Orange Day-Lily – Hemerocallis Fulva: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Ditch Spud of Wild Plants

Table of Contents

Like many plants called “lily”, orange day-lily isn’t a true lily. The flowers are just lily-like. The “day” part comes from each bloom only lasting a day. It’s a non-native edible and medicinal plant you can just gobble up if you like.

In Haliburton, we have both orange (hemerocallis fulva) and yellow (hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) day-lilies, drifting somewhere between uncommon and common. You’ve probably noticed the banks full of the orange ones. They are often in ditches, along roadsides, and of course in the gardens where they were introduced here. We have an actual lily, wood lily (lilium philadelphicum) that’s rare, if there is even one left in the county.

Orange Day-Lily – Hemerocallis Fulva
Orange Day-Lily – Hemerocallis Fulva

Edible Uses of Orange Day-Lily

Edibility is where this plant shines. The young leaves and shoots can be eaten raw or cooked, in moderation. They become tough and fibrous with age.

The half grown to full size flower buds can be cooked and served like green beans. If consumed raw they may irritate the throat. The flowers can also be eaten raw or cooked. Bud and flowers make a nice batter and fry up, like dandelion flowers. Freshly spent petals can be dried and ground into a powder to use as a gelatinous thickener in soup and stews. The seeds are edible too, although rarely produced.

And the bulbs/tubers may be the highlight – they are like little potatoes. They can be eaten raw or cooked. The taste varies by age. Boiling bitter tubers in a couple changes of water can remove some of the bitterness. You can also peel off the tougher outer layers of old bulbs. And you can dry them, boil em’, mash em, stick em’ in a stew, etc.

Medicinal Uses of Orange Day-Lily

Orange day-lily is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive

Medicinal tags include Diuretic and Laxative. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes for treating constipation. In Asia, it’s used for numerous ailments. However, on this side of the world wood lily has been used more medicinally, but not so much now due to its rarity.

Alternative Uses of Ditch Lily

Yellow and reddish orange dyes can be obtained from day lilies.

Orange Day-Lily – Hemerocallis Fulva
Orange Day-Lily – Hemerocallis Fulva

Growing Hemerocallis Fulva

Day lilies are escapees from cultivation and have become a rather invasive species here. The dense stands form easily, crowding out native plants. We can put a whole new meaning to “ditch lily” here and ditch the idea of planting more. There is a native lily that’s a true lily – I’d love to see a movement to grow our over picked, rare wood lily (lilium philadelphicum – link is too Google Images results). It’s been plucked out of existence here by deer and humans, although it appears in Algonquin park.

If you still want to grow orange or yellow day-lilies in your garden despite my nitpicking, they can be dug up from one of those ditches and transferred, or regrown from replanted roots. Yellow is less invasive. But there are even less invasive cultivators that are both true lilies and are even prettier.


There’s a resemblance to poisonous flags, until the flower blooms.

Eat in moderation to avoid laxative effect.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Every book I reference that is available on Amazon is linked to with an associates link.



Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants (Out of Print)

Please Like, Comment, Share! We'd love to hear your stories and knowledge! Thank you!

Leave a Comment