If you think of daylilies as that New England plant that comes in yellow in early spring or lines country road ditches in dull orange the balance of the summer, then you are really missing a great plant. There are currently over 65,000 registered daylilies ranging from 10 inches to more than 70 inches tall. Hundreds upon hundreds of new seedlings are in the pipeline at hybridizer's gardens, many on their way to the registration or marketing process.
If you are an avid gardener, a new daylily collector, or a happy homeowner who wants a colorful, low maintenance landscape design for everyone to admire, then daylilies are for you. We now have over 250 varieties readily available for sale and have more than twice that many in our collection working their way to sufficient quantities to be offered for sale. These are all Vermont-hardy daylilies which have proven themselves here in zone 4.
For best bloom, daylilies require at least half a day of sun in a location that doesn't make them compete with tree and shrub roots. Some gardeners are possessed to make daylilies grow in deeper shade and it doesn't work, especially in a state like Vermont which ranks in the top five shadiest states in the Continental US. A site with good sunlight makes all the difference!
The plants grow in all types of soil as long as it drains well and is adequately amended. Some books and catalogs mention how well daylilies perform in wet areas but this is in southern climates where hard and consistent freezes do not occur. Here at Vermont Flower Farm we use well rotted manures, leaf compost and potting mixes with a peat base. These mixtures provide good root aeration and encourage good root production, and larger leaves and buds as a result. Every spring we apply a general purpose fertilizer around each plant about 8-10 inches from the center plant crowns.
In New England, daylilies can be successfully planted between April and September. We make it a point to finish fall planting by early October because soil temperatures below 50 degrees will not encourage root development. Generally the plants will over-winter well but the proof of good fall rooting will be in the size of the plant that first spring in your garden. Regardless of the planting time, many daylilies, even those that are flowering when purchased, will not flower the first year as they adjust to their new location and reestablish a good root system. This is most prevalent in northern gardens with shorter growing seasons.
When purchasing new plants, take a good look at the root system before planting. At our nursery we sell some daylilies potted and ready to go but many are freshly dug from our gardens, tagged, bagged and sold that way. If you purchase potted plants, take a good look at the root system before planting. Healthy plants have a large root system which often fills the pots tightly. Take the plant out of the pot, briefly soak in water to loosen the root ball, and then spread the roots apart before planting. Take these extra steps and you'll be rewarded! Don't just remove the plant from the pot and plop it into a hole.
Dig a hole a couple times the size of the root mass, amend the soil, water well and then plant the crowns about an inch below the soil surface. Keep the plant well watered for the first couple weeks after planting, especially if it has been dry in your area.
We recommend that daylilies be planted 18-24 inches apart. Long term plantings should probably be spaced an extra 6" in each direction. If you are interested in an eye catching mass of one color, plant 3-5 daylilies in a triangular formation. If you want harmonious color throughout the season, plant early, mid season and late varieties. Add some daffodils, crocus or other spring bulbs proven for your area, and the result will be a mix of heights, textures and fragrances from spring until fall.
Over time, daylilies will grow based upon their heritage and where and how you have planted and cared for them. Each year we hear success stories from happy customers who tell us their plants look much bigger and better than ours. That makes us happy because it confirms that our original stock was strong and healthy and that the gardener did a great job of planting. Soil condition, water, sunlight and proper placement always make a difference!
If you notice a decline in the amount of bloom, it's a sign that it's time to divide your daylilies. Older, tightly packed root masses prevent adequate water and nutrient uptake. Although you can divide daylilies any time, spring is best because foliage is at a minimum, the plants are just breaking dormancy, the ground is moist and the digging is easier. We recommend digging the entire clump and being a bit ruthless about the job. Do a little stretching first as some of the clumps can get surprisingly large and heavy.
Often garden journals show pictures of people dividing daylily clumps using two spade forks. George always says he'd like to watch such a performance. We don't own two spade forks so we dig out entire clumps, hose them down well with water and then cut them apart using a clean, sharp knife. Dividing daylilies will provide you with plenty of new plants for your own gardens, your friends and any of the fund raisers or library benefits such as we often have here in rural Vermont. Daylilies are a great plant, almost trouble free, and they look nice with other perennials, shrubs, bulbs and grasses.