Caring For Daylilies: How To Grow Daylilies
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Growing daylilies (Hemerocallis) has been a pleasure for gardeners for centuries. From the 15 or so original species found in the Orient and Central Europe, we now have approximately 35,000 hybrids from which to choose and more are coming every year. Older, traditional plants die back during winter, but there are new semi- and evergreen varieties.
While their beautiful flowers last only one day, a mature clump can produce 200-400 blooms over the course of a month or more. Planting daylilies as single specimens or en masse as a ground cover for a slope, these lovelies will make a welcome addition to any garden, but are of particular joy to the weekend gardener who simply doesn’t have time for fussier plantings. Caring for daylilies is so easy and these plants are so hardy, that some seem to even thrive on neglect!
Although early spring or early fall are the best time for planting daylilies, you can plant them successfully as long as you can dig the hole. Caring for daylilies begins with planting. If your soil is sandy or heavy clay, amend it with plenty of organic matter. In discussing how to grow daylilies, it should also be noted that they prefer slightly acid soil, but again, are adaptable.
Choose a site where your growing daylilies will receive at least six hours of sun. Morning sun is best, particularly in warmer areas where the blazing afternoon sun can scorch the leaves. Here again, these hardy plants will grow with less, but blooming won’t be as prolific.
Cut the foliage back to 6 inches (15 cm.). Dig your hole twice as wide and deep as the root spread. Place the plant so the crown (the part where the roots meet the stem) is about 1 inch (2.5 cm.) below ground level. Fill in the hole with your amended soil and water well. After planting daylilies, keep them well watered for a few weeks until the roots are established.
Daylilies are vigorous growers and can be divided every three or four years. Because of the number of varieties, they make great specimens to trade with neighbors and friends.
Information on Caring for Daylilies
How to grow daylilies? It would be easy to say stick them in the ground and walk away, but there are a few things you can do when caring for daylilies to get the most out of these tough growers. A basic 10-10-10 fertilizer in the spring and during bloom is all you need, though gardeners who specialize in daylily care will recommend more often. Once established, these hardy plants will tolerate drought. Water as needed.
Once up and growing, daylilies perform best if you remove the seed pods. Leaving them on the plant will retard the following year’s bloom. In early spring, daylily care consists of removing the dead leaves from the surrounding ground and weeding. A cover of mulch will keep the weeds down though it isn’t necessary for the plant itself. Once full grown, a daylily’s leaves are so thick, they tend to shade out surrounding weeds.
Disease is rare among the varieties of daylily. Care should be taken, however, when it comes to aphids or thrips and usually the problem begins with other garden plants first. An application of all-purpose insecticide, whether organic or chemical, or a strong spray of water usually takes care of the problem.
Now that you know how to grow daylilies and how easy caring for daylilies is, it’s time to ask the neighbors for donations or to purchase a few from your local garden center or catalogue. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.
5 Tips for Growing Daylilies
Daylilies are well-known for their toughness. They grow in almost any climate and tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions. They’re not troubled by diseases or pests, and will bloom for decades with little to no attention.
Fortunately, daylilies are as beautiful as they are tough. You can choose from an astonishing range of cultivars, with sizes and flower colors to suit almost any garden design. These summer-blooming perennials are as suitable for flower gardens and landscaping, as they are for rain gardens, naturalized areas and mass plantings. Here are some tips for growing daylilies (also known as hemerocallis) that will help you get the most from these hard-working plants.
This heirloom variety, commonly known as “lemon lily” is Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus. It’s an early bloomer and the flowers are very fragrant.
Select for Bloom Time and Flower Height
Daylilies are relatively easy to hybridize, and over the past 50 years, plant breeders have introduced hundreds of different varieties. These can be grouped in a number of ways:
Bloom time (early, mid, late and re-blooming)
Flower color (white, yellow, pink, red, orange, purple and bicolors)
Foliage height (1 to 3 feet)
Flower height (1 to 6 feet)
Flower form (trumpet, double, ruffled or recurved).
When shopping for daylilies, take full advantage of the many options by doing some research before making a purchase and always check the plant description or label so you know what to expect. If possible, try to see some of these plants in person. There are more than 250 official American Daylily Society Display gardens around the country. Click HERE to find one near you.
Give Daylilies a Sunny Spot
Daylilies are high energy plants that need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight to produce a good display of flowers. When the plants are grown in partial shade, they will have nice foliage, but not as many flowers. That said, in hot climates, cultivars with dark flowers hold their color better when they receive some afternoon shade.
If you are planting an area in your yard that’s dedicated to daylilies, consider combining them with daffodils. Both are vigorous plants that can thrive in the same type of soil. The bulbs will bloom in early spring while the daylilies are still dormant. Then, when the daylilies emerge, their foliage will hide the daffodils’ yellowing leaves. Daffodil bulbs can be planted in fall, any time before the ground freezes.
Mulch to Control Weeds and Conserve Moisture
Daylilies are drought tolerant, but they prefer growing in soil that stays moist throughout the growing season. In fact, daylilies are perfectly happy to grow near a pond or seasonal waterway. With their dense, shallow root systems, they also help to reduce soil erosion.
If your yard includes areas that are steep or otherwise hard to mow, daylilies can be a colorful, low maintenance solution. Use them for planting along fence lines, stream banks, drainage ditches and even urban hell strips. The plants don’t mind rocky or compacted soil, and they also grow well in containers.
Before planting a large bed of daylilies, take time to loosen the soil and remove any grass or weeds. After planting, apply a 2” layer of mulch to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. Mulch is especially beneficial in dry climates. When growing daylilies as a ground cover, plant them 12-18” apart on center. Keep the area weeded for the first couple years. Once they have filled in, the plants should be able to out-compete most weeds.
Don’t Hesitate to Move and Divide
Daylilies are easy to divide and transplant. Their thick, fleshy roots store moisture and energy, which gives them a built-in buffer while they’re adjusting to a new location. Early spring or early fall are the best times to divide daylilies, though in northern climates you can do at almost any time during the growing season.
Some daylily cultivars are more vigorous than others, so there’s no hard and fast rule about when they should be divided. If you’re getting fewer flowers and you can’t see any soil between the plants, it’s probably time.
To divide a clump of daylilies, you can use a sharp spade to carve away portions of the main clump or dig out the entire plant and then cut it into smaller chunks. For easier handling, you can cut the foliage back to about 5”. When replanting, position the crown of the plant (where roots meet stem) no more than an inch below the soil surface.
Keep Daylilies Looking Their Best
Each daylily flower lasts just one day. To keep the plants looking their best, snap off the spent flowers, taking care not to disturb nearby buds. This only takes a few seconds, and afterwards, you’ll be surprised how much better the plants look.
When all the buds on a scape (stem) have finished blooming, cut it back to the ground. This will keep the plant neat and prevent it from putting energy into seed production. In re-blooming types, it also helps to encourage another flush of flowers.
Sometimes daylily foliage will get limp or begin to turn yellow immediately after flowering. If this happens, you can cut back the foliage to stimulate a fresh flush of leaves. Another option is to relocate the plant so its leaves are partially hidden by the foliage of neighboring plants.
Most daylilies die back to the ground in winter. In spring, pull or rake away the dead leaves to make way for new growth. Some cultivars are “evergreen” and in warm climates, they may retain their foliage all year round. In spring, just cut back any foliage that looks tattered.
We offer a nice selection of varieties HERE. To learn more about growing daylilies, you may be interested in reading:
Daylily Hybridizing Tips
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Start with determining a focus for what you want to achieve. God bless him, David Kirchhoff spent an hour with me when I was just starting, helping me to define my focus. The narrower your focus, the more chances you have of getting it. I started off with doubles, polys, and reds. 10 years later I'm still focusing on those 3, plus patterns. I also cross pinks just because I adore pinks and want more of them in my garden. Work for what pleases YOU.
I learned from lots of the top hybridizers that you should work with the highest quality daylilies you can afford. That doesn't necessarily mean the newest, but it often does. A couple of weeks ago I got to visit David and Mort at Daylily World in Kentucky. I spent time with each of them, discussing their hybridizing programs. I asked David to tell me which of his doubles he'd recommend the most for hybridizing doubles. Along with several of his newer introductions he recommended Margaret Tucker. Though it's 15 years old it's still a valuable asset.
Dan Hansen drilled into me that it's easier to put a pretty face on a good plant than the other way around. He hybridizes for plant habit first. I try not to cross with anything that has less than 4-way branching and 20 buds unless there is a particular reason to. Check the plant's vigor. How well does it grow and multiply? Is it finicky? Does it grow well in your area? It's heartbreaking to shell out big bucks for a recent introduction only to lose it to the wrong habitat. Check local nurseries to see what does well for them. The AHS popularity polls will tell you what the favorites are for your region. Another thing to look for is good "substance" in a bloom. Does it "melt" and look bad at 2 o'clock or does it hold up during the day?
Visit as many nurseries as you can so you can familiarize yourself with what's out there. When you see daylilies that you like, find out who hybridized them and who their parent plants are. You will quickly develop favorite hybridizers and get to know their style. After you've been at this awhile you can often tell who hybridized a daylily just by looking at it. Research the parents of plants you like and see if they have other registered offspring. Can you discern which traits they are likely to pass along? You may find that several of the plants you like share a common parent. That one would be a good bet for your stable of daylily studs.
I recommend the PlantStep software by Kent Balen. It's very reasonably priced and will help you track your plants as to bloom and growth. It also has a hybridizing feature that lets you compare plants and plan crosses and study the pedigree of plants you're thinking of using. When your seedlings bloom you can track them as well, to spot common characteristics thrown by a particular parent.
When doing your crosses, be aware of the temperature. It is my understanding that stigmatic fluid starts flowing at about 80 degrees. It's what comes out of the end of the pistil to activate any pollen that is there. Dan Hansen taught me that after a bit it dries and seals off the end of the stile. Once the tip is sealed it won't accept any more pollen. You need to have your chosen pollen in place before the tip is sealed.
Several folks have told me that pollen starts to degrade above 90 degrees. I try to get my crosses done before the temperature hits 80 to beat the stomatic fluid to the end of the pistil. If I'm collecting pollen to use later I harvest before 90. I've heard some people say they can successfully set pods in temps above 90. I haven't found that to be true. When temps get into the mid or upper 90's I can't get pods to set even if I've gotten the pollen on before temps reach 80.
You can tell whether you've got a pod started about 3 days after you make a cross. Deadhead spent blooms so they won't pull off newly developing pods. After 3 days the base of the bloom will fall off if it hasn't been fertilized. If it hangs on, you probably have a pod forming. Sometimes pods fail. This could be from too much heat or lack of water. If you are doing the best you can as far as growing conditions, don't worry if they fail. It just happens sometimes. The following image shows a few young pods in different stages of development. The arrow is pointing to what remains of a spent bloom. Notice that there is no swelling at the base. This bloom wasn't fertilized.
Here are some tools I've found helpful with hybridizing:
Reverse tweezers. They stay shut until you press to open them. They are invaluable for holding pollen while you're hybridizing, especially if you only have the anther.
Pollen Tray: Someday I hope to have a "muffin" series to honor my muffin tins. Every day I pick the blooms whose pollen I want to use tomorrow and store them in the fridge overnight. Use your nails to incise the area around the base of the bloom so you can take off the bloom but leave the ovary and pistil. When I go out to do my crosses, I have pollen all ready and don't have to wait for it to ripen. This makes a big difference in areas where temps go up quickly.
To make hang tags, I cut the blinds into about 1" pieces and use a hole punch to make a hole if necessary. When cutting the blind, I use the pre-made holes first. Then I loop a piece of string through so I can affix it to the bloom base. I've found embroidery floss is good for this.
I make out tags with names of the pollen parents ahead of time and organize them in my mini muffin tin. That way I don't have to use valuable time in the morning doing it. I write the name of the pollen parent on the lower part of the tag. If the pollen takes, I write the name of the pod parent in the upper part of the tag when I harvest the pod.
It's heartbreaking to find a pod that has cracked open and spilled out some of the seeds. I found these bags on Amazon. Once the pod gets some size on it, I cover the pod with one of these bags. When the pod is ready to harvest, I add the name of the pod parent to the hang tag and tuck it into the bag with the pod. My genetic info and the pod are all safely within the bag. You can find these on Amazon, or sometimes in a wedding shop.
I'm a big believer in online research as well as taking careful garden notes. There are some plants that are beautiful, but they don't grow well or aren't good parents. Check the AHS database to see whether there are registered kids from the plant in which you're interested. You could also call hybridizers and ask them about their plants. Some are more honest than others (Rolling my eyes. LOL). If you're into doubles, call Jan Joiner, David Kirchhoff, Tim Herrington, or Nancy Eller. I've discussed their plants with each of them and received good info. You could also ask ATP members which plants they would recommend. We have some really talented hybridizers at ATP. Facebook has lots of DL groups that you can join. They may have one that's right up your alley.
I take lots of pics. I like to compare blooms throughout the season and it's a good way to document plant growth. On each one I make a note of the date so I can see what they do from month to month and year to year. Pictures are also a good way to document the branching/bud count or fertility of scapes. These are from the aptly named Incredible Pedestal and Jelly Basket.
If you want to try to extend your season, you can freeze pollen. Here's a trick I learned from Curt Hanson. Take the stamen, with anthers attached, of pollen you want to save and lay them out on a paper plate. Use the cheap ones without the plastic coating. Leave the plate in a cool place where it won't be disturbed for a couple of days. The stamen will dry out and stick to the plate, leaving the anther with your precious pollen easy to remove with your trusty reverse tweezers.
You can freeze the pollen in the micro-tubes they use in labs. The tubes are available on Amazon. I color code the labels for each tube according to the program I'm using them in: tet doubles, dip UF doubles, tet polys, etc. I have a mini fridge in the basement in which I keep the pollen boxes and blooms whose pollen I want. Each morning I go out to see who's blooming and then take out the pollen/blooms I need for that day.
I had a huge V-8 moment this year in trying to find out why my pollen wasn't working. I'd been putting the tubes in my bra to "thaw" while I did my first crosses with fresh pollen. I didn't think until later that my 98.6 body temp was way over the 90 mark at which pollen starts to degrade.
When using frozen pollen, always let it thaw before opening the tube. If you don't, you may get moisture in the tube and that will wreck your pollen. I learned a good tip today on working with frozen pollen from Tom Bruce of Carolina Daylilies. He said he uses it extensively. Since you take the risk of introducing moisture into your pollen tube every time you open it, he only puts one or two anthers into each tube. What a great idea.
I also wanted to post a pic of what I call the "Jeffcoat method" of saving pollen. Jim and Peg Jeffcoat showed me this one last year. They don't work with frozen pollen. They use an old-fashioned ice cube tray to sort their fresh anthers. They keep the tray in the refrigerator and refresh the stock of each variety as new blooms appear. Couple that with reverse tweezers and you're good to go.
I've added the names of several hybridizers in this little article, not to "name drop," but because I greatly value their expertise and thought you might like to know where I'm getting my information. I've been blessed by the generosity of lots of daylily folks in my travels.
Whatever method you use, do try hybridizing. There's nothing like seeing a seedling bloom for the first time and knowing that there's no other plant on Earth just like that one.
Good luck and God bless,
Lalambchop1/Leslie Lamb Mauck
Tips To Grow And Care For Daylilies
The following is according to Amador Flower Farm, in Plymouth, California, which sits at a thousand feet elevation, east of Sacramento, and grows 1,200 varieties of daylilies on 14 acres.
Daylilies adapt to any kind of soil. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors and bloom cycles, giving your garden blooms all season long. Known as one of the easiest plants to grow, they will grow in almost any soil but prefer either a neutral or slightly acid soil. Daylilies thrive best in direct sun or partial shade that receives at least 4-6 hours of sun a day. Daylilies can be planted any time as long as they are in the ground well before it freezes.
Easy to Plant
Daylilies should be planted in full sun or partial shade with 4 to 6 hours of sun a day. Despite the preference of full sun, occasionally colorful daylily blooms, like the extra-early blooming evergreen called Double Centennial, above, can be found under the shade of tall trees. Wherever some shade is present, daylily flowers will face away from it toward open sky. Avoid low wet spots where water collects in rainy spells, and high dry spots over ledges where the soil is shallow.
When to Plant
Daylilies can be planted very successfully at any time the ground can be worked — spring, summer or fall. Fall planted daylilies should be mulched to prevent winter frost heaving. We recommend that you plant your daylilies right away when you receive them. However, if they are held for several days, set the roots in water for one hour before planting.
Dig a hole a little larger than the pot. Remove the daylily, such as Amador’s late-season, reblooming semi-evergreen called Blizzard Bay, above, from the pot, loosen the roots, and place into the hole, packing dirt firmly around it.
Keep in a cool place until you can plant. If held for several days, soak roots in water one hour before planting. Prepare a hole with a cone of soil in the middle. Spread the roots over cone with the crown a little below ground level. Press soil firmly around the plant, covering the crown with one inch of soil. Water newly planted daylilies well.
In a mixed perennial flower border allow a circle of 16 to 18 inches in diameter if the daylilies, like a clump of early, fragrant, reblooming Betty Woods, above, will be divided and replanted in 3 to 5 years. If you expect to leave the daylily clump intact for 10 to 15 years, it will need a 24 to 30 inch space. The same applies to a daylily flower border. In a landscape setting, such as a bank to be covered with daylilies, space the daylily plants in a triangular pattern with each plant 24 inches from its neighbors. 100 square feet of bank will then require 30 daylily plants. As an edging along a walk, space the daylily plants 12 to 18 inches apart in a single line.
Daylilies should be planted at least 12 inches apart in well-drained soil. First prepare the soil by adding a small amount of balanced fertilizer, we use 20-20-20. After planting, fertilize each spring.
One to four inches of mulch will retain soil moisture and inhibit weed growth among the daylily plants. Leaves, hay, wood chips and grass clippings are suitable, but they withdraw some of the soil nitrogen during their own slow decomposition. You may wish to add some fertilizer, especially with freshly cut wood chips. Where the ground normally freezes in winter, fall-planted daylilies should be mulched heavily the first year to prevent them from being heaved out of the ground.
An organic compost soil is seldom deficient in plant nutrients. To maintain excellent daylily growth on a midseason beauty like Amador’s South Street, above, add any slow release, composted organic matter such as horse, sheep or cow manure, or your own compost, in either spring or fall.
Although daylilies are drought tolerant they will bloom better if they receive water regularly. Here at Amador Flower Farm, we water all of our gardens using overhead sprinklers. Our demonstration gardens are watered daily and our growing grounds are watered twice a week during our very hot and dry California summers. Our gardens all have 3″ to 4″ of mulch. We feel this makes our beds look nicer. Using mulch also prevents moisture from evaporating rapidly and helps to control weed growth. We use a partially rotted bark to mulch our beds.
Daylilies are relatively pest-free. They are listed as deer-resistant but in some areas when there is nothing else to eat in the fall, deer will eat daylilies. Gophers generally just move the daylilies around a little, they can be a problem if there are to many, we strive to keep them out of our daylilies.
Lily vs. Daylily
With flowers almost identical in looks, the daylily and the lily are often confused for each other. However, there are some key differences. First, the foliage on a daylily is long and sprouts from the ground. They closely resemble ornamental grasses. Their flower stems do not have any foliage beside the flowers. The lily, on the other hand, holds both its foliage and its flowers on one stalk. Lily foliage branches from a stalk in spikes, similar to a pineapple.
A daylily also contains tubers in its root system, while a lily’s root system stems from a bulb. Lily flowers may point downwards with petals that curl back, while daylily flowers always point upwards. Properly identifying between the two is important, as lilies are toxic to humans when ingested, while a daylily is not.