The good news is…it’s easy! Daylilies don’t require a lot of attention. Much of the care that is described here is optional. They will do just fine if you don’t do it.
This is the Latin name for Daylily. It is from the Greek: HEMÉRA (day) KÁLLOS (beauty).
The first step is to get them planted correctly in a good spot. If you missed it check out this article about how to plant your new daylilies.
Your daylilies actually can go for a period of time between watering. They will flower better and have less dried up foliage around the base with regular watering but will most often do fine with less. There are most likely other plants in your garden that need more water than the daylilies, so use them as an indicator of when watering is needed. Of course, if they are freshly planted you will want to water them more often. It is better to give them a soaking so that the moisture penetrates at least 10 inches into the soil, than to water a little bit every day. Of course you will not be able to help it if you are lucky enough to have rain, but overhead watering can cause spots on any flowers that are open and sometimes even the next day’s blooms. You could prevent this by using soaker hoses. Ideally they would get watered if there is not an inch of rainfall in a week.
Daylilies grow in a wide range of soils and conditions. Fertilization practices differ widely from gardener to gardener. Certainly you will get better bloom if your soil is more fertile but truly, daylilies are amazing in nearly any soil. If you like to use fertilizer please follow the instructions on the label. Too much fertilizer will grow lots of leaves and fewer flowers. Daylilies do fine with a wide range of soil pH. I recommend a soil test before adding anything that would change the pH like lime or sulfur. If you garden organically, like us, you will find that almost any soil can be improved with a little compost. I work some in when I plant and use as a top dressing. Leave it a little away from the crowns to prevent too much moisture from collecting there. If would be great to do it every year but in reality if you don’t get to it you will be fine. We get through all of our beds about every other year.
Mulching is not essential but it does help the soil to retain moisture and help to keep the weeds down. I recommend organic mulch like wood chips, shredded leaves or clean straw, which will break down in time essentially becoming compost and contributing to the fertility of the soil. If using wood chips let them age a bit before spreading. Fresh green chips can actually rob some nutrients from your plants as they decompose. This really only happens in the top inch of the soil so big established plants won’t mind, but seedlings or small plants may. Mulches that are not recommended include dyed wood chips (unnecessary chemicals) and plastic mulch. Please don’t use plastic sheet for mulch. Landscape fabric is okay but I still don’t recommend it. Here’s why:
- Less water will get to your plants; especially with plastic but even with landscape fabric they get less.
- Your soil gets hotter. Think of what happens with your black car or if using clear it can have a greenhouse effect. Plastic is used to kill weeds. Why would you do this to your nice plants?
- The weeds will eventually come through…believe me they will, and then you will have to rip out your work and start over. This is even worse if you put rocks on the top. Think of the time you will have to spend picking out the rocks by hand when your fabric is shredding.
- It kills worms, or at least makes them go away.
- When you pull it up you will see that your soil is dead. All microorganisms and organic matter is gone.
- Your plants are not going to stay exactly as they are when you plant them. They are going to grow and the little hole that you cut is going to strangle them. They are going to end up trying to grow under the plastic and get suffocated or they will spread out on top where there isn’t any soil for them.
- You may want to move them around.
We all know that weeding is a part of gardening. Weeds can rob water and nutrients from the good guys. For sure get them before they go to seed, and be diligent about perennial weeds or they can take over. Let’s face it, weeds aren’t as pretty as no weeds but it is really a matter of how fastidious you are, how much time you have and how many plants you have. A few weeds aren’t going to kill a daylily. Mulching will decrease the amount of hoeing and hand removal that you will need to do.
Grooming and Sanitation
Keeping your garden neat and tidy really goes hand in hand with weeding, and has the same real life constraints on it. You’re daylilies will likely do fine if you don’t do it. If you are having problems with insect pests or disease, removing dead foliage and debris from around the crown can help combat these problems. But when it comes down to it, really, it’s a matter of making them look their best. So, this being said I usually tell people that if it doesn’t look good, remove it.
- Remove any foliage from last year in spring.
- Remove any foliage that is turning brown, or is damaged throughout the growing season. This can be done as infrequently or as often as you like to keep your plants looking nice.
- Though it is not a problem to miss a day or too, deadheading has become a ritual for me. It gives you a chance to go around each day and see what’s blooming. I usually do my photography at this time too. It’s a relaxing thing to do with a cup o’ java.
- If you hybridize, of course you will need to leave the pollinated, hopefully marked, blooms on until a seed pod forms.
- After all of the buds on a given scape have bloomed you can cut the scape off to a few inches above the soil. This may help your plant send up another scape and re-bloom. You will of course want to leave the scape if it has a pod on it and you want to try starting daylilies from seed.
There are sources that give you specific recommendations on when to divide you plants. About every 5 years is what I often hear. There are thousands of daylily cultivars out there and each one will perform differently in different gardens and different geographic areas. What I will say is that if your plant is preforming well then you can leave it and your clumps will become impressive. If it is not flowering as well as it used to, or you want to give some to a friend, then consider dividing or moving it. Each fan can become a new plant but I like to leave 6 fans on the mother plant and have each division be at least 3 fans. Unless it is huge I recommend digging up the entire plant and then replanting the parent. Some recommend cutting with a spade or knife, but you will lose a lot more of the plant this way. No matter what you do you will lose a few roots, and maybe a fan or two. If you chop off the top part of the fan replant the crown anyway and it will likely grow next year. As you start to remove the soil you will notice that you can begin to tease or pry the fans apart, breaking a few roots that join them. Leave the fans that you plan to plant together attached if you can. If they separate it’s not a big deal though. Remove the dead foliage and debris from around the crown and especially if you plan to move them to a different garden rinse them. This will prevent moving any weeds or insects hiding in the soil and in that stuff around the base.
Now sit back and enjoy the show.