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Select and Grow Daylilies

Daylilies are beautiful, tough and great multi-taskers. They spread naturally, choke out weeds, control erosion and make an excellent ground cover. And they look great while doing it.

choosing and growing daylilies

All About Daylilies

all about daylilies

True to their Greek name for "beauty" and "day," the blooms of Hemerocallis only last for one day. We know them better as daylilies. Don't worry about the short-lived blossoms. Luckily, today's blooms are replaced by new ones tomorrow. The normal blooming season is several weeks. By planting several varieties, you can have a multitude of blooms from spring into fall. Even when they're not in bloom, the graceful, grass-like foliage is appealing on its own.

Daylilies have been a part of the American landscape for many years. When the first colonists arrived, they brought with them the familiar yellow and orange varieties we still see today. Those original plants have been cultivated into over ten thousand cultivars with blooms in practically every color imaginable. The height and size of blooms also vary, from foot-tall dwarfs to four-foot hybrids. Blooms range from three to eight inches across, and the petals may be ruffled or smooth.

The foliage yellows and dies as cold weather arrives or stays green all year in warmer climates, based on the variety. Daylilies grow well in Zones 3-9.

Planting and Caring for Daylilies

planting and caring for daylillies

First, learn a couple of daylily terms:  The crown is the area where the leaves meet the roots. The scape is the stalk where the blooms are. Daylily blooms are various shapes, differing by cultivar.

Always follow your specific variety's planting instructions. In general, daylilies prefer full sun and well drained, neutral to slightly acidic soil. Some varieties benefit from partial shade. In general, space plants 18 - 24 inches apart.

  • Dig a hole 12 inches deep and add organic matter.
  • Create a cone of soil in the planting hole and place the daylily on top. Daylily roots are fibrous and need to be spread out when planting.
  • Plant with the crown one inch below the soil surface.
  • Firm the soil and water thoroughly.

Spring and fall are the best planting times. Daylilies require little special care to perform well, but with some extra attention, they can be truly spectacular.

An early and late season feeding keeps them going strong. Feed twice a year, once in spring prior to blooming and again a few months later during the blooming season. Mulch once in summer to conserve moisture and again in winter for protection from freezing. To encourage increased flowering, deadhead to remove spent blossoms that don't drop off on their own. Cut off the scapes at ground level when blooming stops, taking care not to damage the crown.

Propagating Daylilies

propagate daylilies

After a few years, daylily blooms may start to diminish. Daylilies need to be divided when growth in the center begins to slow and clumps of growth occur along the outside ring of the plant. Dividing promotes renewed blooms and prevents crowding - plus you get more plants.

Divide the plants early spring or fall. The key is to do it when there is still a period of mild weather (not too hot or too cold) so that they have time to get established before the heat of summer or the first frost of autumn.

Here's how:

  1. Carefully dig the plants up with a garden fork (instead of a shovel, which might cut the fibrous roots). The fork tines help the roots come up intact.
  2. Separate the clumps by hand or pry apart with a garden trowel or knife. When you divide a plant, each division needs at least two of the fan-shaped leaves and an intact root section.
  3. Instead of shaking soil free from the plant, hose the plant down gently to see its roots. Hosing is gentler on the plant, and it will appreciate the extra moisture as it is being transplanted.
  4. Trim the leaves to 6 - 8 inches above the crown.
  5. Plant each division as you would a newly purchased daylily.

Daylilies can also be grown from seed. However, like most hybridized plants, the resulting daylily may not be identical to the parent.

To remove daylilies from areas where they are not wanted, make sure you dig up all of the roots. Any small bulblets that remain in the ground will become new plants.