Create Your Own Daylilies - It's Easy!!!

(Directions for creating and growing daylilies from seed in North Florida)
By Joe Agosta, Tallahassee, Florida

Most daylilies will form seed if properly pollinated. Some daylily plants will form seed from self pollination. Growing the resultant seed is not difficult, and should give you first blooms in one or two years.

What you need to begin:

  • Blooming daylilies
  • Free morning time to perform the pollination.

Daylily blooms come with both male and female parts. The male anthers (typically 6) hold the fluffy golden yellow pollen. The female pistil protrudes from the center of the flower on a long thin stem and is different from the anthers in that it has no pollen sac. To perform the pollination just put some of the pollen from an anther on the tip of the pistil of the same or different flower. Do this by breaking a pollen anther stem from the bloom. Hold it by the anther stem, keeping your fingers off of the pollen, while you dab the pollen on the receiving pistil. That's all it takes. In a few days you will know if the fertilization took place by the formation of a small bulbous growth, called the seed pod, at the base of the old dead bloom. DO NOT PICK OFF (DEADHEAD) THE OLD BLOOMS. DOING SO MAY INDADVERTENTLY REMOVE THE EARLY STAGE OF THE SEED POD.

Pollinate

Other things you need to know:

  • Not all pollination attempts result in a seed pod. Just like other plants and animals fertility and timing may vary. By having several plants your chance of success is better. The more flowers you pollinate the more you improve your odds of making seed.
  • Fertilization is affected by temperature. Early morning is best once the anthers have opened to expose the fluffy pollen. Temperatures above 80 degrees will begin to affect fertilization of some daylilies.
  • Depending on the number of chromosomes, most plant varieties will either be a diploid with 22 chromosomes or a tetraploid with 44 chromosomes. All fans of a particular variety (cultivar) will be of the same "ploidy". Diploids must be pollinated by diploids and tetraploids must be pollinated by tetraploids. Very rarely will crosses between the two types yield any viable seed. If you don't know the ploidy of your named and registered plant, you will need to search the American Hemerocallis Society database at http://www.daylilies.org/DaylilyDB/ for the information.
  • If you wish to keep records of your pollination, attach a small merchandise string tag to the base of the bloom after pollination. The tag should contain the name of the pod and pollen parent. Use your own code to place the information on the tag to save trying to write it all on the small tag.

Seed Pod

Seed collection:
In 6 to 8 weeks the successful seed pods will have grown substantially. You need to check them daily at this point. Once the top of the pod begins to separate you can pick it. Open the pod carefully and remove the shiny black seeds. Store the freshly picked seeds in a zip lock bag, and place the bag in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator for at least 3 weeks to break any dormancy that might otherwise inhibit germination.

Germination and planting:
Use any good well draining planting medium designated as usable for seed starting. You can use seed trays with individual cells or just mass plant in one gallon or larger nursery pots. At this point, if you so choose, you may squeeze each seed before planting to remove those that are not firm and unlikely to germinate. If using nursery pots fill with wetted medium to within one inch of the top. Either way plant the seed about inch or less below the surface of the medium. This is not critical so don't freak out about getting the exact depth, just try not to go deeper. Follow this with a thin layer of clean play sand or builders sand. The sand should be about ¼ inch deep as well. This layer keeps the surface from being hospitable to fungus and bacteria. Thoroughly water the plantings using a gentle spray to avoid washing the seeds out of position in the medium.

Place the plantings in full sun to part shade being mindful that for the next 6 to 8 weeks you will need to be able to provide daily care which amounts to assuring that the planting medium does not dry out. Using the nursery pots gives you more leeway in this regard in that they will not dry out as readily. For the first few days monitor the moisture in the medium to give you an idea as to how often you will need to supply water. Generally the sand surface layer should stay moist at all times.

After about 10 days you will begin to see little sprouts coming up through the sand. Not all seeds will germinate. Sixty percent success is typical. Some seeds may not germinate for up to a month or more. Some albino seedlings may appear, but they will die after they use up the food in the seed. This is normal. When the first seedlings have opened their second leaves you may start fertilizing every third day with a half-strength solution of Miracle Grow. Continue the watering and fertilizing until the seedlings are about 6 inches tall. The seedlings can then be transplanted into the garden or into larger pots providing at least a 4 to 6 inch space between individual seedlings.

Growing to bloom.
The most important thing to remember is that daylilies need moist growing conditions to do well and provide superior blooms. You have come a long way with these babies so don't deprive them of needed water and they will reward you.

Assuming your seed planting occurred in early August your seedlings will be planted in their growing bed in late September or early October. Later planting is OK except the chance of getting bloom the following spring becomes less likely. Provide a rich planting bed containing amended soil that has compost, peat, or other organic matter. If you have heavy clay soil the addition of sand will break up the clay before you add the amendments. Keep the soil moist since it can easily dry out at this time of the year.

After one week start weekly fertilization with a half-strength Miracle Grow solution. After three weeks, switch to twice weekly fertilization with full-strength Miracle Grow. During the colder months of December and January one weekly fertilization is adequate. In addition, heavily broadcast Milorganite fertilizer over the planting bed starting in mid-February. Milorganite is available at Lowe's and Home Depot. Repeat each month until June. Milorganite will not burn so don't be concerned about it being applied too heavily. Continue this fertilization until mid May or until your plants are reaching mature size and some bloom scapes begin to emerge. Keeping the planting area free of weeds will remove competition for light, water, and nutrients.

The formation of blooms scapes portends that the most exciting time is near. Once bloom begins you will have no trouble getting out of bed early in the morning to see what new flower has bloomed for the first time. Enjoy.

I will take email questions you may have at j.agosta@mindspring.com. To learn more about daylilies check out the American Hemerocallis Society web site at http://www.daylilies.org/. An internet search will yield copious information on various aspects of daylilies. Lastly you may wish to join us for the Tallahassee Daylily Club meetings http://www.thsgardens.org/. Most months we feature a famous daylily hybridizer as guest speaker and a presentation of his/her work. Time is allotted for questions. Nice plants are auctioned off, and relatively new cultivars can be acquired at bargain prices.