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how to grow daylily

How to Grow Daylilies

Daylilies are tough, resilient plants with blooms to match every garden palette

Daylilies are hard to kill, which makes them popular with beginning gardeners and old hands alike. While there are 'best practices' to follow when caring for Daylilies, it takes a lot of effort to do wrong by these vigorous and productive flowers.

You can move them when you want, forget to feed and water, and site them incorrectly without risking total failure. But if you follow the instructions below, you should have the best-looking Daylilies on the block!

When and Where to Plant Daylilies

Light: Daylilies do best where they will receive six or more hours of sun each day. Some afternoon shade is beneficial in very hot climates. While they will tolerate partial shade, you should expect fewer flowers.

Soil: Daylilies thrive in good garden soil. Before planting, loosen the soil to a depth of eighteen inches and remove any rocks or debris. If your soil is sandy and dries out easily, add some compost to help it retain moisture. And if your soil is heavy clay, the addition of compost will lighten its texture, making it easier for the roots of your new daylilies to enlarge and grow.

Spacing: Daylilies will eventually expand to form large clumps up to three feet in diameter. So, by spacing your new plants two feet or more apart initially, you can avoid having to dig and move them as they grow in. However, if you want added impact in the early years, space your new plants about 18” apart. Then after a few years you can move some of the plants outwards.

Planting Times: Plant your daylilies either in early spring or in early fall (at least one month before you expect a hard frost).

daylily lawn

Planting: For each plant, loosen the soil to a diameter of two feet, dig a hole about one foot deep, and then mound the soil up in the center.

  • Place the crown of the plant on the center of the mound, with the bulbous roots angled outwards and slightly downwards.
  • Gradually add soil around the roots, tamping it gently as you go to eliminate air pockets.
  • When the hole is two-thirds full, water everything thoroughly, and again when it is filled with soil.
  • After planting the crown should be no more than an inch below the soil surface.
planting daylily bare root
Dig a hole large enough to accommodate your Daylily bare root.
planting daylily in soil
Plant your Daylily evenly with the soil and press down firmly.

How to Grow Daylilies Throughout the Season

Growth habit: Daylilies form vigorous clumps with strap-like leaves around the outside of the plant. Over the course of a single summer, each plant produces an abundance of flower stalks—known as ‘scapes’. The scapes grow upwards from the center of the plant, and each one can produce a dozen or more flowers.

Although the individual flowers only bloom for a single day—hence the name day-lily— each scape carries an abundance of buds which open on successive days leading to a continuous display over several weeks.

In re-blooming daylilies, (especially Flower Power varieties) after the first flush of bloom is finished, the plants will repeat this cycle several more times in the growing season.

Staking: None needed.

Watering: To get your new plants off to a good start, you should water them regularly during the first season. However established plants only need watering if you experience very dry conditions.

Fertilizing: Re-blooming daylilies, (especially Flower Power varieties), will benefit greatly from an application of an extended-release fertilizer in late spring. This will help your plants repeat their flowering cycle throughout the season.

Mulching: Mulch the root area lightly, but avoid covering the crown of the plant.

Trimming and Pruning: Remove any fattening seed capsules as soon as you see them. (Seed production diverts the plant’s energy from flower production!) Cut each individual scape to the ground when you can clearly see it has no more new buds.

Throughout the season remove any yellowing leaves. This will stimulate the plant to produce new leaves— especially important for re-blooming varieties like the Flower Power varieties that we carry at American Meadows. In many varieties, you can do this by simply pulling on the spent leaves.

Optionally you can remove any spent blooms from a scape that still has buds. In many varieties, this is easily done by grasping the finished bloom between your finger and thumb and twisting gently. Some gardeners choose to do this for plants that are up close around the house, but are they are less concerned about regular dead-heading for plants that are part of a large border.

daylily with tiny frog
This adorable frog resting on a daylily was shot by our photo contest winner, Nancy Rakish.

Daylilies: End of Season Care

Cutting Back: Cut off all the leaves about two inches above the base of the plant (together with any remaining scapes) each fall. The remainder of the old leaves will protect the crown of the plant during the winter.

If you anticipate very cold winters daylilies will benefit from a light straw mulch, which can be removed in the spring.

Dividing and Transplanting: If plants were initially spaced for maturity they will rarely need dividing. But if your plants are starting to grow into one another, or you want to expand your daylily collection, you can lift and divide them in the fall. It is helpful to start by soaking each root clump for a couple of hours, which removes most of the soil and makes it easier to separate the roots without damaging them.

Now sink a pair of garden forks, back-to-back, into the root mass. Press the forks against each other using a back-and-forth motion until the roots separate naturally. Before replanting, check your daylily roots to ensure they are free of any weed roots.

digging up daylilys
Dig up your Daylilies (no need to be gentle!).
daylily roots up close
Notice how hardy they are up-close.
dividing up daylilies
Divide them into smaller clumps for re-planting.

Pests and Diseases: Daylilies are generally carefree plants that, once established, will thrive for many years in your garden. Good sanitation, especially removing leaf litter from around the crown of the plant will go a long way towards keeping your daylily collection free of pests.

In the cooler spring weather check your daylilies for signs of aphids around the young buds. If caught early, spraying with insecticidal soap is often an effective remedy.

Also, check for telltale nighttime damage at the base of the leaves from slugs and snails and be sure to remove any leaf litter and other hiding places from around the plants.

Infrequently, spider mites or thrips may be found on the plants during hot weather. If the infestation is caught early, an application of insecticidal soap can be an effective remedy.

Maintaining good air circulation among your plants will help avoid fungal infections. However, if plants are attacked by fungal diseases you will notice unsightly yellow or orange streaks along the length of the strap-like leaves.

If you see this, remove the damaged leaves and dispose of them separately. Do not add them to your compost pile as the spores may winter over and can restart the disease cycle.

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