How to Propagate Daylilies: Division vs Seeds vs Proliferation.

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Daylilies have now become the most popular perennial; their reputation is well deserved. These resilient plants have a reputation for being tough, adaptable, vigorous plants that can withstand droughts and require less care than other perennials.

But what if you desire to expand your collection and are wondering about the best methods to propagate them? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions for propagating daylilies through both division and seeds.

When it comes to increasing daylily population, gardeners have three primary methods at their disposal: division and seeds. Each method has its advantages and considerations, and understanding the process can help you decide which approach suits your needs and preferences.

With division and proliferation, the new plants are genetically identical to the original plant therefore retaining all its characteristics, including flower color, form, and other traits. This is important if you want to maintain any desirable traits that made the original plant so special.

On the other hand, daylilies grown from seeds can give very interesting results, it is possible to have some truly unique (and perhaps very valuable) hybrids in your garden. The main reason, therefore, for propagating daylilies with this method is hybridization.

Let us take a closer look at each method of propagation.

Propagating daylilies by division

Propagating daylilies through division is the most common and effective method used by gardeners to increase their daylily population. In this method, the daylily parent clump is dug out of the ground and divided into individual fans (sections with a set of roots and leaves).

Each fan is a separate section of the plant, containing its own root system. While these roots may still be joined to other roots, they can be easily separated by carefully pulling and cutting the individual fans apart while retaining as many roots as possible.

Here’s the correct approach on how to propagate daylilies by division.

  1. Select the plant that you want to divide and water it well. Let it dry for three or four days until the soil is moist, but not wet.
  2. Dig the entire clump or cluster out of the soil with a garden fork and knock any dirt off the roots. Cut back the foliage to a manageable length perhaps to 8 or 9 inches. You can make your work even easier by washing all the soil from the roots.
  3. Once the dirt is gone, carefully separate the clump into two, three, and four fan divisions. Sometimes, wiggling the clump with your hands is all that is needed, and the clump will fall apart into nice neat divisions.
  4. Other times you need to apply a bit more force. You can use a screwdriver or a sharp knife to pry into the center of the cleaned-up clump and wiggle it around a bit. Usually, the clump will separate nicely into several pieces, which can then be broken down with your fingers into double and triple fans.
  5. Cut off any damaged roots and they are ready for replanting. We have found they establish just as well with 6-inch roots as longer so we always cut the roots short before planting. If by any chance you break off a fan that has no roots attached, you might as well throw it away.
  6. Let the divisions dry in the shade for several hours or overnight. This lets cut surfaces heal and prevents fungal and bacterial infections.
  7. Replant the divisions as described above and always add two scoop shovels of compost for each replanted division. Remember to keep all divisions labeled with the correct cultivar name. If you are unhappy with a plant’s performance in your garden, you can choose to give it to someone else and let them have a try at it.

If you live in the South, meaning zones 6/7 and above, early fall is the best time to divide when night temps are cool and days are a bit milder. But if you live in the northern reaches of the hemisphere, you are probably best dividing in the spring, when the plants are just out of the ground a few inches.

By doing this, the new plants will develop new roots quickly and spring plantings may even bloom the same year. Additionally, it will allow the plants a full summer of growth to prepare for the harsh cold that is certain to follow. Larger well-established plants can withstand colder temps than a newly set one or a smaller division.

Dividing can also help to revitalize flowering if the plants have become crowded. Daylilies grow rapidly to form dense clumps and overgrown clumps may not bloom and grow as well.

For most varieties, division should be done every three to five years. However, vigorous re-blooming cultivars like Stella De Oro (and its many relatives) quickly outgrow a site and need to be divided and replanted every two or three years.

If you’re wondering how to determine when it’s time to divide a daylily, a good indicator is when the flower size decreases and the number of flowers decreases, the plant has probably exhausted the soil and is overcrowded.

An individual unit of daylily after the dividing the clump is called a fan. It includes the roots, crown, and leaves only (no flowers or buds). Daylilies are commonly sold by the fan, with bare root sales generally having two or three fans and the clump sales having multiple fans which can be further divided prior to planting. For Bare Root fans, all dirt is rinsed from the roots and the leaves trimmed.

Propagating daylilies from seed

Many gardeners would prefer to grow plants from seed as opposed to purchasing plants that have already grown for a season or two. This method though more difficult, is considered by many to be more fulfilling than transplanting already-grown plants.

This is because it allows the plant to adapt to the garden that they are grown in more quickly. Once established, plants grown from seed straight in the garden will have a better chance of adjusting to the climate and can sometimes last many more years than plants originally grown in a nursery.

Here’s an easy step-by-step guide on how to propagate daylilies from seed:

  1. Start by pre-sprouting the daylily seeds. This is done by wrapping them in a one-fourth section of a damp paper towel and placing them in a covered plastic container for several days. You can add a small amount of peroxide to encourage fast sprouting.
  2. Alternatively, you can soak the seeds in a 99.5% water+ 0.05% hydrogen peroxide solution (1/4 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide into 1 cup of water) until they begin to sprout.
  3. Germination usually takes place between 7 to 14 days. When sprouted, they push their little shoots up through the planting medium.
  4. Transfer the seeds to moist potting soil in a plastic 13 x 13 x 7-inch dishpan that has pre-drilled holes in the bottom. Seed spacing should only be 1 inch apart in both directions, so you can plant about 140 seeds in each dishpan.
  5. Since this will be indoors, supplement the natural sunlight with fluorescent lighting and maintain a temperature of 65°F (18°C) and 75°F (24°C)
  6. Monitor the seedlings as they grow. After 8 weeks, they will likely reach a height of about 15″, displaying robust health and vigor. Note that they may become crowded due to the high seed density.
  7. After they can be transplanted outside into individual pots or in the garden. By then they have big, healthy root systems and quickly enter a rapid growth phase.

The best time to harvest daylily seeds is when the pods turn slightly brown on top and crack open when pinched. Seeds that are harvested too soon, may fail to germinate, and if you wait too long, the pod will split and the seeds will be scattered. Seed capsules must therefore be allowed to mature on the plant. 

Seeds of evergreen varieties can be planted immediately and may sprout within a week of planting.  Seed of dormant varieties must be given a cooling period of at least thirty days before being planted.  This is achieved by refrigerating the seeds or planting the seeds in the fall to chill outdoors over winter.  Seed should be planted less than half an inch deep.

Fortunately, there are many places available that sell daylily seeds at any time. It is easiest to find daylily seed sales near the end of the growing season when many retailers are finished for the year and would like to get rid of overstock. Daylily seed sales at this time can often be done in bulk for a cheaper price than at the beginning of the season.

As the daylily seeds contain natural inhibitors to delay germination until conditions are right, the seeds will often lay dormant through the winter and only begin growing in the spring.

Propagation by Proliferation

The third method of propagating daylilies is by using proliferations, small plants that develop on the flower stem (scape). These can be easily removed and rooted to form a new plant. As with division, proliferations will also create exact replicas of the mother plant.

Proliferations are usually removed as root initials begin to emerge. If the scape still has seed pods, it is best to wait until they have been harvested to remove the proliferation.

Similarly, if the scape of the daylily is still green, it’s advisable to leave the proliferation attached to it, as it can promote root growth before removal. Eventually, the scape will begin to turn brown, which indicates that the root initials have developed and it’s time to remove the proliferation.

If for some reason want to remove the proliferation prior to the root initials starting, cut the scape 2-3 inches below the proliferation and dip it into a rooting hormone or a very weak solution of a water-soluble fertilizer and water, with the water covering the bottom of the proliferation.

Trimming the foliage back, dusting the base and roots with a rooting agent, and watering routinely not only encourage root growth but also prevent the planting medium from drying in the initial growth.

When planting the proliferations, place enough potting soil around the base to encourage roots to continue growth. When planted in well-drained soil, proliferations should root in less than thirty days.  They generally flower in twelve to fifteen months.

In conclusion, regardless of the method you choose, the beauty and versatility of daylilies will undoubtedly bring joy and vibrancy to your garden. All seem to work well, a testimonial to the versatility of the daylily.


How do I know when my daylilies need to be

Daylilies multiply by sending up new fans right next to the old fans. If your daylilies have formed a large clump (lots of fans clumped tightly together) and the blooms are smaller or fewer in number than the previous year, you probably need to divide your daylilies.

How do I divide them?

Dig up the entire clump and shake off the dirt. A garden fork works well for this. Separate the plants by either pulling them apart or cutting them into individual plants with scissors or a knife. When cutting apart a large root with more than one fan growing out of it, try and include an equal amount of root with each fan.

Can I plant the divisions right away?

Yes, you can. However, it is recommended that you wait at least long enough for any cut areas to dry before planting.

How long can daylilies stay out of the ground?

Daylilies should ideally be planted as soon as possible after being dug up or purchased. If temporary storage is necessary, they should be kept in a cool, dry location with moist roots. The recommended timeframe for keeping daylilies out of the ground is within a few days to a week at most.

Extended periods out of the ground can weaken the plants and reduce their chances of successful establishment. Prompt planting increases the likelihood of healthy growth in your garden.

So, what do I do with the extra daily plants?

Give them to your friends, give them to your neighbors, or give them away at work. Daylilies are becoming so popular that I’m sure they’ll be appreciated.

How do you keep track of daylily proliferations?

To keep track of daylily proliferations, it is crucial to label each one, as our memories can be fallible, especially when dealing with multiple proliferations. Plant the proliferation directly in the ground next to the mother plant for easy identification.

If you plan to sell or trade daylilies, it is best to wait for them to bloom before making any transactions, ensuring that you accurately know their identity.

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