The old-fashioned orange daylilies that you see growing in roadside ditches are native to east Asia, where they had been cultivated for one thousand years. They have long been popular with the Chinese for their edible and medicinal properties. In the 16th century, European traders carried them home and daylilies became a common sight in many homestead gardens. These orange lilies eventually spread from the gardens and took over the countryside.
Despite being around for years, daylilies weren’t cultivated much in America until the 20th century. Dr. Arlow Stout, a botanist in New York, became fascinated with the flowers. He spearheaded a breeding program and was responsible for hybridizing at least 100 new varieties. In 1934, he published Daylilies, the definitive book on the subject. He is known as the 'father of the modern daylily.'
Daylilies have come a long way from their invasive ancestors. Today's hybridizers have catapulted daylilies to a new level of perfection, with over 94,000 different cultivars currently registered.
Information from: https://blog.gardeningknowhow.com/tbt/learn-some-daylily-plant-history/
Daylily pictured: Jerry Hyatt