DAYLILIES…Planting, Dividing, and Maintenance

Daylilies blooming in my garden, here at Whimsey Hill.

Daylilies are probably one of the most dependable and easiest to grow of all the Summer flowers. The Daylily is also called the Hemerocallis. It is called the daylily, because its flowers only bloom for one day. The nice thing about it, is that there are many flower buds on its scape (stem), so you have flowers for a long period of time.

Daylilies come in a wide range of colors, from white to almost black, and many tones of yellow, orange, red, and pink. The only color they don’t come in, so far, is a true blue. As for height, they can be kind of short stemmed like the Stella de Oro, or have an almost 5 foot scape / stem like the wild orange variety that grows along the road.

Daylilies come solid, multi-colored, and can be single or double petaled. They also can bloom early, in the middle, and late in the gardening season. Some are even repeat bloomers.

Buying and Planting Daylilies …Daylilies can be purchased at places like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, K-Mart etc, as well as Garden Centers, and through Mail Order Catalogs. When buying plants from garden centers, and the big hardware and discount stores, they will most likely come potted up in soil, in a one gallon pot. Buy the one with the most greenery (fans) as possible. If you purchase one that already produced multiple fans, it is an older plant, and at that moment, you could divide it, if you wanted. Each of the fans is really one individual plant.

Years ago I purchased a number of Daylily Collections from different mail order companies. Collections are one or more of a grouping of plants. One of the collections was an assortment of pink colored daylilies from the White Flower Farm, in Litchfield, Ct.

Sometimes you will be surprised how SMALL, but Healthy, the plants that you purchase from a mail order company can be. Years ago I ordered 27 daylilies (maybe 4 collections), from a certain well-known company, that shall remain nameless. When the plants arrived, they were all sent bare root (not in any kind of soil), and tagged for what variety they were. They all looked healthy, but each of the 27 plants were the size of my baby finger. The 27 plants arrived in a box the size of a shoe box.

Planting Daylilies …Plant daylilies in full sun (6 plus hours of direct sun a day) to partial shade (4 hours of sun a day), in an area of average to fertile, well-drained soil.

Most daylily planting tags say space the plants about 18 inches apart. I think this is too close. If you plant them that way, you will have to divide them after, maybe 4 or 5 years. I think daylilies should be planted at least 24 inches apart. Mark off a 24 inch square of garden for each plant, and place your daylily in the exact center of the 24 inch square. Your plant will have 12 inches of space all around to expand. If you want to never have to move your daylily plants, plant the 36 inches apart. I planted mine 30 inches apart, and have not had to divide them in almost 20 years. They still produce flowers well, with just a Spring feeding of an all-purpose granular fertilizer, like Plant Tone.

Remember the 27 finger sized daylilies I bought mail order? They all lived, and are doing fine, but for the first 3 years, after planting, I planted tomatoes around them, until they started looking like something.

When making a daylily bed, or planting some daylilies in your garden, start them off on the right foot. Mix some Sphagnum Peat Moss and dehydrated Cow Manure into the soil to amend (improve) it. Your daylilies will have a fertile environment, in which to thrive for years.

Dividing Daylilies …Daylilies can be divided anytime of the year, except when blooming. You could divide them when blooming, but you would probably destruct / damage the flower, which is what you planted it for. I think the best time to divide daylilies, in my area of Upstate New York (zone 5-4), is anytime after August 15. At that time a good amount of the Summer plants have finished blooming, and Fall is on its way. When you dig up and divide the daylily, you will be damaging its foliage, but so what. All that is important, after the plant is divided and replanted, is that it gets a good drink, and has the weeks of September and October to reestablish itself, and get ready for Winter dormancy.

When dividing a daylily, take a straight spade, and try to cut it right down the center. Position your spade so its blade is between the daylily fans (green grassy leaves), so you don’t knock off to many fans. After cutting it in half, if it is a big plant, cut it in half again, the other way. (See the two dividing illustration). If you need to, cut your now 4 pieces in half again. Next take a Round Point Digging Shovel, and dig / pry each section out, one at a time. Don’t worry about slicing off root parts. The daylily is resilient, and will recover nicely, no matter how hard you divide it. If you find you have loose pieces of daylily root falling off, plant them. Put them under the ground, about an inch or so, on their side (horizontally). Even the smallest piece will come back to life.

When replanting your divided daylily, dig a hole and just pop it into the ground. Try to cover the root system with an inch or two of soil. If you can’t plant your daylilies for a few days, or even a week, or more, after dividing, just put them in a shady spot, and sprinkle some water on them to keep them moist. Even if you neglect your unplanted daylily tuber /root, no problem. It will just sit there in kind of dormant state. I don’t think you can kill a daylily!

Daylily Maintenance … Daylilies are a low maintenance plant. Other than giving them a good watering, here and there (hopefully once a week), and possibly a Spring application of an All Purpose fertilizer, the only other maintenance issues are (1).. Daily (if you wish), taking off spent (wilted) flowers, this is called Breaking Bloom, and (2) after the plant has completely finished blooming, clipping off the daylily scape (stem) that held the flowers.

In the Fall, at the end of the gardening season cut / pull off the now yellowing daylily foliage. I have large daylily beds, which I slowly cut through with the lawn mower.

And finally, the daffodil is a good companion plant to a daylily. Space daffodil bulbs 12 to 14 inches apart throughout your daylily planting. They will bloom early in Spring, and their foliage will blend in, and be covered by the daylily foliage as the gardening season progresses.

I hope this post was helpful to you, and that you now know the basics of daylily planting, All I can say to you is… Go out and buy a few for your garden! Happy Planting.

Companion Posts
When designing a perennial garden it’s all about Shapes of Leaves 1-15-2011,
How it Plant (Design) a garden, Mass versus Specimen planting 2-17-2011,
Colored Foliage adds that WOW FACTOR to a Garden 2-22-2011,
Stagger Plant Heights when Planting (Designing) a Garden 2-23-2011,

Hostas (Plantation Lily) Planting, Dividing and Maintenance 8-14-2011,
Roses..Planting Pruning and General Care 5-11-2011,
Starting a Rose Bush and Other Plants from a Cutting (Slip) 6-17-2011
My Peonies Don’t / Won’t Bloom 5-16-2011,
My Hydrangeas Don’t / Won’t Bloom is a lament uttered by Many 6-21-2012,
Dividing Miscanthus Grass, NOT EASY, but you can do it 12-12-2010,
Daffodils..Planting Fertilizing and Maintenance 4-8-2011,
Tulips..Planting Fertilizing and Maintenance 4-19-2011,
Neatening up a Rhododendron after it Blooms 6-3-2011,

(Garden Design)
Designing / Laying out Flower Beds 5-4-2013,
Planting a Garden Room on your Property 2-17-2013,
When Designing a Shade Garden, think Focal Point, Plant Color and Shapes of Leaves 9-4-2011,
Foundation Planting, Laying out Foundation Plants in Front of your Home 9-28-2013,
Planting Foundation Plants across the Front of Your Home 10-21-2013,
Looking at Evergreens in the Garden 1-31-2012,
Some Ideas about Planting Trees by your Home for Curb Appeal 4-26-2012
It’s Easy to Grow Pussywillows 2-15-2012


About fredgonsowskigardenhome

Your eyes deserve to view beauty. I hope Fred Gonsowski Garden Home helps to turn your vision, into a reality.
This entry was posted in Roses, Peonies, Tulips, etc, The Autumn(Fall) Garden, The Spring Garden, The Summer Garden. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to DAYLILIES…Planting, Dividing, and Maintenance

  1. Joanne Razzano says:

    Hi Fred…should I be dividing my irises now? They didn’t flower at all this Spring.

    • Hi Joanne,
      The best time for dividing and replanting all perennials is ANYTIME after August 15, if you live in the North East zone 5-4 as I do. Dig up the plants, with their foliage intact, if your can, and divide the plants. With the foliage intact, you will see exactly how tall the plant will look as compared to the other plants you put it by. Leave it for a few weeks, before cutting back the foliage. The most important thing, after dividing and moving any plant is to give it a good drink, at least two or three times a week, so it stays moist, and can reestablish itself, before it gets ready for Winter Dormancy.

  2. Pingback: Dividing Daylilies «

  3. Patti says:

    Can I dig up my lilies and plant them the next year, moving and want to take some of my lilies, but won’t be able to plant them until the following year

    • Hi Patti, I would suggest digging up pieces from all the daylilies you have and planting them up in plastic pots, like they come in when you buy them at the garden center. Keep them watered, and if you can, this Fall, plant the pots and all, right in the ground to keep the roots from freezing. Next Spring take the pots from the ground, and the plants from the pots, and hopefully they will be ready to plant. If you can’t put them in the ground, find a unheated garage, and leave them in there for the Winter. Water them on occasion, just a little bit to keep them alive. I hope my advice is of some help, not knowing what state, or climate you are moving to and from.

  4. joe says:

    I divided my daylily plants last fall and replanted the bulbs. Here we are in march and I am seeing new plants coming up! Followed the dividing advice and am so proud of the outcome!

    • Hi there Joe, the daylily, as well as the hosta are probably two of the easiest plants to divide. You could chop them up, and even leave them out of the ground for a few days, and they will still do fine. Truthfully, if you can divide a daylily, you can divide anything. The main thing is to water daily, for a week or two after divining, and things will work out fine. Here in the upstate New York area, plant division can be done anytime after August 15, and until the ground freezes. Most plants just should not be divided when blooming, or during the hottest part of Summer. Thanks for your comment Joe, have a wonderful planting season!

  5. Donna Lake says:

    I have my yard full every year of a beautiful crop now for 18 years on the Coastal area of Ma. I like to do a cutting each year for in the house. Do I put them in a water vase or no water. Can they be cut and displayed in the house and where if so. Window for light or, just on a table ?

  6. Melanie says:

    I planted some bare root day lilies my neighbor gave me last year all came up but only have very small leaves no blooms. Only one looks like a beautiful plant, What can I do to the others to promote growth?

    • Hi there Melanie, since your plants are young, and probably small, just give them a good drink of MiracleGro, or some other fertilizer this year, and next year they will look a lot better. Some daylilies send up flower heads later than others, yours still could do something. If your plants are in real shade, you will have few flowers, so that is something else to consider. Daylilies like at least 4 hours of direct sun daily, that is considered partial sun. Full sun is 6 plus hours of sun daily. Do you water them, if they are never watered, that could effect their ability to produce flower stems.

  7. Suzanne says:

    Hello Fred! Just happened on your sorely needed advice. Thanks for a great post on day lilies.

    I planted my first daylilies last spring (2016) for summer 2016 and they did very well blooming through out the summer. I cut the stalks back as they withered in late fall and left them outside untended but in soil in plastic pots for the winter. It is now January and I have so many that have multiplied with many sporting multiple green fans already and I’m wondering when to divide/replant them as it seems too early. It is still cold here in the mid 30s at night. We are in zone 9 with one or two nights just at freezing each winter and will not have warmer weather until late February. They have spent the winter in small plastic pots and the roots have broken through the bottoms. Should I wait until it warms up to divide/replant? I feel sorry for them and don’t want to lose them ! I thought they would lie dormant until spring!

    • Hi there Suzanne, if the daylilies are turning green now, and you see fans sprouting you can divide and replant them now. I would not suggest dividing them during the flowering period, as you might damage the flower scape/stem, but really you can’t kill a daylily. They are probably the most hardy of plants. Just be sure to give them a good drink after dividing and replanting and things will work out just fine.

  8. Suzanne says:

    PS! Forgot to say your daylilies beds look awesome!

  9. Robin J. Kline says:

    Wish I’d found this page sooner! I have some spectacular daylilies inherited from my grandmother. After 7 years of excellent growth and spreading, last summer for the first time they looked thin. I’ve read that daylilies like lean soil so I haven’t fertilized or anything, but I’m wondering what I can do to restore them to their former grandeur. I covered them with a thin layer of mulch this winter, but that’s about it. Thanks for any advice you can give — these are the most beautiful lilies I’ve ever seen, with 4-5 layers of yellow/orange petals. I don’t want to lose them!

    • Hi there Robin, If you planted the daylilies close together, they might have already taken up the space provided and have no place to go; so if that is the case, I would say divide them, amend the soil with some cow manure and replant. If trees or bushes have grown big around them, and blocked some of the sun’s rays, then it could be a photosynthesis/ light issue. In that case I would suggest, if you can trim the bushes or trees to provide extra light. Daylilies are a hardy plant, but I would give them a feeding of a good all-purpose plant food this Spring and see if it improves them. Also, in times of drought, and not enough watering, the daylily can send up fewer flower stems. Years ago, we had a terribly wet summer and the foliage of the daylilies in my big, down by the road, rotted and died back in mid summer. A few weeks later, it came back healthy again. Daylilies, not unlike hostas are really hard to kill, so don’t worry. Also, try dividing some and planting them in a different location, they might do better elsewhere. Good luck and let’s look for Spring to come soon again ;-}

      • Robin J. Kline says:

        Thanks so much! I believe you’re right about them being too close together now, so I’ll dig and divide (and fertilize!)

  10. Julia says:

    Very helpful. I love my day lilies…so happy looking😊😊 I like the idea of putting daffodils among them…gave me the idea to add one or two daylilies where I now have daffodils…since I let the foliage die and it is ugly to see in my front if the house bed. Now…what color should I plant? oak leaf hydrangeas with white flowers are at the back of the bed…and are absolutely lovely.
    Thanks for the great advice.

    • Hi there Julia, you could find a daylily that is close in color to the hydrangea, so you would be having the same color of the hydrangea closer to the ground. Also think when you want it to be blooming, as there are early, mid-season and late bloomers. Look in garden catalogues, or go to your local garden center every two weeks or so, as new things as constantly brought in to incite you. Good luck with your project, and HAPPY SUMMER!

      • Suzanne says:

        Hi Fred, So happy to see more here on daylilies. Your advice to me earlier this year on diving and replanting bulbs this spring was such a big help to me. My white lilies came back with a vengeance. So far, I’ve found them to be low maintenance seasonal color with no bugs to bother with (as I am constantly fighting on rose bushes and citrus trees). I also planted some fancy deep pink asian lilies that followed the white that have been wonderful for cut flower arrangements. Lilies are used frequently here in Japan in cut flower arrangements, costing $10 per stem at a flower shop. While a bit pricy to purchase the initial bulbs, I think they are a great investment, as your beautiful beds clearly demonstrate. I look forward to adding new colors to my collection next year. I have a few spider lilies that will follow the deep pink. As my plants are in the front yard, I get many comments on these showy lilies and it is a joy to cut a few to give to familiy and friends. As I plant in pots, I can move the spent flower stalks to another location to whither. I just move the new bloomers to a front and center location. I got my ideas from a neighborhood man who raises huge showy chrysanthemums in individual pots each year. In the late summer, he moves them out front to line his driveway so all can enjoy them at their peak! With small garden spaces here, we get pretty creative.

      • Hi there Suzanne, glad to have been an inspiration. I like Asiatic, Oriental, Tiger and Day lilies, and have them all. The lily is one of my favorite flowers. For the past few years, red-orange bugs have been eating at the Asiatic, Oriental and Tiger lilies, leaving brown poop on the leaves and weakening the plants. Some people spray, I leave them alone, but squish them when I see them. These days I’m just too busy with other projects (following the recent death of my mother), so having the garden perfect, having time to write blog articles and keeping things in control is not an easy thing for me.

  11. Suzanne says:

    Apologize for the typo. I meant advice you gave on dividing and replanting!

  12. jenny cestero says:

    I ran into the searching for something else. Great article. I do know that it is from many years ago. Something that got me to leave this comment is how you discussed that they can even go dormant without being planted. Or something to that effect. I live in zone 5 in Pennsylvania and I do get lazy come September. But just like all the other years, I have an abundance of Daylily that I need to put in the ground in the next couple of weeks. Frequently both Daylily and Iris suffer at my hands. LOL the reason is I run out of time I get lazy and I leave both laying in the ground somewhere under the trees. And you know what happens in Spring? They have rooted themselves in and everybody has new growth! I can’t stress enough how wonderfully resilient both of these type of plants are! Thanks for a great article.

    • Hi there Jenny, if you run out of time, throw some bagged topsoil over them to cover them a bit, or pile leaves over then to just keep them from completely being exposed to the elements. The daylily, and hosta are two of the strongest plants out there, and can take a lot of abuse. As for running out of time, or being lazy, I think every gardener faces that. This year it has been either too hot or too rainy and when there is a break in the weather, life happens and gardening gets pushed to the side. Also, for me, being of a certain age, a person only has soo much energy so sometimes things have to be put off. I try to tell myself, the garden is really only for me and “next year” i will get things completed.

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