Care and feeding of daylilies

Hemerocallis 'Azure Violets' which isn't always consistent in color, but is beautiful nonetheless. Care and feeding of daylilies.
Hemerocallis ‘Azure Violets’ which isn’t always consistent in color, but is beautiful nonetheless.

Daylilies and roses are two of my garden passions. Of these two, daylilies are more reliable and give more bang for the buck in my climate than the fairest Queen of May. For the most part, they are easy, but there are certain things you can do to help your daylilies prosper. This post is all about the care and feeding of daylilies.

Hemerocallis 'Pocket Change' (Crochet 1985) is a small red I grow in partial shade. I do this because it's an earlier red, and its substance won't hold up in our harsh sun. Photo by Dee Nash
Hemerocallis ‘Pocket Change’ (Crochet 1985) is a small red I grow in partial shade. I do this because it’s an earlier red, and its substance won’t hold up in our harsh sun.
  • Plant in spring or fall. Don’t plant daylilies when the weather is very hot, or you are setting yourself up for failure. Because of their fibrous roots and thickened spindles for water storage, newly-planted daylilies are very susceptible to root rot under hot conditions. If you simply must buy a daylily now when they’re are blooming–and I wouldn’t know anything about that–plant them in larger containers and place these in the shade where you will keep them watered. Mine sit beneath my deck. In the cool shade, they will grow throughout summer and be ready to place in the ground in fall. If you can’t do this, go ahead and plant your daylilies in the garden, but be sure to shade them. My friend, Leslie at Growing a Garden in Davis, uses children’s umbrellas. Pretty smart. I’ve used all sorts of things when I just couldn’t keep myself from buying.

    Hemerocallis 'John Peat' (Petit 2001) in the foreground with Echinacea purpurea 'Coconut Lime' and H. 'Victorian Lace' (Stamile 1999)
    Hemerocallis ‘John Peat’ (Petit 2001) in the foreground with Echinacea purpurea ‘Coconut Lime’ and H. ‘Victorian Lace’ (Stamile 1999)
  • When planting daylilies, spread their roots over a mound of soil in the hole. Make sure to place soil up underneath the daylily crown. You don’t want air pockets when winter comes calling.

    Dee Nash-Hemerocallis 'Midnight Madness' (Peat 2003), a very dark purple that grows in morning sun. Notice the blackspot on the Rosa 'Belinda's Dream' next to it. My garden isn't perfect, but it is natural and as organic as I can make it.
    Hemerocallis ‘Midnight Madness’ (Peat 2003), a very dark purple that grows in morning sun. Notice the blackspot on the Rosa ‘Belinda’s Dream’ next to it. My garden isn’t perfect, but it is natural and as organic as I can make it.
  • Feed daylilies with a high nitrogen fertilizer to get more blooms. I bet that surprises you. A larger clump ensures better and larger blooms. Nitrogen fertilizer creates a larger clump. I’ve used different organic fertilizers from composted chicken manure to Milorganite. Alfalfa based fertilizers also work well. HuMore is alfalfa and manure. I’ve also used Back to Nature. Daylilies respond to all of these, and I change them up from year to year to maintain balance. I also give them a year off now and then. You should also check your soil every few years with a soil test to make sure your garden isn’t out of balance or over-fertilized. Manure tea, like Moo Poo Tea, is also a nice pick-me-up for daylilies and other summer stressed plants. It can be sprayed on foliage or poured at the drip line.

    Hemerocallis 'Ruby Spider'  with Rosa 'Cliffs of Dover' behind.
    Hemerocallis ‘Ruby Spider’  with Rosa ‘Cliffs of Dover’ behind.
  • Mulch. I use Back to Nature or shredded oak leaves as mulch. Occasionally, I also lay shredded pine bark mulch, but only occasionally.
  • Water. Daylilies have roots which hold water, and ditch lilies seem to grow all by themselves. However, if you’ll notice ditch lilies grow in ditches were water runs freely. They like extra water and good drainage.

    Hemerocallis 'Spacecoast Starburst' (Kinnebrew 1998)
    Hemerocallis ‘Spacecoast Starburst’ (Kinnebrew 1998)
  • Good drainage. Daylilies will tolerant some clay, but they grow best in conditions where they have decent drainage. Otherwise, they may rot.
  • Deadhead regularly. Although it isn’t a requirement to deadhead, doing so makes for a neater appearance, allows new flowers to open, and keeps scapes from falling over due to weight. I deadhead daily except on Sundays. I take Sunday off.
  • After the daylilies bloom, I cut off scapes–i.e., stems. Some people don’t and let their daylilies finish out the cycle. However, I think they can be unsightly so I remove them. Whichever you choose, do remove any seedpods unless you’re trying to hybridize. Seedpods take energy from the mother plant.

    Hemerocallis 'Wild Child' (Salter 2002) has a little thrip damage, but the thrips will move on, and the blooms will get better and better. This is a new daylily to the garden as of last year.
    Hemerocallis ‘Wild Child’ (Salter 2002) has a little thrip damage, but the thrips will move on, and the blooms will get better and better. This is a new daylily to the garden as of last year.
  • Like all perennials, expect daylilies to take three years or more to realize their potential. They will probably bloom the second year, but not at the rate they will in future summers. Also, those first blooms may not look exactly like they will in the future. Give them time.

    Hemerocallis 'Red Volunteer' with H. 'Victorian Lace'
    Hemerocallis ‘Red Volunteer’ with H. ‘Victorian Lace’

These are all things I do to ensure daylily success. How about your tips? Daylilies bring a lot of joy to my garden. I’d love to spread that joy around. After all, I can’t be the only one who daylily mad, can I?


  1. Mike says:

    Dalilies are my favorite. I have a bed dedicated to them and Iris.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Mike, they’re my favorite too. Keep on growing.

  2. Donna says:

    I did not realize about building up the soil right underneath, then spreading the the roots down around the cone, that’s like planting roses. I’ve just been sticking them in the ground and appreciate the good information. Your day lilies look fantastic! I bought quite a few day lilies on sale (to fill the rose vacancy) in my garden and I now it’s so very hot. It seems like planting them would be better than staying in the pots. In the main sunny garden with shade attempts or planting them in a mostly shady empty area? which do you think would be best?
    Donna in Edmond.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Donna! You can definitely plant them in the garden, but yes, be sure to shade them throughout the day. I know it seems odd about the containers, but I’ve found it works especially if I surround them with mulch or place them in the compost pile. It keeps them cool. Yes, planting daylilies bareroot is much like planting bareroot roses. You can also plant them in a mostly shady area. That’s fine too. Then, move them in the spring.

  3. Hey Dee,
    It’s been six long months out of the blogosphere for me. Long story but dropped laptop and way too many hospital visits. The latest was totally new to me. Low sodium made be loopy and bp in the 40s. Scary stuff but bottom-line, I’m back. But I followed your blog the whole time.High N fertilizer is a surprised me. No cash for that at nursing home but the bed I put in 2 years ago was very productive. Anyway good to be back in the red dirt again.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oh Patrick! You’re back! I’ve been very worried about you. I am so glad you are feeling better. I’ve had you and your family in my thoughts and prayers, and it’s so good to “hear” your voice again. Yes, unbelievably, they like nitrogen to bulk up the clumps. However, it isn’t necessary, and some years, I just use shredded leaves. Whatever I have at hand. Thanks for continuing to visit my little red dirt world.

  4. Happy to hear that someone is having a good summer!

    We’re in the midst of drought and a heat wave here in Middle Tennessee.

    But your post has given me hope that July may bring a break in the heat and some much-needed rain. (Both are in the long-range forecast, but I’ll believe it when I feel the rain falling from the sky onto my skin.)

    Meanwhile, totally agree with you about the importance of planting things that are well-suited to climate and soil conditions. Your garden is an inspiration!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      My goodness, thank you so much. We are all just doing what we can. Oklahoma is now having the heat wave and drought too. Another brutal summer may be in store for us all.

  5. Thank you for introducing Ruby Spider to me. It is now on my list.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Ray, I’m so glad you like ‘Ruby Spider.’ She is one of the best daylilies in my garden.

  6. Katie says:

    What beautiful pictures! And good advice! I have really started to get into daylilies. I love all the different flower colors and forms.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Katie, enjoy collecting them. They can become quite addictive.

  7. Carol says:

    I like daylilies, but only certain kinds… the spiders and unusual forms (UF’s, I think you call them). Those I love and I’d like more of them. Fortunately, I live within walking distance of a daylily nursery. You’ve inspired me to take a walk over there soon to see if I can add just one or two or ten more to my garden.

  8. I love day lilies, too and think your advice is spot on, with one exception – I stuck a teensy daylily that I had accidentally pulled up into a very wet pot of Louisiana iris and forgot about it. By the time I remembered it, I thought it had rotted. Nope! I was thriving in standing water. It survived our mild winter in the same pot and is now very happy in moist, well drained garden soil.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Sometimes, they will survive in pure water. I don’t know why. It seems if the soil is very, very wet and not too hot, they survive. It’s the heat and moisture that kill them.

  9. Tom Mann says:

    Great information, Dee – Thanks for the share.

  10. Donna B. says:

    Flawless. I am in love with some of the coloration on those, especially how they’re almost NEON in the throat! But you know, I could never understood the daylily snobs out there that shun them. They’re a great flower for what it’s worth, and I agree – plant something near it to distract from the plain-jane foliage once the flowers are done!
    I do have a question, though, that I didn’t see posted above – dividing.
    I have three ‘types’ […I think] of daylily; regular, super frilly and a spider type. [So descriptive, I know! hee hee.] They’re all planted far too close together, and they’re in the ground now for their third year.
    When/how is the best way to divide?
    I’d love to plant the grouping in a newer garden bed that get’s far more sun than they do right now… [and farther from the DEER… ugh.]

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Donna, there are lots of videos on Youtube on how to divide. I should do one myself. Thanks for the reminder. You simply dig them, rinse off as much of the soil as possible and then you can see how they are interconnected. If they’ve been in the ground for a long time, they get very tangled. However, yours shouldn’t be because they’ve only been in the ground for three years. Divide them into fans and try not to plant anything smaller than a double fan in the new spot. Clumps are even better, but I would wait until fall before I divided. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Nan says:

    I am also ‘daylily mad’ and I do absolutely nothing. I plant them, they grow. It doesn’t matter what time of year. I’ve never fertilized. I’ve used cocoa shell mulch only for its beauty and aroma. They seem to thrive on this coolish, wettish hilltop. And how I love them. So many other flowers won’t grow because of the cold winters and short growing season, so I focus on these beauties.
    Yours are gorgeous. I love reading the names since I know hardly any of mine by name. :<)

  12. Rose says:

    You definitely aren’t the only daylily-mad gardener, Dee:) You have such a beautiful selection, though I don’t think I’ve ever met a daylily I didn’t like. Thanks for the excellent tips on care. I really should treat mine a little better, but they are such reliable performers here that it’s easy to take them for granted. Now I’m going to make sure they get some extra feeding this summer.

  13. Good stuff. I was thinking about adding some more daylilies in the fall, but was wondering how I was going to pick out my colors. I like the tip about putting them in the shade and keeping them well-watered if you have to buy them in mid-summer. Not that I would do that. 😉

  14. Thanks for this good advice.
    Mine have not been doing so well. They’re mostly a gift from friends…a whole package showed up, when we first moved in here. Most of them are deciduous. I’m thinking here in Central Texas, the evergreens might do better.
    I’ll try the feeding and watering advice. I never knew about the nitrogen.
    Love that ‘Wild Child’….gorgeous!

  15. Randy says:

    I have a pretty extensive collection of Daylilies I love them too. There just isn’t a prettier flower to me. By midsummer though my foliage just gets to looking so absolutely ratty and haggard. What do you think is causing this? When I first planted them they stayed so lush and green…

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Randy, they are just simply tired. I don’t know where you live, but in our hots temperatures, they tend to shrink a bit after blooming. However, by fall, they start increasing again. I find that giving them supplemental feeding during the heat of the summer with an organic, foliar fertilizer does help. I also plant them with lots of other plants to hide their ratty tatty foliage. Plus, I pull off the dead leaves. I figure they’ve just bloomed their little hearts out and need a good rest. Thanks for stopping by.

  16. sweetbay says:

    Another daylily fan here! They are one of the most reliable perennials in my garden. Their only drawback is that the deer like them too.

    Every time you post about your daylilies I see another one that I want. LOL

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Sweetbay! I’m so glad I can enable you. Blasted deer. They can drive a person nuts can’t they? I have three large dogs that convince the deer to stay away. But, sometimes, they go for my fruit trees.

  17. Jenny says:

    Well, you are certainly doing the right things so I am going to take your advice and treat my daylilies better starting this fall when I really need to divide some. You have some beauties.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Jenny, your garden is simply lovely. You don’t need lessons from me my friend. I’m impressed daylilies will grow and bloom so far in south Texas.

  18. Thanks for the advice. Up until this year, I have not been a big daylily fan, but that all changed this year. A friend of mine in the local daylily society gave me some named varieties and I just love them. I am trying to learn all I can now and start adding new ones to my garden. I think it can be addicting. Hoping to go to the local daylily society sale this fall to see what I can get 🙂 Last year I learned by trial and error not to plant in May. I thought because I was planting it in the heat that I should just water it more and more to get it established. You know the story — it rotted very quickly. I planted several more in the fall and did not lose a single one. So valuable lesson learned.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Toni, I’m so excited we converted you. Uh, as for addiction, I would know what you’re talking about . . . snarf, snarf. I just bought more. I am incorrigible. Yes, I rotted several too. If you must plant in the heat, give them a lot of shade. It’s just better to keep them in containers until the heat passes . . . here, in September.

  19. Great tips, though some are not going to be able to be followed. 🙁 Went to a big sale at Park Seed today…bought 15 daylilies. I couldn’t help it. You all tease me with these gorgeous pictures…so I NEEDED to have some more. Two years ago I planted ‘Strawberry Candy’ ‘Aztec Gold’, and ‘Sammy Russell’. It was time for more. I bought three of each of the following– ‘Sunday Gloves’, ‘Stephanie Returns’, ‘Raspberry Suede’, ‘Scottish Fantasy’, and ‘Always Afternoon’. Am looking forward to seeing these babies bloom. Hoping it isn’t too hot for them to be planted….stay tuned.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Janet, you may be okay where you live. Still, try shading them with something. I used old chairs once and cardboard boxes tilted up for airflow. I’ve done it all. 🙂

  20. I love daylilies. I can’t say I do much for them and they do a whole lot for me which is why I like them so. They are so dependable despite my neglect. After reading this I think I should get out there and give them some fertilizer love. Actually right now a good shot of water would probably make them happy.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yeah, a little dose of fertilizer and water will perk up almost anybody. Lisa, I’m so glad you love them too.

  21. Dee these are all good advice and some I need to heed even though mine seem to do OK. Like to have them bloom more. Thx Dee

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Donna, daylilies are the kind of plants you can lavish love upon, and they will give so much in return.

  22. Layanee says:

    Daylilies are pretty durable and what other perennial comes in such an array of bloom color and bloom period? Not too many. I love them all…wait, Stella and the common orange are not my favorites but they are present in my garden anyway. Why…durable! Great info, Dee.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      They are extremely durable Layanee unless you pay $200 for a cultivar. Then, not so much. LOL! I still like the common orange. I love orange in the gaden though. As for Stella, no way. I see her everywhere and will not let her live here.

  23. Leslie says:

    Thank you for the link love Dee! I just got the umbrellas out this weekend when temperatures passed 105 degrees. I am going to get some chicken manure immediately; your daylilies are so much bigger and nicer than mine. I think mine must be starving!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Give ’em a little love, and they will hug you in return.

  24. Turling says:

    Ah, now I know my mistake. I put 11 daylillies in at the beginning of last summer. All died to the ground. I left them in, as I worked on other parts of the yard and they all bounced back and are currently in bloom 9 months after reappearing. They are quite hardy. A good trait when I’m the gardener.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Turling, they probably went dormant due to high temperatures. I had several which also did that last summer. It was just so hot that the clumps seemed to shrink before my eyes. However, all of them bounded back this year. I may have lost one or two new plants completely, but it does happen. Thanks so much for stopping by to chat.~~Dee

  25. Frances says:

    Thanks for this good info, Dee. I do not always follow the best practices when planting daylilies, buying them in bloom and digging a hole that the roots will fit into and hope for the best. With extra watering. But your ways are best. I have been feeding my own hybrid seedlings with liquid kelp monthy during the growing season with very good results. I should use it on all the other daylilies, too. Red Volunteer also grows here, it is a superb performing red.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I’m excited about your seedlings Frances. I really am. I love liquid kelp. Good stuff.

  26. CurtissAnn says:

    You read my mind! Just what I needed. I can do better now. Thank you!!!!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I read your comment as I just finished this one up Rosebud. So glad I could help.

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