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General Daylily Requirements

Daylilies are one of the most carefree plants you can grow in your garden. This however does not mean you should just plant it anywhere or in poor soils. Some of the older hybrids that have been around grow like weeds in any types of soil or conditions. However the newer hybrids do need to have some care and thought about their growing conditions. It would not realistic to plant a $150.00 or more hybrid is deep shade and expect it to do well. As long as you meet the minimal requirements for their needs they should get along. But if you really want a spectacular daylily to perform to its full capabilities more than just the minimum needs must be met.


Unlike lilies who have a bulb that must be planted a certain distance under the soil, daylilies grow from a crown that both the roots and the leaves grow from. This crown must be just below soil surface levels when planting. However daylilies have a very large root system and the soil they are growing in must be deep enough to accommodate these long roots. A lot of people who occasionally garden seem to over look the actual importance of the soil to the plants. If I was going to recommend any course for a novice or beginner gardener to take it would be a soil course. There are different components of soil that are overlooked when building a garden that has different type of plants growing in it. Different plants need different soil conditions. Daylilies grow best in very deep 18-24in (45-60cm) well-drained, but moist, rich friable loam.

The basic components of soil has been broken down the three major particle size divisions, sand, silt and clay. Sand has the largest particle size and does not hold water well, but does allow good aeration. Clay particles are very small in size and tend to pack down so that water does not drain well and little or no air can penetrate. Silt particles are medium sized and have properties in between those of sand and clay. A loamy soil, then, is one that combines all three of these types of particles in relatively equal amounts. Loamy soil is ideal for most garden plants because it holds plenty of moisture but also drains well so that sufficient air can reach the roots.

If your soil does not meet these conditions you may have to amendit. If you had sandy soil this would be best as it is easier to add lots of organic matter to meet the daylily needs. Heavy clay soils are much harder to amend and this should be done before anything is going to be planted. To loosen up clay soils adding sand, course grit and organic matter in equal parts then rototilling it in if your area is large or shovel mixing if it is a small bed. No matter what type of soil you have to amend this is going to be an ongoing process over many seasons to get it right.

Daylilies have deep roots and are also heavy feeders. If you find you cannot get enough depth in your soil another option is to raise your beds. Raising beds can be as simple as mounding soil up or a more complex method of using wood or stone to build a small wall. The advantage of raised beds is you can add the proper mixture of organic matter to soil material for you daylilies right from the start. Raised garden beds have many advantages. They are easier to weed without bending right over, the extra soil allows for deeper root development, better drainage in wet seasons, they warm up faster than regular ground level beds. By warming up earlier the plants have a tendency to bloom earlier, this is good for colder northern climates. There is one disadvantage to raised beds you should be aware of and that is they tend to dry out faster and will need to be watered more often in the dry summer seasons.

Daylilies like a soil pH around 6 but will do find with a neutral or slightly alkaline soil.

Planting your Daylilies

Daylilies can be planted in pretty much any time of the year as long as they have sufficient time to get settled and put down new roots. The spring is usually the best time as there is usually lots of rain to provide moisture to the newly forming roots. Also the average daytime temperature is not the blistering hot days of the summer where the plants demand for water cannot be met by the newly planted roots. Bare-root divisions do better in the cool part of the season after the really hot months are finished so spring and late summer is a good time. Daylilies in pots or divisions that have soil around the roots can be planted at any time. It is a good idea to soak bare-root divisions in water for an hour before planting. This allow the division to store water in its tissues and plump up the roots.

Spring or fall planting may all depend on where you live. Most people plant in the spring but some growers prefer the fall. The soil in the spring is just in its warming up stage after the cold of the winter. In the fall the soil has had all summer to warm it up and the warmth goes down quite deep. This makes for faster root growth. Roots grow in soil temperatures of 35-65F(2-18C) and stop when the soil is above 65F (18C). Fall planting should be done at least 6 weeks before frost sets in.

Evergreen daylilies should not be planted outside in the fall. Instead pot it up and if you greenhouse let it grow in there for the winter. If you do not have a greenhouse put them in cold frames and mulch heavily with leaves or evergreen boughs.

Before you plant your daylilies prepare the hole by digging a hole large enough to accommodate the plant. Place a mound in the center of the hole, this is where you will place the crown and have the roots flow over the mound. The crown should be at least one half inch below the soil level, but it is a good idea to place the plant at the same level it was at previously. If you look at the plant the area below ground will be lighter green than the are exposed to sunlight. New plants should be planted right away, if they appear dry soak them in water to revive them. Place the crown on the mound and spread the roots in all directions over the mound before covering with soil. Mix compost and well aged manure if available in with the soil when filling in the hole. A granular starter fertilizer high in phosphorus and potassium should also be added at this time, this will promote root growth.

Now for the hard part for most gardeners. If the new plant has flower scapes on it, it is a good idea to cut these off. This will keep the energy spent on flowers back into the plant and allow it to settle faster. The plant may still push up flower scapes that season. If you really must see what the flower looks like keep one scape and cut back the rest. They will be in a better position for blooming the following season and you will be much happier with the results.

If you get a good size clump from a nursery or a friend giving you a division avoid the temptation to split the clump into smaller divisions and plant them in different locations. A larger plant takes less time to adjust to its new home than many smaller divisions. It will bloom sooner and better. Weak divisions may take 2 or more years to get to bloom size. If you have a weak looking division pot it up using the best soil you can get, either commercial potting mix, soil-less mix, or very good garden mixes. Keep the plant watered and feed it weekly with a half strength liquid fertilizer. This will allow the roots to develop quickly and strengthen before going into the ground.


Water is the most important thing to all plants including daylilies. Without water the plant cannot survive, nutrients cannot be absorbed as the plant does not use solid fertilizer but converts any nutrients into a solution with water. Lack of water makes the plant look sick and limp, have poor colour, affect blooms and blooming time. A well watered plant look healthy and green, the flowers will have a good substance to them. Daylilies need lots of water, so this is where having really well draining soils is very important. Heavy clay soils will become water logged and rot the roots.

There are lots of ideas on how to water plants. Some will advocate the soaker hose system that only waters the roots and not the foliage. Others use over head sprinklers that water everything, mimicking a rain shower. For a long time we were told not to water in the evening as this might promote diseased and fungus as the temperatures get cooler. Personally I water my garden in the late afternoon after the sun has started to drop to evening and I use a lawn sprinkler. I could never get soaker hoses to wind all around the number of lilies I have and I so not find soaker hoses to spread very far so you need a lot to cover a garden of any significant size. I am sure some will be shocked at how I water the garden but the way I have always looked at it is that it rains in the evening and sometimes all night long, the garden has done just fine with natures watering methods. So I try to mimic them as close as possible. By watering later in the day I get to have the blooms at their best during the afternoon, the flowers are declining in the evening normally.

Daylilies growing in pots should be watered twice a day. Those growing in raised beds will also need more frequent watering than those in ground level beds.


Like all plants daylilies need nutrients to reach their optimum size and health and grow blooms. A balanced fertilizer like a 10-10-10or 20-20-20 can be purchased at local garden centers works just fine. Daylilies are heavy feeders and a regular feeding of half strength fertilizer seems to work better than one big feeding at the beginning of the season. Granular slow release fertilizers are the favourite of commercial growers. I would also advocate using a spring top dressing of garden compost and/or well rotted manure followed by another in the fall. The top dressing only has to be about one half in thick. To increase blooms a flowering or tomato fertilizer applied a few weeks before blooming commences can be applied.


The advantages of mulch is a topic that has been gone over in just about every gardening book, magazine, lecture and television program. Organic mulches prevent soil erosion, control weeds, moderate soil temperatures, slow down moisture loss in the hot part of the summer, fertilize as they decompose, add humus and organic matter to the soil. Organic mulches can be made from things like shredded bark, bark or wood chips, leaves, lawn clippings, ground-up corn cobs or hay. Saw dust is not a good mulching material as it packs to hard. Inorganic mulches like decorative rock or marble chips are not a good mulching material for daylilies.

When applying mulches around your daylilies do not put it more than one inch deep if you plan to have it touching the plant. If you want to put more than one inch of mulch leave a space between the plant and the mulch. This will not smother the crown.

There are some disadvantages to mulches that should be mentioned. While they do trap moisture in the ground they will however absorb any light rains that happen in the hot part of the summer and not let it actually get into the soil where the plants can benefit from it. Mulches only last a couple of years before they are broken down. Mulches can actually pull nitrogen from the soil as it starts to decompose in the first year of being placed. Extra nitrogen fertilizer is necessary in the first year, After that the decaying old mulch will feed the bacteria that is needed to decompose the newer mulches on top. Mulches also become excellent homes for over wintering pest insects. Leaf mold is a big drawing card for slugs.

Positioning your Daylilies

Daylilies need about 6-7 hours of sun per day to stay in good shape and bloom well. It is a good idea in warmer climates to shade them during the hotter part of the day. Signs of too little light are thin weak looking plants and very few if any blooms.

Daylilies can tolerate windy conditions better than lilies can and do not normally need staking of their scapes. But that does not mean they like to be in wind tunnels between two buildings. Be sure to keep a good distance between your daylilies and your garden furniture or log cabins as these can also create too much wind or shade. Newly planted daylilies in windy areas might need some protection from a wind break until they can get established.

The blooms benefit from some afternoon shade, particularly during the hottest part of the summer. Darker coloured blooms absorb the sunlight faster than lighter coloured blooms so they should receive morning sunlight and afternoon shade. The blooms tend to open in the direction of the sun, so it is a good idea to plant in a position where you get the benefit of all your hard work and not your neighbour.

Daylilies planted under trees not only get to much shade but also compete for root space. If you plan to plant your daylilies around a newly planted tree to add space to the area. Be warned that the tree will grow and sooner or later it will over shadow the daylilies.

After Blooming Care

It is a good idea to remove the old dried flowers and the just finished ones as they look very messy. The spent flowers have a tendency to become a liquefied stick mess as they deteriorate. Also some of the bigger blooms will droop over a unopened bud preventing it from opening as they dry out.

Once the scape has finished blooming it is a good idea to cut it off close to ground level. If you have done any hybridizing over the summer leave those scapes on the plant so the seeds can mature properly.

What I do for the foliage at the end of the growing season is remove all brown dying leaves from the Dormant, Semi-evergreen and Evergreen hybrids. Once that is done the dormants usually do not have anything showing above ground. The Evergreens and Semi-evergreens may still have some above ground green leaves, these I cut back to about 4-6 inches. This will act as a place for snow to collect instead of blowing away. The snow is a good insulator against the cold air temperatures. Mulch can be added to the evergreens and newly planted daylilies after the first major freeze. This will trap in the cold and prevent the freeze/thaw cycle.

Daylily Calendar

Have you thought of starting your own nursery or build your own greenhouse. These books can tell you just how to begin.

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