When to divide daylilies?

Daylily Division Guide: Learn How And When To Divide Daylilies

Daylilies are pretty perennials with striking blooms, each of which only lasts for one day. They don’t require much care once established, but dividing daylilies should be done every few years to keep them healthy and blooming. Learn when and how to do this chore right for the best results.

When to Divide Daylilies

Daylily division should be tackled every three to five years for optimum health. If you never divide them, the plants will not grow as vigorously, and you will see fewer and smaller flowers each year. Newer varieties of daylily grow more slowly. You can wait longer between divisions for these.

The times of year to do the dividing are early spring and late summer to fall. If you do the division toward the end of the growing season, you can let wait until the temperatures cool, but don’t wait too long. You want the new plants to have time to establish before winter.

How to Divide Daylilies

Separating daylily plants requires digging up the entire root system. Once you have clump free, brush or rinse the dirt from the roots so you can see them. Physically separate the roots, being sure to leave three fans of leaves per clump and a decent set of roots.

You may need to use a sharp pair of shears or garden knife to separate the roots. This is also a good time to check for any rotten, small, or damaged roots. They can be cut out and discarded.

Once you have the clumps separated, cut the leaves down to about 6 or 8 inches (15 to 20 cm.) in height. Get your daylily divisions back in the ground as soon as possible to minimize stress to the plants.

When replanting the clumps of daylily, be sure that the junction between the root and shoot, known as the crown, is about an inch (2.5 cm.) under the ground. The new location for divisions should have at soil that drains well. You can add a little compost to the soil, but daylilies will generally tolerate basic garden soil. Water the new transplants right away.

Don’t be surprised if your plants fail to bloom next year. This is typical and they’ll be back to normal in a year or two.

The daylily is one of the easiest perennials to divide. “Daylilies are bulletproof—they can take a lot of abuse,” says Roger Cook, This Old House landscape contractor. If you divide them when clumps start to get crowded or their blooms are shy, usually after four or five years, you will be rewarded with more plants and flowers for another part of your garden or for the garden of a friend.

According to Roger, the best time for division is either in early spring, as soon as new growth is visible above the ground, or in the fall, after they have finished blooming. Divisions bloom sparsely in the first year, but once they are established they grow in beauty and number of flowers.

Step 1

Loosen the clump

Photo by Reena Bammi

Use a sharp spade to score the earth around a clump of daylilies. (If dividing in fall, as shown here, trim off the tops of withered foliage with pruning shears first.)

Step 2

Dig up and remove rootball

Photo by Reena Bammi

The roots generally exceed the boundaries of the foliage above them by several inches, so try to get as big a root ball as possible when you dig up a daylily clump.

Step 3

Divide the clump

Photo by Reena Bammi

Turn the clump over and use the spade to divide it into 6- to 8-inch clumps. These can be transplanted as is, about 2 feet apart.

Step 4

Create individual fans

Photo by Reena Bammi

If you want to cover a large area, however, you may want to divide plants into individual fans. Do this by teasing them apart with your hands.

Step 5

Make sure you’ve created a healthy division

Photo by Reena Bammi

Each new division should consist of a single fan of leaves with a cluster of roots attached.

Step 6

Replant the divided clump

Photo by Reena Bammi

Replant the fans in well-prepared soil 6 to 12 inches apart, depending on how established you want your bed to look.

When is the best time to separate and transplant daylilies?

For me, the best value in plants is generally determined by three factors. I want them to be low maintenance, I’d like for them to bloom for a long period of time and I’d like for them to come back year after year. Well I know this may sound like a tall order, but there are actually a lot of plants out there that will fill this criteria.

One of the best examples is the daylily. In fact, they have another attribute as well, they can be very vigorous growers, often doubling in number from year to year to the point that they really should be divided every three to five years to continue good blooming.

I’ve found that the late summer is an excellent time of the year to separate and transplant clumps of daylilies. By doing it at this time, it gives them an opportunity to settle in before shorter days and colder temperatures set in. Also by moving them in late summer as opposed to the spring, it’s been my experience that they actually seem to bloom better.

There’s really nothing to dividing daylilies. Just carefully lift the clumps with a sharp shovel and gently remove the soil from the roots so you can begin to see the individual plants. Then with a knife separate each plant and remove any foliage that appears dead or diseased.

Now just cut off the foliage at about half and they’re ready for transplanting back into the garden. Space them about ten to twelve inches apart, put them in full sun and keep them well watered until they’re rooted in.

Go Forth and Multiply: Dividing and Conquering Your Daylily Beds

Daylilies are the garden flower that keeps on giving, with beautiful blooms, graceful foliage and wide-open blossoms that are pretty much designed to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other important pollinators. And when it comes to propagation, they give there too. In fact, a mature bed of daylilies can reward you with plenty of divisions so you can expand your garden bed or practice a little horticultural generosity among your family and friends. Plus, by dividing mature beds, you can actually increase blooms by making sure plants stay healthy and have access to plenty of nutrients in the soil.

Although daylilies can be divided any time between spring and mid-autumn, probably the best time to divide your beds is in late summer to early fall, once all the plants have bloomed. Early fall divisions also enable the roots to take hold before winter weather arrives. So why worry about plant divisions in the spring? Because spring and summer are the best times to gauge the performance of your daylily beds so you can decide which ones are in need of a little judicious thinning out.

What to Look For

In general, once plants reach the blooming season, keep an eye on any beds where blooming is less vigorous than usual or where foliage seems to be a little thinner or less robust. These are the beds that probably are most in need of dividing in order to help increase the number of both blooms and bloom stalks while also improving overall plant health.

Another good rule of thumb: Most daylily beds are ready and able to withstand some division by the time they reach four to five years of age. That means even if you’re still getting plenty of blooms, these beds can be safely divided so you can spread the love elsewhere.

What to Do

Before you start dividing your existing plants, take some time to prepare the new bed. You can read some tips and how-tos in this recent blog post. It’s important to note that when you divide daylilies, you don’t begin by attempting to isolate and remove a single plant from a large, established bed; instead, you start by removing a large clump of plants, then dividing that clump into individual plants or much smaller divisions before replanting. You can use a well-sharpened garden spade, but because of the interconnected nature of daylily roots, a garden fork tends to work better in lifting the large clumps out of the ground.

Once you’ve identified a bed that’s ready to be divided, gently rake away any mulch around the base of the plants so you have plenty of room to work. Gently work the clump up and out, all the way around the entire clump until it can be lifted out.

Once the clump is removed, shake off as much of the dirt as you can, or use water from your garden hose to wash away the dirt. Depending on how tightly the roots are intertwined, you will be able to begin pulling the individual plants apart by hand. If they are too difficult to pull apart by hand you may want to use the tines of your fork or similar tool to begin to separate them. Depending on the size of the clump, you can make several divisions from one large clump, or separate it down into each individual fan.

Once the divisions are all made, place them in the new bed, then if you would like you can work in some compost or well-rotted manure and cover the area with loose soil, tamping it gently around the plant base. Water the new bed thoroughly, and you’re done! Some gardeners like to trim back the foliage to about 10” after replanting to make the new beds look a little neater and to limit the demands on the plant’s energy supplies so more of that energy and important nutrients can go toward establishing a healthy root system.

Daylily plants are an investment that pay back in lots of ways. Check out our huge selection of daylily varieties and select a few to brighten up your yard and garden this year – and for many years to come.

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    • Dividing Daylilies, Overcoming the Fear of Separation

      There is nothing more glorious than a large daylily clump in full bloom. At some point these large daylily clumps will need to be divided. The most common question I hear from garden visitors after “When does my daylily need to be divided?” is “How do I divide my daylily?”


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      When to divide can be more difficult to determine than the physical how of dividing. A daylily multiplies by growing new individual fans, each containing roots, a crown, and leaves, which are identical to the parent fan.

      These individual fans combine to form tightly growing clumps. A clump is defined and commonly referred to as having three or more fans. In the north, it can take several years for a single fan of an individual daylily to grow into a 10 – 20 fan clump, while in the south a single fan can multiply into 20, 30, or more fans in a single growing season.

      Along with being affected by environmental differences that can vary from garden to garden, daylilies can also vary in their individual ability to produce new fans, further complicating the determination of when to divide. Instead of basing our decision to divide on the amount of time a daylily clump has remained in the same place, each daylily clump is better evaluated on the size, health, and performance of the clump. In large clumps, the fans compete for nutrients, and eventually the clump will show the effects with fewer scapes and fewer blooms. This is a sign that the clump needs dividing. Other reasons or times for dividing may include the decision to share fans of a favorite daylily or sell them and the decision to move a clump to a new area of the garden. One thing I always tell my garden visitors is that even if a very large clump is performing well, you may want to divide it before you need a backhoe to dig it out. A clump 2 to 2 1/2 feet around is much easier to handle than one that is 4 feet around.

      Daylilies respond well to dividing when in their active growth stages. The active growth stages, when new leaves are forming, occur during early spring before bloom scapes begin to show and in the late summer/early fall after the blooming stage has been completed. Dividing in fall in the north should be scheduled to allow 6 – 8 weeks for the daylily to settle in before the ground freezes for winter.

      Asking ten different daylily growers how to divide a daylily can leave you with ten different answers. What works for one person may not work for another. Over the years many different methods and tools have been used for dividing, including tools designed specifically for the task, screwdrivers for prying, or simply shovels and large knives for cutting a clump into pieces. The method shown below will allow you to separate a clump while preserving as much of the root system as possible. While daylilies are very forgiving of rough treatment, with a little bit of time and care your daylily will once again be growing happily in your garden.

      The first step is to trim the leaves. This allows you to see the individual fans and reduces the amount of material you are handling. Trim the leaves down to between 8 and 12 inches from the top of the soil line. If you are dividing in the early spring and the daylily leaves are already short, you may not need to trim.

      The second step is to remove the plant from the ground. A shovel or garden fork can be used. I prefer the garden fork for its ability to release the roots from the ground without cutting them. After loosening the soil around the clump, work the fork or shovel underneath the clump as deeply as you can from all sides and remove the clump from the ground. With the clump lying on its side, remove as much of your garden soil as possible from the roots.

      When you have removed as much of the soil from the roots as possible, it is time to wash the clump. Using water to remove the remaining soil will release the roots, allowing them to separate. A strong spray with a garden hose to all sides, top, and bottom will remove the soil, and a quick clean up of the remaining portion of the leaves will remove any unwanted pests that may be lurking inside.

      Working from the outside edge of the clump, find a section of two or three fans that have a natural separation or appear to want to separate from the clump. With your fingers, untangle as many of the roots as possible and then grasp the fans in one hand around the crown while holding the clump steady with the other hand. Twist and wiggle the fans until they separate from the clump. Continue removing sections of fans until you have separated the entire clump.

      Larger divisions can be further separated down to the size or number of fans you want. In general, two or three fans still joined together will give a more pleasing appearance than a single fan.

      If your clump has a larger section of fans or just refuses to separate, cut the top between two fans through the crown with a small knife. Then continue separating the roots with your fingers and wiggling the sections apart.

      Once you have the clump separated into sections, it is time to replant. Dig a hole larger around and deeper than the roots. In the middle of the hole, build a mound of soil that will place the crown of your daylily 1/2 inch to 1 inch below the level of the surrounding soil. Place the daylily on top of the mound, letting the roots drape down the sides to the bottom of the hole.

      If replanting in a display area or if you want a fuller plant with the appearance of a larger clump, you can plant several of your new divisions in the same hole, leaving a space between them.

      Steady the daylily on top of the soil mound and slowly backfill the hole, being careful not to pull the daylily deeper into the soil as you fill. Gently and lightly press the soil with your hand over the area where the roots are, just a bit to firm it and then water the plant to settle the soil deeper down between the roots.

      Newly divided daylilies may not bloom at their registered height until they reestablish their root systems. Once reestablished, your daylily will return to its full blooming potential.

      What time of year is the best time to divide day lilies and hostas?

      The best times to divide daylily are early spring or immediately after flowering. Plants divided in the spring may not bloom the same summer. Divisions should have two to three stems or fans of leaves with all roots attached. Make divisions by digging the entire plant and gently pulling the fans apart. Cut the foliage back, leaving only five or six inches. Place the plant in the soil so the crown is one inch below the ground line. A winter mulch of straw or shredded leaves helps ensure against winter injury for plants. Daylilies can be divided every three to four years. http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/flowers/growing-daylilies/

      Spring is the best time to divide hosta. Most are divided in spring as the growing tips start to emerge from the ground, Dig up the clump and divide into sections with a sharp shovel or knife. In smaller plants or sections, it may be possible to gently pull apart the plants. Hostas can also be divided later in early fall. http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/landscaping/hostas/

      Established plants require pitch forks or showels.

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