Daylilies are a lot like ice cream: The more you have, the more you want. Maybe that's why the daylily ranks as the South's number one perennial for sunny locations. Maybe that's why there are more than 50,000 named selections of this plant. And maybe that's why otherwise rational people will often pony up $20 or more for a single "rare and choice" kind.
Twenty bucks a plant? Who on Earth can afford to pay that? Well, just about everybody, once you know a little secret: Most daylilies form ever-expanding clumps at an extremely rapid pace. Within a year or two, you can get six or more new plants from the original one if you divide a clump at the right time. That works out to around three bucks a plant, which is no more costly than your daily mocha latte. Keep dividing daylilies each year, and before you know it, you'll be a supplier instead of a buyer.
It's So Simple
Dividing daylilies is easy, easy, easy. Do it when the weather is cool and the plants won't be stressed by the operation. Early spring and fall (and winter, too, in the Coastal and Tropical South) are good times. I divided the plants shown at right last spring. All of the divisions bloomed later that same year.
Are you ready to begin? Here's what you need to do.
- Step 1: Use a garden fork or a shovel to lift the clump from the soil. (I prefer a fork because it does less damage to the roots and penetrates the soil more easily.) Shake off most of the soil sticking to the roots.
- Step 2: Place the clump on the ground. Use a knife, trowel, or shovel to cut it into two equal pieces. Do this by placing the cutting tool between the green leaves rising from the roots and then cutting down the middle of the clump all the way through. Try not to damage the leaves, but don't worry about cutting roots. Each new division will have more than enough roots to support it.
- Step 3: Divide the two new sections in half. This gives you a total of four sections. If these new sections have more than six tufts of leaves each, you can divide them again. Now you have eight plants, where before you had just one.
- Step 4: Replant the new divisions in a sunny location in your garden. If you're going to place the daylilies in a group, space them 12 to 18 inches apart so they won't soon crowd each other. The soil should be loose and well drained and contain plenty of organic matter, such as compost, peat, or chopped leaves. Water the plants thoroughly every other day until the leaves stop wilting in bright sun. When this happens, you will know that the divisions are established and ready to put out new growth.
- Step 5: Admire your skill and expertise. You are most definitely a primo gardener.
"Blooming in Georgetown" is from the May 2006 issue of Southern Living.