Planting daylilies in pots

When it comes to plants that are tough as nails, few can beat daylilies, which come back year after year. “Daylilies are extremely hardy,” says Karin Walters, with Proven Winners Perennials and Walters Gardens. “They are drought-tolerant, even as young plants. They will put up with a few weeds, and you get fresh blooms every day. If you have an area in your garden where nothing else has done well, plant daylilies.”

Here’s what you need to know to grow these lovely summer-blooming flowers:

What kinds of daylilies should you plant?

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Daylilies come in a rainbow of shades, some with ruffled petals, smooth petals, or long, strappy petals. They grow in USDA Hardiness zones 3 to 9 (check your zone here) and typically start blooming from early to mid-summer. Although each bloom lasts only a day (thus the name!), the overall display can last for weeks and weeks, says Walters. Some types bloom all summer long. They range from 2 to 3 feet tall and spread about 2 feet wide. Many types are fragrant.

Varieties to try:

  • Going Bananas (bright yellow blooms all summer)
  • Orange Smoothie (fragrant; mango color with pale rose stripe)
  • Nosferatu (purple blooms with chartreuse throats)

Where can I buy daylilies?

Garden centers and nurseries sell daylilies from spring to fall. You can also find a wider selection of colors and types from online retailers. Look for plants with bright green leaves with no red or orange-y spots on the leaves, which indicates they may be infected with daylily rust, a fungus which occasionally affects these plants. They’re usually sold in pots, though a few companies sell bare root daylilies (without the soil).

Best Daylilies for Your Garden

Primal Scream provenwinners.com $27.99

Gorgeous tangerine color and stately height

Little Business springhillnursery.com $14.99

Petite with brilliant red color

Happy Returns homedepot.com $17.98

Cheery bright yellow blooms

When should I plant daylilies?

Ideally, spring or fall is the best time to plant daylilies when the temperatures are mild and rainfall is plentiful. But these plants are super-hardy, so you can even put them in the ground in the heat of summer; just make sure to water them because low-maintenance doesn’t mean no maintenance, says Walters.

How do I plant daylilies?

Daylilies can handle most types of soil (another reason to plant them!), so you don’t have to worry about tough garden conditions such as clay or sandy soils. They prefer full sun, so find a spot in your garden that gets at least four to six hours of direct sun per day. They won’t bloom well in shade. Dig a hole slightly larger than the pot, then place the plant in the hole at the same level as it was in the pot. If you’re planting bare roots, spread out the roots, and fill in with soil. Water plants for the first few weeks until they get established. They don’t need fertilizer, though it’s fine to add a balanced slow-release granular type in the spring to give them a little boost.

Igor Kudryashov / EyeEmGetty Images

How do I care for daylilies?

They don’t need a lot of care, which is the exact reason you should plant them if you’re not into fussy plants. Be patient: They tend to get bigger and better every year. You can deadhead (or remove the spent blooms) if you want, but it won’t make them bloom more as it does for some other plants; it just neatens up the garden, says Walters. Once the flowers fade, it’s fine to cut out the brown stalks, too, if you don’t like the look of them. But again, you can leave everything alone until late fall before tidying up, or wait until next spring to remove the brown leaves and stalks. After three or four years, divide the plants if they start to appear overcrowded. Simply take a piece off the edge with a garden spade, and replant elsewhere.

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Arricca Elin Sansone Arricca SanSone has written about health and lifestyle topics for Prevention, Country Living, Woman’s Day, and more.

How to Grow Daylilies On Your Balcony

I used to hate daylilies. The only one I knew was ‘Stella de Oro’ and it is completely over used in Southern California. Pretty much every shopping center here has a landscape full of them. But lately I’ve taken a second look. As I spend more time around all the awesome gardeners blogging about these things, I see that there is a whole world of daylilies that I didn’t know about.

But how do you grow daylilies in pots? I admit that I am a total daylily novice, so I turned to Hugh Stout, an iris and daylily hybridizer and grower, the American Hemerocallis Society, and several university extensions to find out.

When Should You Plant Daylilies?

In the North, you should buy daylilies in the Spring and plant them after your last frost. This will help your plants establish roots before winter. If you live in zone 6 or colder, your daylily will most likely die back in winter. You can either overwinter the plant in a sheltered place, like your garage, or you can mulch the pot with a layer of straw in late Autumn. Some daylilies are more sensitive to cold temperatures than others, so ask a knowledgeable nursery person or fellow gardener about specific varieties that do well in your climate.

In the South, you can plant daylilies either in the Spring or Fall. But avoid planting them when temperatures are over 90F because high temperatures can lead to rotting. I know that in Southern California, daylilies have lush foliage that does not die back in the winter, though it does look a little ragged.

Where Should You Place a Daylily Pot?

Daylilies will do best in full sun, however they will tolerate partial shade, though they may not flower as abundantly. A general rule of thumb is that the lighter colors (yellow, light pinks, peaches, etc) need full sun to bring out their best colors. Though the deeper colored flowers (reds and purples) will actually do better with a bit of shade during the afternoon.

What Type of Pot and Soil Should You Use?

Buy a high quality potting soil and organic compost. Amend the potting mix with the compost before planting. Daylilies like well drained, but moist soil that has good aeration and plenty of microbial activity. The compost will help improve the potting mix to provide an ideal situation for your plant. There are some potting soils that come pre-mixed with compost, if you have access to one of those, then it should be all that you need.

If your potting mix is having a hard time staying moist, Hugh recommends a product like “Soil Moist” or one of the similar polymer crystals that absorb water and release it back into the soil. Daylilies really need moist soil to produce the most/best quality blooms.

Choose a pot that is at least 12 inches in diameter and depth for smaller varieties, and 16 or 18 inches for larger varieties. It would probably be best to use a glazed pot or plastic, as terracotta dries out really quickly.

How to Plant a Daylily in a Container

If you purchase a daylily through the internet/mailorder (as I recently did) you’ll receive a plant that is bareroot. To pot it up, make a mound of soil in the center of the pot. Set the plant in place with the roots spread on all sides of the mound. Add more potting soil until the white part at the base of the foliage is covered. Make sure that the point where foliage and roots join is no more than 1 inch below the surface of the soil. Firm the soil and water well.

If you buy a daylily that is already potted in a gallon (or larger) nursery pot, then repot it in your desired container so that the daylily is slightly above the soil line of the pot.

Caring For Your Daylily

Make sure that the soil is always moist (as wet as a wrung out sponge) during the spring and summer, when your plant is making scapes (flower stalks) and actually flowering. Too little water during this period will reduce the amount of flowers your plant will produce. Make sure to water deeply (i.e. until you see water flowing out the bottom of the pot), and try not to get water on the leaves or crown of the plant. Covering the surface of the pot with mulch can help cut down on the frequency of watering by reducing evaporation.

If you plant your daylily in Spring, you don’t need to fertilize it that first spring because most potting soils come pre-mixed with a fertilizer. Fertilize your plant for the first time during summer, when it is flowering. Look for a fertilizer that has a lower first number (nitrogen) than the second two numbers (phosphorus and potash). The following year, fertilize your plant in Spring, as the plant is starting to put out new growth, and again in summer. Go easy on the fertilizer!

If you remove spent flowers, you’ll encourage reblooming and keep your plant looking nicer. Always remove dead, damaged, or diseased foliage as soon as you see it. If you see any pests on your daylily, consult this information from the American Hemerocallis Society.

Hugh’s Favorite Miniature Daylilies

  • BUMBLEBEE’S BANQUET – Light yellow red with deep rose red eyezone and green throat. Height 20″, bloom 3.12″.
  • LITTLE MYSTIC MOON – Ruffled, ivory/cream flowers with green throat. Creates tons of flowers. Height 18″, bloom 2.75″.
  • LEPRECHAUNS WEALTH – Orange/apricot flowers with olive green throat. Height 15″, bloom 2.5″.
  • MINI PEARL – Blush pink with green lemon throat. Height 16″, bloom 3″.

Personally, I like ‘Jason Salter.’

Designing Container Combinations with Daylilies

If you love carefree, robust containers, check out this container design featuring daylilies, thistles, and grasses.

Daylily

These lovely plants produce a succession of lily-like flowers each of which lasts for just one day. At first, this seems rather disappointing, but they are such bright, exotic flowers and produced in such profusion that this isn’t actually a drawback. In fact, it means the plants always retain a fresh boldness as the flowers never hang fading and waning on the plant. They range in colour from white through yellows and orange to the deepest, richest reds. Originally from the orient, daylilies have been cultivated for over 4000 years and there are now over 35,000 named or hybrids, so the choice is almost endless. Daylilies were incredibly popular in Victorian times but, until recently, had fallen out of favour with many gardeners. Now, with the inclusion of grasses and hot colours in many garden schemes, daylilies are making a come back. They flower for such a long period of the summer that they remain a constant feature while other flowers appear and disappear around them.

Using daylilies

Daylilies make excellent border plants and smaller varieties look good in containers. Once clumps are well established, daylilies can be used en masse forming wonderful deep groundcover, effectively suppressing weeds. Ideal for difficult areas such damp, slippery slopes that are awkward to weed. Larger more vigorous varieties of daylilies can also be used as specimen plants. They look particularly effective when planted next to water where their fine form and colourful flowers can be highlighted in the surface reflection.

Curiously, daylilies were originally introduced to this country not as an ornamental plant but as a culinary and medicinal herb. The flowers and buds of old-fashioned varieties are still used today to make a tasty and colourful addition to salads.

Variety guide

Daylilies look equally good in traditional garden borders or more contemporary schemes. Mix the beautiful white flowered ‘Ice Carnival’ with pale lupins, foxgloves, phlox and scabious for a real cottage garden feel. Alternatively, plant the rich yellow ‘Golden Chimes’ or ‘Stafford’, which bear the most gorgeous dark red flowers, with other vibrant colours, such as the iridescent purple dot flowerheads of Verbena bonariensis, the huge blue globe heads of Agapanthus africanus and small, flaming red trumpets of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’.

Grasses also look lovely with daylilies as their thin swaying leaves offset those of the daylilies which are much more stiff and arching. Their gracefully arching foliage is particularly effective when planted along a pathway helping to soften any harsh edges. Try planting daylilies alongside the soft grey leaved and lilac-flowered catmint for a really pretty combination.

Some of the taller growing varieties, such as ‘Frans Hals’ can reach up to 1.2m, making them excellent mid- to back of the border plants, their fountains of leaves making a luscious foil to the flowers around. This particular variety also has unusual red and yellow striped flowers.

In containers

There are smaller growing daylilies which look stunning in pots and can withstand the dry conditions found in containers. This allows their green strap-like leaves to cascade over the sides and soften the harshness of the containers. Daylilies are best planted singly because they are quite effusive in their nature and should be given the space to spread their leaves unhindered. ‘Stello d’Oro’ is an excellent plant that has a really long flowering period and grows to a neat 28x30cm, with fragrant brassy yellow flowers.

Another good variety for pots is the unusually named ‘Little Bugger’ which grows 60x50cm with golden yellow flowers. Plant in a special container compost which is better at retaining water than many other composts.

Growing guide

Daylilies are easy plants to grow and are tolerant of most soils as long as it isn’t water-logged – they cannot stand stagnant conditions. Although they hate to be standing in water, daylilies need quite a lot of moisture for the buds to form properly. Mulching in late autumn and spring will help to keep up the water levels in the soil without making it soggy. Daylilies prefer a sunny spot where they will produce the biggest and most numerous flowers, they can cope with dappled shade but will flower less. Be careful with the dark coloured flowers which will fade and even shrivel in extremely bright midday sun as they absorb so much heat. Plants are best divided every two or three years to keep them vigorous.

Each spring, give plants a generous mulch of well-rotted organic matter to help retain moisture in the soil during the summer months. During periods of drought, daylilies are worth watering thoroughly once in a while to keep the production of flowers going. When the leaves turn brown in autumn, pull them off the plant rather than cut them back, so that there are no convenient over-wintering hiding places for their main pests.

Propagation

Seeds can be sown in containers in a coldframe in autumn or spring. The seeds collected from hybrids and cultivars don’t come true, so they need to be shop bought. Regular division every two or three years is the best way to create more plants.

Potential problems

Daylilies can be quite prone to pests and disease when they get old and lose vigour. You can prevent this by dividing clumps every other year in either spring or autumn. The problems to watch out for are rust, spider mite, thrips and aphids. Slugs and snails can also be a problem (when can’t they?).

Daylily Planting Information
Daylily Grower’s Guide

Daylilies are among the easiest to grow of all perennials. A few basic principles are useful to know to insure success in your efforts.

When Should You Plant?

Daylilies can be planted at any time during the growing season when the soil is workable. If you are planting bare root daylilies, remember that those planted in the spring will provide only moderate bloom the first summer but will bloom at full strength in subsequent years. When planted in the fall, bare root daylilies should be planted 4-6 weeks prior to a hard freeze to give the roots time to get reestablished before the soil freezes. Mulch new plantings the first winter to prevent the plants from heaving out of the soil from successive freeze/thaw cycles. The kind of daylilies you would typically purchase in a pot from a garden center can be planted any time of the growing season.

Location

Daylilies perform best when planted in a location where they will receive sun all day. If that is not possible, try to locate them in an area where they will receive at least 6-8 hours of sun. Plants will not bloom as profusely in partial shade but the foliage can add an attractive texture there. If planted in a border backed by trees, the daylilies will lean somewhat towards the sunny side of the border and the flowers will open facing the sun.

Daylilies are rather indifferent to soil type. They thrive in heavy soils with substantial clay content as well as in sandy soils. Add peat moss, compost, or humus to sandy soils to help them retain moisture. Good drainage is recommended but not essential.

Soil Preparation

Daylilies perform admirably in well-drained, fertile soils of all types. Unlike many other kinds of perennials, daylilies will even grow in quite wet, even soggy, areas (though it is not their top choice of locations). Daylilies routinely survive planting in areas that occasionally flood. You might want to experiment with them if you have a problem area like this.

Typical garden soils will benefit from the addition of organic material such as compost, peat moss, or humus. Sandy soils benefit the most from generous amounts of organic material. Thoroughly loosen the soil to a depth of 10-12 inches before planting.

Receiving Bare Root Plants

Many nurseries specializing in daylilies ship plants bare root with all of the soil removed from the plant. Early spring shipments will have little or no top foliage. Daylilies shipped later will have foliage trimmed back to about six inches above the crown. Sometimes, such foliage will appear a bit yellowish and look somewhat rough. Ignore this! Daylilies are tough plants that survive shipment dry and can remain out of the soil for a considerable time before replanting.

If you cannot plant your bare root daylilies immediately upon receipt, open the shipping carton, remove the plants from their packing material, and set them in a cool, shady area until you are ready to plant them. Just before you get ready to plant them, soak the bare roots in a pail of water containing a small amount of water soluble fertilizer for an hour or two.

How to Plant

When planting a potted perennial, including daylilies, the general rule of thumb is to dig the hole 2-3 times wider than the original pot but just as deep. So if your daylily is in a 6×6 inch pot, you’ll need to dig the hole 12-18 inches wide and 6 inches deep.

A common error made in replanting container grown daylilies is not separating and spreading the root mass when the daylily is removed from its pot. Loosening up the rootball and spreading the roots apart will encourage the daylily to extend its roots from their original soil into the surrounding garden soil. Container grown perennials are typically grown in “soilless” potting mixes composed of peat moss, composted bark, and perlite. Such mixes are totally different from the garden soil into which you will be replanting your daylilies. It is important to avoid planting these container grown daylilies into your existing garden soil without preparing it first. (See Soil Preparation above.)

Planting bare root daylilies is a bit more work but worth the extra effort. Dig a hole about 12 inches deep and 12-18 inches wide. Form a mound of soil in the bottom of the hole. Position the bare root daylily on the top of the mound so that the crown will end up about one inch below the soil surface when the hole is filled in. Spread the roots out around the mounded soil. Re-fill and firm the soil up around the plant. Make sure there are no air pockets. Water well immediately after planting.

Water your newly planted daylilies about once a week unless you are in a very warm part of the country where plants generally require more frequent watering. DO NOT water every day. Newly planted daylilies need to be encouraged to send out new roots, and they will do that in search of moisture. Newly planted daylilies rarely rot, but over-watering during times of high heat can stress the plants. When in doubt, don’t kill your daylilies with kindness!

Winter Protection

Daylilies that are planted in the fall should be mulched the first winter. Successive freeze/thaw cycles that are common in northern states often lead to heaving where the root ball works its way up and out of the soil. If heaving occurs, press the daylily back into the soil if possible. If the ground is too frozen to push the plant back in to the ground, add more mulch around the crown and wait for warmer weather. A daylily’s crown must be below the soil line to produce new roots so you’ll want to take care of that as soon as possible in the spring.

Evergreen daylilies need to be mulched every winter in the north to avoid winter damage or loss. Growing most evergreen daylilies in the north can be tricky, so you may want to stick with dormant types unless you are prepared to make the extra effort to apply an annual winter mulch.

Will Daylilies Grow In Pots: Tips For Growing Daylilies In Containers

Daylilies are beautiful perennial flowers that are very low maintenance and high reward. They earn a rightful place in plenty of flower beds and garden path borders. But what if you want to bring that reliable and exuberant color onto your porch or patio? Can you grow daylilies in containers? Keep reading to learn more about how to grow potted daylily plants.

Can You Grow Daylilies in Containers?

Will daylilies grow in pots? Absolutely. Daylilies are well suited to container life, as long as they have enough room to grow. The smaller the variety (and there are some small ones out there), the better they will be able to grow in a pot. As a rule, you shouldn’t plant full sized daylilies in anything smaller than a gallon container.

Caring for Daylilies in Containers

Container grown daylilies need lots of water. Container plants always dry out faster than their garden counterparts, and in the heat of summer you will have to water yours about once a day.

Plant your potted daylily plants in rich soilless potting mix. Daylilies need full sun in order to thrive and bloom well. Place your containers in a spot that receives at least 6 hours of sun per day. More is better, though varieties that produce dark colored flowers will benefit from a little shade.

Daylilies are very cold hardy, but container plants are always more susceptible to winter damage. If you live in USDA zone 7 or below, you should protect your plants in the winter. Placing your containers in an unheated garage or basement ought to be enough to keep them safe. Of course, the colder your winter, the more protection they will need. As soon as spring hits, you can move your containers back out into the sun to get them blooming again quickly.

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