How to Plant Daylilies

Daylilies are beautiful summer perennials that can add color to your garden. How do you plant it?

Daylilies (Hemerocallis), a workhorse of the summer perennial garden, are as simple to grow as they are to care for. They are ideal for beds, borders, and slopes, and while each flower only lasts one day, these perennials put on a show that can last for several weeks.

It’s difficult to choose just one with thousands of cultivars available in an astounding range of bloom shapes, sizes, and colors. Few perennials produce as much beauty for such a small amount of gardener effort.

Like many of our garden perennials, Hemerocallis has a few conditions to thrive, but these are simple to meet. Continue reading to find out how to get these favorites off to the greatest possible start.

When to Plant Daylilies

The ideal time to plant daylilies is in the spring. The fall is the second-best time. Plant 6 weeks before the ground freezes if you are planting in the fall.

Daylilies are available in pots or as bare roots. You may occasionally receive divisions from friends or neighbors.

Container-grown daylilies can be planted in the ground at any time during the growing season. If you plant them in the spring, they will spend the entire summer and fall establishing themselves. Those planted in the fall will need to get in the ground as soon as possible so that they can settle in. They will complete their establishing phase the following spring.

You might have purchased your daylilies bare root in the spring. It’s ideal to get these in the ground immediately, but they can be stored for a few days if kept in a cool spot. Because the roots can become dry during shipping and storage, soak them for 30 minutes in a basin of water before planting.

Daylilies planted in the summer may require extra watering during hot and dry spells, but they are one of the few perennials that thrive regardless of when they are planted.

Buds of a daylily plant in a soil ready for planting

Where to Plant Daylilies

Plant these tough-as-nails beauties wherever you like!

Daylilies may be grown in USDA zones 3 through 9. Evergreen types can be grown in zones 8 to 11, while semi-evergreen varieties can be grown in zones 5 to 11.

They need somewhat acidic soil but will thrive in any typical garden soil as long as it is not very damp. Daylilies may grow in various soil conditions, from clay to sandy.

Try Hemerocallis if you have a sunny place where “nothing” will grow. They thrive in full sun, receiving 6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day, but will tolerate a little shade.

Some varieties, particularly the deeper purples and reds and the pale yellows and pinks, keep their colors better if they receive some shade late in the afternoon.

Planting Daylilies in Groups

If you have the space, group daylilies in groupings of three, five, seven, or more. Use the same variety or mix and match flower color and bloom time for a summer-long floral show.

The mature size of the cultivar is indicated on the plant tag. Some kinds reach a mature size of 12 inches across, while others can reach a width of 3 feet. Place them as wide apart as their width will allow. For example, if your daylilies grow to be 3 feet broad, space their centers 3 feet apart.

Daylilies don’t mind a little crowding, so your spacing doesn’t have to be exact. You may certainly put them closer together for a more dramatic effect. If you do this, you will have to separate them sooner, in 2 to 3 years rather than 3 to 6 years.

If you’re covering a broad area, like a slope, arrange them in staggered rows so that two plants from the first line form a triangle with one from the second line.

Front garden with beautiful white daylilies

8 Steps to Plant Daylilies

Even though these perennials are very forgiving and require little maintenance, it is worthwhile to take the time to prepare the soil and do a good job. As the old adage goes, “dig a $5 hole for a $1 plant.” Your perennials will be grateful for years of magnificent blooms!

  1. Prepare the garden area. Remove grass and weeds, then turn the soil over to a depth of 8 to 10 inches, breaking up clumps and removing rocks as you go.
  2. Compost will help enhance your soil if it is thin, rocky, sandy, or heavy clay. Spread 2 to 3 inches of compost over the planting area and spade it in. Smooth the soil using a rake.
  3. If you are planting a daylily that is in a container, dig a hole as deep as the pot is tall and about twice as wide.  
  4. Remove the plant from its container and disentangle any tangled roots. If it is severely root bound, make a few shallow vertical slits around the sides and bottom of the root ball and gently tease the roots open. This will stimulate the roots to spread into their new location.
A daylily plant that has been removed from the its pot
  1. Don’t forget to soak bare root daylilies before planting them! Dig a 6 to 8-inch-deep hole, then fill it with soil to form a little cone. Distribute the roots over this cone. Place your daylily so that the crown (where the stems meet the roots) is approximately an inch below the soil surface.
  2. Fill the hole with excavated soil and carefully firm it around the roots.
  3. Thoroughly water the soil to settle it and remove any air pockets.
  4. Spread a 2-inch layer of organic mulch, such as pine bark, around the plant, but do not bury it. The mulch will help keep moisture in the soil and reduce soil temperature. Unless you prefer the look of mulch in your garden, you won’t need to mulch again.
A gardener planting daylilies

Growing Daylilies in Pots

If the ground does not freeze in the winter where you live, you can grow Hemerocallis in containers. The reblooming miniature varieties like ‘Stella d’Oro,’ ‘Little Grapette,’ ‘Happy Returns,’ and ‘Pardon Me’ are the perfect size for a large container, and they mix well with annuals.

Daylilies in pots may not survive in cold locations if they are not protected from the elements. The ideal method is to grow them in containers during the summer and then transplant them into the garden in the fall. Alternatively, keep the containers in a sheltered area.

Beautiful daylilies potted in a large black pot

Growing Daylilies from Seed

Daylilies are rarely sold by seed. Even so, if you want to try growing them from seed, it can be enjoyable. Be prepared to receive a flower that does not resemble its parent!
After the seed pod has dried and opened, the seeds of Hemerocallis can be gathered. The seeds are glossy and black, measuring around 1/4 inch in size.

To germinate, the seeds require a period of cold, a process known as stratification. You can chill the seeds in the refrigerator for many weeks before planting them in pots about 12 inches deep. They should germinate in 2 to 6 weeks if the soil is kept moist.

They can be planted in the garden once they have sprouted a few leaves. It could take 2 to 3 years for them to reach blossoming size.

A closeup picture of daylily seed pods

Daylilies Outcompete Weeds

These perennials can outcompete weeds once established, making a daylily bed one of the easiest types of perennial gardens to maintain. Their strappy leaves provide shelter to the earth, preventing weed seeds from sprouting. Weeds are also suppressed by adding a few inches of mulch. Before you begin, eliminate all annual weeds such as grasses, dandelions, and bindweed.

Now that your daylilies have settled into their new home, make sure you know how to care for them properly.

Yellow daylilies in a beautiful garden landscape
Alaine Connolly
Alaine has been working way too hard in horticulture since 1992, beautifying golf courses, resorts, and hotels. She is a part time landscape designer who works full time caring for a 28,000 square foot public garden. At home, she maintains her own 400 square feet plot. Alaine lives in northern Illinois - zone 5b.
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