the title implies there are “inedible” daylilies…and I’m not sure about that. I’ve tried dozens of the Asian cultivars, plus the native orange ones.
Some do leave a little ‘scratchiness’ in the mouth eating them raw…and some more resemble eating honey.


This article is what you are looking for Eating Daylilies: The Dos and Don’ts | Green Bay Botanical Garden.


Eating Daylilies: The Dos and Don’ts

Flowers are typically things we admire. We walk through gardens, woods and other natural landscapes and hover when we see flowers we like – pointing at them and commenting how much we enjoy their shape and color. Marveling at these plants and then eating them, on the other hand, is something a little more taboo. Daylilies are such flowers that are easily adored and surprisingly edible!

Butterfly Stampede daylily

If you’re growing them in your own yard and are curious about turning your daylily displays into snacks, here are some recipes and safety tips to follow before these flowers take root on your plate.

DO Eat Every Part of the Daylily

You can pluck the young shoots, boil the tubers and munch on the flower bud and petals. The shoots should be harvested in early spring when they are tender. They should be sliced right above the soil level, and then you can use them in stir-fries or pasta. The tubers need to be dug up before flower stalks appear (which should be around late fall until early spring) because otherwise they’ll be mushy. All you have to do is dig up a clump of daylily roots, cut off most but not all of the tubers and replant all of the remaining roots and tubes, so that the daylily can grow back.

Cheerio Yellow daylily

You can scrub and cook them just like potatoes. The flower buds develop in late spring and early summer and should be harvested when they’re green and firm. They can be steamed, boiled or stir-fried and are said to make great pickles. Lastly, the petals bloom in the full heat of summer and can be eaten fresh in salads and dried in broth or soups.

DON’T Just Eat Any Daylily or Anything That Looks Like a Daylily

Not all lilies are edible! Star lilies and some Asiatic lilies can be poisonous, where other lilies can cause your mouth, throat, tongue and lips to go numb. Eating peace lilies and calla lilies will cause your mouth to swell, and crinum, calla and true lilies can cause skin irritation for certain people who come into contact with them.

Painted Pixie Asiatic lily

When you find a plant that is definitely a daylily, be sure to rinse the flowers gently and check for ants or other insects that are hidden deep in the bloom. Don’t eat any daylilies that have been sprayed by road crews or other gardeners.

DON’T Eat Too Many Shoots

Daylily shoots

Young shoots are said to have a sweet flavor, and the heart of the shoots are thought to be especially delicious. However, it’s important to be cautious when eating the shoot’s leaves because large quantities of them can cause hallucinations. Blanching the leaves removes this effect, which requires you to place the leaves in boiling water, remove them after a brief amount of time and plunge them into ice water. Sources indicate that you would need to eat several pounds of raw leaves before you would possibly experience hallucinations!

DO Experiment with Fun Daylily Recipes

Several sources say that a daylily’s flower bud tastes like a cross between asparagus and green peas, so they recommend sautéing the flower buds in a little garlic and butter. You can also dip them in a light batter, deep-fry them and sprinkle a pinch of salt on top to make something called a “daylily fritter.”


Daylily fritters

When you ever feel like trying something new, don’t be afraid to pluck a daylily from your garden landscape and taste every part of it! Decide for yourself if they’re a perfect summer snack, give your own food review and let us know what you think. Be sure to check out our Daylily Display Garden at the Garden while the flowers are in peak bloom!


Common Daylillies are what you want Edible Daylilies - Identifying and Gathering Edible Day Lilies

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JUNE 29, 2010 | UPDATED MAY 13, 2020


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Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Daylilies are not only edible, they are spectacular. After sampling the flowers, flower buds, young stalks and root tubers, I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re so tasty I may grow them as a food crop.

Let me start by saying that edible daylilies are the common daylily, Hemerocallis fulva, as well as its various Hemerocallis friends and relatives; there are thousands. What I am most definitely not talking about are bona fide lilies, like the Easter lily, which, if you are unfortunate enough to eat, you had better hope that the Resurrection is real…

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I’d read long ago about the edibility of the common lily of my youth, which we incorrectly called tiger lilies because of their orange stripes. But this would have been in the 1980s, when edible flowers reached their trendy zenith. Nasturtium flowers all over the plate, anyone? Meh. My young self wrote off lilies as part of that prancy fad.

I first foraged for daylilies in Massachusetts, years ago. Any of you ever been to Cape Ann? Gloucester is covered in daylilies, and its ritzier neighbor Rockport has more daylilies than grass. Daylilies are the most common flower on the whole freaking island. So common my sister Lizz and my brother-in-law Mark have tons of them in their tiny yard.

So I am sorry to tell you there will be no stirring tale of high adventure as we stalked the semi-wild daylily. Nope. We just pulled a few plants and picked the flowers and buds from some others that were in the yard.

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

The drama with daylilies is all in the eating.

I first separated the plants into flowers, buds, and tubers — unlike true lilies, daylilies don’t have bulbs, they have little tubers instead that look like miniature fingerling potatoes. I then stripped the outer leaves from those plants that had not yet flowered, until I got to the white part.

Most sources say to saute the unopened flower buds with a little butter or oil and call it a day. Sounded like a plan, especially since I wanted to really taste the plant, not any supplemental seasonings. So in they went, just lily buds, butter and salt.

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Delicious. Briefly cooked, the buds have a bit of knacken, a German expression meaning a “pop.” Yet the insides reminded me of squash blossoms. The taste? Green, with a whiff of radish and a dash of green bean. Honestly, I’d eat this as a side dish any day, any place. It needs nothing else.

We tried some of the stalks, but they were not as good. Texture like lemon grass, only without the wonderful lemon aroma. More like a bland, tough scallion. Certainly edible, and not terrible, but nothing like the buds.

The flowers are OK. They are more for color than flavor, and they are said to thicken soups the way okra or file powder do. The Chinese use them in hot-and-sour soup. Will have to try that more some other time.

That left the little tubers. First thing I noticed was that some looked exactly like fingerling potatoes, while others were pure white, like the inside of jicama. I ate a white one, and it tasted like jicama — only better. Like a raw sweet potato. Or rather a sweet, raw potato, not a yam.

I did the same treatment to the tubers: Butter, salt, saute. Only I added some black pepper this time. I like black pepper on my potatoes, so I reckoned I’d like this, too.

I was right. These are quite possibly the best tubers I’ve ever eaten. OK, that might not sound like ringing praise, but consider that I am including real potatoes in there and you get the picture.

Think really young fingerling potatoes, only with a sweetness to them. White ones are sweeter than the yellow ones. Yellow ones seem more substantial.

The only things daylilies have against them are allergies and size. A small number of people who eat daylily flowers get farty and nauseous afterwards; I hear “less than 5 percent” a lot, but I can’t verify it. Suffice to say you should eat only a little at first, the have at it.

The second “strike” against the lily, if it can be called one, is size: You’d need to uproot about five or six plants for one meal. But when you consider that hemerocallis fulva is considered a noxious weed in many of the 42 states it’s gone feral in, go ahead. Dig away.


Doing a little more research, I find that according to the USDA, the daylily has gone wild in every state except Alaska, Hawaii, Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and, um, my own state of California. Sigh.

That said, you can’t swing a dead cat without seeing a planting of edible daylilies in a parking lot or person’s house, and they are so common in urban settings Charlotte Bringle Clarke writes about them in her Edible and Useful Plants of California.

![Lily and Daylilies|600x904](data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg%20xmlns=‘’%20viewBox='0%200%20600%20904’%3E%3C/svg%3E)

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Daylilies originally came from Asia, probably China. Chinese cooking uses them all the time, even in such starring dishes as moo shu pork and hot-and-sour soup. You will often see dried flowers called “golden needles.”

Euell Gibbons liked to batter-fry the buds, and lots of other old-timers “creamed” their daylily tubers, which sounds unappetizing. But beyond hippie forager types and the Chinese, I’ve found no other use of the daylily as food.

Pity. It is, as Jimmie Walker would say, Dy-No-Mite.

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  1. Patti

JULY 12, 2022 AT 11:17 PM

I have heard you can make a syrup from daylilies. i was wondering if maybe being cooked instead of raw may make a difference. You steep the flowers using boiling water let sit over night. Then strain them. If you have 5 cups of liquid you add almost 5 cups sugar. They used raw cane sugar which I guess is less sweet. Then you boil it down down like you would maple sap. Taking off the foam as it boils. Check the consistency of your syrup you want it to be cold it is thicker then. So take a sample out get it chilled to see if it is how you like it. Some like real thick syrup some like it more runny. I plan on trying it myself in a small batch to see how it taste.


  1. Mark Kortum

JULY 11, 2022 AT 9:33 PM

I have eaten raw day lily flowers in a salad a few times before yesterday and experienced no issues. Yesterday I added six or eight flowers and as many buds to my lettuce, beets, and feta salad. It was one of the best salads ever! About an hour after dinner, I began to feel queasy and experience intestinal cramps. For about the next six hours my entire gastrointestinal system violently erupted in a way that rivaled those colonoscopy prep solutions. It ended when there was nothing left. The lilies are the prime suspects because I have eaten all other ingredients from that dinner today and experienced no issues.


  1. Tena Oconnor

JUNE 27, 2022 AT 5:02 PM

My daughter and i like to munch on them raw and toss a few in salads. She also pickled some of them and they were delicious ?


  1. Laura E. Huff

MARCH 20, 2022 AT 11:51 AM

Very interesting. I already have a problem with Chrons. I eat as many veggies as I can that don’t blow me up. For my safety sake, which daylilly(s) would not tear me up? I love cauliflower but it’s hard on my body, like broccoli and beans. Would you send me pictures of them or It?
Thank you ahead of time.


  1. Hank Shaw

MARCH 20, 2022 AT 2:10 PM

Laura: I can’t really answer that, and if you have Crohn’s Disease, I’d advise against eating them.

5. Mona Oxford-Lyman

JANUARY 3, 2022 AT 3:32 PM

First off, I laughed out loud when you referenced eating an Easter Lily and the Resurrection. Seriously, so funny.

So my question is: do you think one could use the blossom of a day lily similar to squash blossoms? Last summer I was obsessed with batter fried stuffed squash blossoms (so good) and I have enough day lilies to start my own nursery I swear! So, has anyone tried using the open flower much like squash blossoms–filled with cheese and deep fried?


  1. joy

MARCH 22, 2022 AT 6:54 AM

Daylilys tend to split and into sections so it would probably be impossible to stuff them

6. sue

AUGUST 7, 2020 AT 5:25 AM

Hi Hank, Getting ready to make hot & sour soup and noticed the addition of day lilies. Back in the day (Euell Gibbon’s time) we gathered some buds and boiled them, as I recall. They tasted like green beans, but the best thing was the purple color of the water they were cooked in. I used to do a lot of natural dyeing so this was a bonus! Thanks for your article.


  1. Lisa Brunette

JULY 5, 2020 AT 4:51 AM

I was really excited to find your blog and this article in particular, as I have a profusion of day lilies on my 1/4-acre, planting by previous owners. Because of this post, my husband and I tried harvesting and eating them yesterday.

First, let me say that we have harvested and either eaten many plants from our garden or turned them into medicinal tinctures. This includes a mushroom successfully ID’d as reddening lepiota, wild geranium, and cleavers, among others. We blog about our permaculture/native plant experiment over at

We verified that the lilies growing in our plot were indeed the common ‘ditch lily’ and harvested them fresh. Our garden is 100% organic. We tried a small handful each of the tubers, with a few flower buds and blooms, which we sautéd in butter with salt and pepper, just as you describe. But the results were disastrous. I was knocked out with a strange sleep for an hour and a half in the middle of a sunny day, in which I neither moved nor awakened. This is strange for me, as I’m not a napper. When I woke, I experienced a full six hours straight of violent diarrhea, with extreme flatulence. My husband also had diarrhea, though his was milder.

Given our bodily rejections to the ditch lily as food, I have to ask, Where did you get the statistic that only 5% of people react negatively to them? Since my husband also had a negative digestive response, and mine was so extreme, I would absolutely not recommend ditch lilies as a food to anyone, and I sincerely caution you against doing so, especially with such glowing enthusiasm. They tasted… OK. I’d rather have a regular ol’ potato, and I’d have saved myself an evening of absolute misery if I’d passed on these.


  1. marc white

OCTOBER 23, 2021 AT 4:32 PM

I’ve taken a number of classes from a man named John Kallas. He said that one wild food expert had day lillies that caused a whole group of people to get nauseous and experience vomiting and diarrhea. If my memory serves me correctly (it was about five years ago) he believes there is likely a variant that does make people sick. That and some people are just sensitive to it. Some people are also allergic to strawberries. Happens.


  1. Mark Kortum

JULY 11, 2022 AT 9:39 PM

Had a similar experience with violent diarrhea myself from eating raw flowers and buds in a salad yesterday. Funny thing is I have eaten them, from the same source in my yard, before, with no issues. But this time all hell broke loose! Felt great when it all ended, and my system was emptied.

8. Ryan V. Gagliardo

JUNE 10, 2020 AT 7:53 AM

Hi Hank, I didn’t see any mention about the potential for these to cause diarrhea and nausea, which is reported elsewhere on the internet. It has now happened to me twice, the first time from cooked ripe flower buds and the second time from the same combined with several raw open flowers that I ate along with my meal. My wife got diarrhea that second time too eating the same thing. I love daylilies like you do, but maybe we overdid it? It wasn’t like we ate a whole plateful or anything. I am really not too concerned, but will have to take it easy next time. It could have been a detox reaction I suppose and a good thing. I’ve seen people get the runs from a wild green pesto. In any event, thanks for all you shared.


  1. Hank Shaw

JUNE 10, 2020 AT 8:25 AM

Ryan: It’s mentioned in the article. My advice is to lay off them. If you’ve had GI issues twice now, you are one of the people who are susceptible to it. Bummer, but it happens with some food or another to most of us.

9. Keri

MAY 29, 2020 AT 3:35 PM

My property used to be a daylily farm, so they’re in random places all over the yard and they definitely seem to be multiplying over time. I’m going to try and dig them up this year and relocate them to a bed, so I won’t have to choose between mowing over them or around them. I knew they were edible, but I haven’t tried any yet. Maybe I’ll experiment this weekend.


  1. Donna Hooson

MAY 18, 2020 AT 3:41 PM

I love the buds raw or cooked and have been enjoying them for years. I also put the dried petals on my salads, very tasty raw. I go to some wild spots to harvest but this spring I put some in my garden so I can harvest the tubers when they need thinning.


  1. Tim Ritchie

MAY 13, 2020 AT 12:48 PM

I’ve read that since colonial times some 60,000 varieties of daylillies have been developed and not all of them are edible as the original brought over by the colonists is. Perhaps that’s why some people got sick? I’ve only ever eaten the unopened flower buds and sometimes they are very good. Sometimes not so much.


  1. Joe Duffy

SEPTEMBER 5, 2019 AT 2:19 PM

Are stella de oro day lilies w\edible ?


  1. Ann

FEBRUARY 11, 2022 AT 3:54 PM


13. Gina

APRIL 8, 2019 AT 8:44 AM

I hate to be a downer, but apparently I am part of the percentage that gets sick. Shortly after eating some raw shoots and tubers, my stomach was turning and within half an hour they had violently made their exit. I am certain they were from the correct plant. Kind of bummed because they are so plentiful and I keep pulling them out when they start to encroach on my lawn. But anyway, do be cautious when trying this one.


  1. Rebecca Haen

MAY 3, 2020 AT 8:32 PM

Are you sensitive to raw spinach or avocados. I am and I’m just wondering because I would like to try these since I have so many but I do not like feeling unwell.

14. Cheryl

MARCH 22, 2019 AT 1:59 PM

With zucchini blossoms, I like to stuff the unopened but with a little mild, melty cheese, the whisk them thru a light batter and fry them. Wondering if this might also work with daylilies?


  1. James Lovelace

AUGUST 26, 2018 AT 10:26 AM

From my research the daylily may contain too much oxalic acid for it to be consumed regularly.
Different species may be more edible than others. The Golden Needles is H. citrine which is considered a vegetable. The old cultivar Hyperion is hybrid out of citrine and the Orange Ditch Lily H. fulva is a ancient sterile hybrid a triploid derived from crossing a diploid and a tetraploid.
I’m told that the old folks from around here only ate the yellow daylilies which was probably the cultivar Hyperion.


  1. Tara

JULY 6, 2018 AT 12:24 PM

Try the white part of the shoot raw in spring as they are just coming up. I think you will find it an entirely different experience.


  1. Tina

JUNE 30, 2018 AT 6:35 AM

I just ate two unopened flower buds. They tasted good, but I am going to wait a day to make sure I don’t have a problem with them.


  1. Jen B

JUNE 15, 2018 AT 1:51 PM

Thanks for this! I just ate my first ditch lily tubers sauteed in butter salt and pepper. Very good! Cheers.



Both yes and no. I am a published author (newspapers) of two articles on consider the daylily for food.
First was prior to being a forum member here.
A passage in the Psalms inspired me to compose the daylily story for an edible.
(And, no, my old software is not compatible to upload here, I’ve tried before.)

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I actually did not learn that until i was on this forum. It was obvious something was going on because every homestead had them. They ate what they grew. At the time i suspected they might be used but when researching them i found nothing. Eventually i found out about them.

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Actually, it’s more likely the ‘free’ flowers for very little effort is the main reason so many old homesteads have the native orange daylily.

Be a good study to look into if the ‘native americans’ used it.

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