Friday, July 1, 2016

Daylily Expectations

"Hemerocallis Princeton Prairie Arts"
Since daylilies are such a wonderfully healthy and easy plant, it's easy to have high expectations for every day, every plant and every time.  But, alas, we must get real.

There's the issue of new daylilies in your gardens.  Even if you plant correctly, in the right place and take perfect care, your daylily may not be exactly as described and some may not bloom at all that first year.  
Get a nice big fan that's been in the actual growing field a day or so before it gets to your garden and it will take hold faster.  It can be potted or bare root but it should have been in the field recently.  Plants that have been in pots for some time will take longer to establish.  

If you live south and don't have hard long winter freezes, I wouldn't buy from southern growers unless they have an iron clad guarantee the plant doesn't have the disease rust.  It doesn't live over winter in our Zone 5 gardens.  I still ONLY buy from local nurseries and from catalog retailers I know and trust.

Follow the planting instructions to the letter.  These people know how to grow daylilies - follow their advice.  The only time I amend the soil around the hole when planting is if it's planted in sticky clay (sticky clay is less than ideal.)  I like my plants to get used to the soil in the whole area around them so when those roots start reaching out they won't notice a difference.
Hemerocallis "Over There" in the old spot struggling because of too much shade.
"Over There" with larger healthier plant - blooms in sunny spot 2016.
Sun light is important.  Seldom does a daylily die from lack of sun (unless totally in the shade then it's a slow death.)  It will suffer, fail to increase clump size and have fewer scapes, buds and flowers.  The scapes, buds and flowers may be deformed or the buds may drop.  In other words:  plant in the sun.

How much sun?  Some dark colored daylilies get bleached or funky colored in hot late afternoon sun.  Some purples and a few reds - although the new ones are being bred to withstand more sun.  Some descriptions will tell you if they need some afternoon shade or if they must have full sun.  Most don't tell you and it's trial and error.

If a daylily isn't happy in the spot you chose or conditions have changed over the years:  move it!  Daylilies are one of the easiest plants to move.  Dig down around the edge (preferable in the spring when they first appear) and lift the entire plant.  Leave on the soil unless you plan to divide it for more plants.  Dig a nice sized hole, plant the exact same depth and water if it doesn't rain.  I always like to mulch around it the first year.  Don't get it up against the base of the plant as it can encourage insects. 

I form a ring around the base of the plant about six inches out made from soil.  This allows me to spot water and it will drain slowly onto the roots.  Daylilies will rot if they stand in water for long periods so make sure you don't over water and don't plant too deep.
Hemerocallis "Designer Gown" 2nd day of blooming 2016
"Designer Gown" first day of blooming 2016

Why doesn't my plant look like the nursery's pictures or descriptions?  The first year (sometimes two) some daylilies need time to get their roots established.  Most, but not all, will put all their energy into this and not into flowers.  Have patience.  I've had a few that take off running a month or two after they were planted but they're the exception. 
Hemerocallis "Nuit D'Amour" first bloom/first year.
Nuit D'Amour subsequent bloom 2016.

Why does the surface of my blooms have blemishes?  Some new plants will have odd bloom blemishes; Not enough energy is going into the flowers.  Most often it's insects munching the lovely color surface.  Earwigs are one of my most damaging petal munchers.  Use tweezers or shake them out into a bucket of dish washing soap.  Since I don't spray insecticides on my lilies, I try to shake most insects into the bucket and the rest gets a free lunch.  

If a lily doesn't thrive in one spot, move it.  It's usually trying to tell you something.  Although daylilies aren't bothered by juglone from walnut trees, they don't like to be crowded by larger plants.  I like a crowded garden, but, it does invite disease and shade.  If my lilies get too crowded, I divide and move.  Back when Stella de Oro was THE daylily, I bought one plant.  I've divided it until I now have ten.  Its tough, bright, blooms all season and increases in size.  I put it in places where other lilies are too picky to do well.  
"Hemerocallis Double Daffy" subsequent blooms 2016.
"Double Daffy" first bloom 2016.
Why did my double lily bloom as a single?  With a few exceptions, all my doubles first few flowers of each season start out single.  They were singles their first year of existence in my gardens.  Some even throw out a single ever now and again just to keep me on my toes.  
"Hemerocallis Bali Hai" has never looked like the AHS description.
It's from a big box store and I'm sure it's wrong but it's a wonderful
looking and behaving plant so I love my whatever it's called.
What if my flower never does look like the description?  I'd say it was mislabeled at the nursery.  Take it back if you don't like it but make sure you kept the tag and receipt.  It may have been done by a customer reading a label and then inserting back into the wrong plant.  Also, the chances of a daylily not being true to the registered form is higher if you buy daylilies from big box stores.

I want to hybridize daylilies - where do I go for help?  The American Hemerocallis Society web site can get you started.  Join a regional AHS group (I'm in Region 2).  Attend a summer regional or national AHS conference.  Join the AHS and start getting their newsletters.  Find out who hybridizes near you and ask if you can visit and talk.  Most love to start another daylily person on the way to hybridizing.  Then just go for it!

Where should I plant my daylilies?  Aside from what I've already covered, make sure it's where you will see them every single day.  Each day brings a new lily and it seems they just get better.  You don't want to miss one flower by planting on the other side of nowhere.  Where do you sit the most in the summer?  Make sure there are lilies in view, whether it's beside the patio, outside the computer room window or by your work bench.  

Get a good camera and take pictures.  Have a good program where you can edit and save.  I save to an external hard drive so it doesn't slow my PC down.  

But, most of all have fun and enjoy your daylilies - they're indeed one of the beautiful blessings of my gardens.        


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