Growing Daylilies

Free Wheeling 2

(Stamile,2004) 34" EERe  9" Tet Evr Spd Cream Yellow with a Burgundy Red Eye

Daylilies enjoy a well-deserved reputation for being an easy to grow perennial. They are grown in all parts of the country.  Insect pests and disease are minor issues for daylilies that seldom result in loss of a plant. Below are suggestions for growing daylilies at their best in the Tampa Bay area. 

This is the University of Florida Extension page. This has great information for Florida daylily enthusiasts.

Sun: Full to half day sun works best. Deep shade is unacceptable. Planting of daylilies under tall pine trees works well as long as the filtered sun is fairly strong. Do not plant close to bushes or trees with greedy root systems.

Soil: A well-drained soil rich in organic material with a pH between 6 and 7 is recommended. Sandy soils need to be amended with compost, peat, ground up branches, good top soil, manure, or other available organic material. The more the  better. Adding up to 10% clay is an excellent sandy soil amendment if it is available. Mix the added materials with a garden fork to the depth of the fork. Spending time and money on your soil is always a good investment.

Water: During active growth one to two inches of rain or irrigation per week produces the greatest number of flowers and rapid plant increase. Conserve water usage with an organic soil (organic soil needs 1 inch per week while a more sandy soil needs up to two inches per week water) and/or applying several inches of a leaf or pine needle mulch. Included on a separate page we've provided detailed instructions to help your plants survive a drought.

Fertilizer: Have your garden soil tested to determine exactly what elements are needed. The Cooperative Extension Service office in your county will do soil tests for a modest fee. Use a time release fertilizer with micronutrients in the fall and again in spring when blooms begin. A handful per plant spread around the base is enough. The numbers on the bag represent N (nitrogen), P (phosphorous), and K (potassium). Since phosphorous is naturally abundant in most Florida soils it is wise to purchase a formula that has a relatively low middle (phosphorous) number. A commercial daylily grower in our club uses a 17-3-11 three month time-release blend with micronutrients with good success. A leaf mulch is a form of slow release fertilizer which also conserves water, cools the soil, and reduces the number of weeds. The sun, soil and water requirements listed above are far more important than fertilizer.

Dividing: Most well cared for daylily plants will increase the number of fans (A fan is a single plant with some roots. The green leaves spread out from the crown in a cluster, or "fan" shape.) three or four fold each year. After a few years a clump will have formed. Fall is the best time to dig up, divide and increase your daylilies. When a clump grows in size to where it has over a dozen fans it is time to divide the plant. A clump with dry soil is easier to handle than if the soil is moist. Dig it up using a fork or shovel. Trim half to two thirds of the foliage back, knock off as much soil as possible and pull, twist, pry or if need be cut the clump using a knife so individual plants with one to three fans is attached to roots. This would be a good time to remove old or dead foliage and clean the plant up. Wounds on the roots and crown can be dusted with a root hormone powder to enhance new growth. Plant these daylilies in a previously prepared bed. If the original plant was large then allow about 18-20" between plants, 15-17" spacing for medium size plants and 12-14" for small size plants. Some gardeners prefer greater spacing between plants to avoid the leaves of one plant touching the next plant. Watching a Bay Area Daylily Society member divide a clump and replant will quickly answer your questions.

Insects and Disease: Daylilies seldom die from insects or disease and when they do it is usually because the plant was weak or stressed. Spraying for aphids, thrips or whatever works but once begun you have killed off many of the beneficial insects so the spray program needs to be continued. Spot spraying in trouble spots is better than wide spread spraying. If no spraying is done insects will nibble on the leaves during spring growth and during hot dry spells usually with minor effect.

Disease such as crown rot, leaf streak, and others will attack daylilies. Except for crown rot diseases do not cause much trouble for a daylily. Crown rot seldom occurs but it is often fatal when it does. Having a well drained soil and not moving or transplanting daylilies during the hot summer months keeps crown rot to a minimum. A commercial daylily grower in our club with over 15,000 daylily plants reports annual losses due to insects or disease to be well under 1%. This operation is essentially organic with no chemical used to kill insects or disease.

A yellow fungus called rust may form on the leaves of some daylilies. This became a problem for Florida growers in the year 2000. Since the wind carries the pustules, it is easily spread.  The rust won’t kill the plant, but it is unsightly. If you decide to chemically treat your plants, you must continue a regular regimen of spraying every two to three weeks to keep it under control. The fungicide products Daconil, Headline and Cleary’s 3336 have proven effective.  Remember, these are strong chemicals and all the necessary precautions should be taken when using them. Nickel Plus helps the plant resist disease.  If you get rust, these knowledgeable Bay Area Daylily Society members: Jeff Johnson, jeff@johnsondaylily.com, and Linda Sample, glsample@verizon.net, have volunteered to answer your questions.

How To Buy Daylilies

Foliage Habit:  This refers to whether the foliage remains evergreen all year or reverts to a dormant state during the winter and loses its foliage.  All registered daylilies are either Evergreen, Semi-evergreen, or Dormant.  Dormant daylilies may not receive sufficient winter chill in central Florida to survive our summers, and although a few will live happily here purchasing dormants is risky.  When purchasing, always inquire about foliage habit and this is even more important at major gardening centers.   Local growers will be able tell you if the plant will be happy in your garden.   Even some evergreens that were hybridized north of Florida will not be happy in our climate.  Our club members will be glad to share their knowledge about locally happy daylilies which contributes to happy gardening.

Bloom Season: Blooms start in March for early daylilies while late season daylilies won¹t start their bloom until mid-May. Selecting early and later season bloomers results in a longer bloom season. Plants that are growing well often rebloom in the fall. A typical daylily blooms for about four weeks followed by rebloom for another three weeks. For well established well cared for daylilies additional rebloom occurs. Plants that have grown in place for a year or longer usually produce the greatest number of blooms and are most likely to have fall rebloom.

Flower Size: Daylily flower size varies from a few inches up to ten inches with 5-6 inches being most common. Most people prefer a flower in the 5-6 inch range because it can be seen from a distance and the selection at a reasonable price is good.

Flower Color and Shape: The range of colors and flower shapes are endless so this decision is entirely personal. There is no substitute for actually seeing a flower in bloom when making a buying decision. Pictures can be enhanced and, of course, a picture in a catalog or at a website will show the flower on it's very best day. It is easy to forget that a flower is rather small when the picture seems so large. Also, the plant size should be considered. Larger plants tend to have more flowers and/or rebloom.

Price: Prices are governed by supply and demand. New fancy plants in short supply can cost hundreds of dollars while very attractive older plants in good supply may cost around $5.00. Pricing books are available that list the going price for thousands of different daylilies. Ask a Bay Area Daylily Society member to show you this reference book. It could save you a great deal of money.

Pot Versus Bare Root: Daylilies purchased in pots have the advantage of getting off to a fast start since there would be little or no shock when planting in the ground. Such plants in pots are often found at garden centers at a reasonable price. Such plants tend to be the older, smaller size daylilies with a limited choice of color, shape, size, season, etc.

Bare root daylilies are purchased from commercial daylily gardens either in person or by mail. Prices range from inexpensive to hundreds of dollars for the very best and latest varieties. Bare root purchases are by far the most common method of buying daylilies with millions of plants sold that way yearly. Gardeners familiar with daylilies prefer this method since it offers an extremely wide range of choices, prices are fair, and an expert is available to answer questions.

How To Plant Daylilies: When planting daylilies in the deep south it is important that the crown (where the roots and green leaves meet) be near the surface of the soil. To achieve this, scoop a hole in the soil about the width of the roots somewhat spread out and about 4" deep. In the center of the hole, make a mound of soil so that the top of the mound is almost even with the height of the bed. Place the crown of the plant on top of the mound letting the roots drape over the mound. Cover the roots with soil (If a time release fertilizer is available work a handful into the soil prior to covering the roots.) Then step the soil down around the plant to reduce air pockets. To do this, carefully put a foot close to the crown on opposite sides of the plant and then take small steps rotating around the plant. Water the plant to further reduce the number of air pockets. Then mulch with leaves or pine needles several inches deep.

Receiving Mail Order Daylilies: Daylilies can spend weeks out of the ground and recover nicely once planted. They are commonly shipped around the world. Of course, the longer a plant is out of the soil the more yellowed and wilted it will appear. This toughness explains why daylilies and mail order purchasing are popular. Upon receipt of plants check to make sure the order is complete. Do not soak the plants in water over night. This is unnecessary and can create an unhealthy brew of bacteria that no plant needs. Next, to kill hitchhiking disease organisms and pests, dip the plants for 10 minutes in a bleach solution (3 tablespoons household bleach to one gallon water). Rinse with clean water after the dip. Plant as soon as possible. If planting must be delayed store the plants in a cool shady location or lay the plants in a row on their side in a shady location and cover the roots with soil until you can plant them. Optimal results are obtained by potting up new arrivals in a good commercial potting mix such as Fafard mix # 3 or # 4 (see below for retail stores selling this), water the pot well after planting and place in semi-shade. Water as needed thereafter. Cluster pots to keep soil temperatures lower. Edge the pots toward the sun each week. Strong center growth should be evident in three to four weeks. This is the time to remove it from the pot and place in the garden. This extra effort pays off with faster growth and flowering.

Retail Stores Selling Fafard Mixes
Garden and Hardware, 13195 - 49th Street North, Clearwater, FL 33762
Wilcox Nursery, 12502 Indian Rocks Road, Largo, Fl 33774 
Carrolls' Nursery, 4950 38th Ave. North, St. Petersburg, Fl 33710 
Armenia Nursery, 5904 Armenia Avenue, Tampa, Fl 33603 
Cleary's, 4680 Cleveland Heights. Boulevard, Lakeland, Fl 
Landscape Creations, 8030 Plathe Road, New Port Ritchy, Fl
Copyright  2010  Bay Area Daylily Society  -- Banner daylily pictured, 'Madly Red," photo courtesy of Greg Crane