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Darling Daylilies

Get tips for propagating and dividing daylilies.

Hemerocallis is the botanical name for daylilies, and in Greek, that means "beauty for a day." And that's how long the flower lasts, one fleeting day. Although each blossom has one day to shine, for every bud there are countless numbers of buds waiting for their day in the spotlight. Keith Miner, who has more than 3,000 daylilies growing in his yard, points out that just one plant can produce some 300 to 500 blooms in one season. Now that's a bountiful bang for your blooming buck!

According to many folks, daylilies are the most popular plant in America. One reason for this beauty's desirable reputation is its amazing variety of sizes, colors and forms. And if you want to take the traits of one daylily and mix it with another, it's easy to create your own hybrid.

There's more to love about daylilies than just endless blooms. The flowers can be small, large, light, bright, dark, ruffled, simple, intricate and everything in between. Why so many choices? According to master gardener Paul James, even a beginner can hybridize or create a whole new plant.

To create your own hybrid, locate a pistil in the center of the blossom. Daylily pistils look a little like cotton swabs. Dab the pollen from the pistil onto the stamen of another daylily.

The stamen is located in the center of the blossom as well. There's only one stamen and it's longer than the pistils.

After pollination, the flower shrivels, and four days later, a seedpod develops.

When the pod turns brown, harvest the seeds, and keep them in the fridge until you're ready to plant them next season. Keith named and registered a hybrid daylily called "Banana Raspberry Creme Pie."

According the Paul, the fun part is choosing the characteristics of one plant that you want to cross with another. And that's precisely the reason there are more than 40,000 named daylily cultivars. "Professional hybridizers and even casual growers are always looking for a better bloom to introduce to gardeners around the world, and some can fetch a pretty penny," says Paul. For example, Keith says you can spend anywhere from $5 for the older daylily varieties all the way up to $250 for the newest named hybrids from the top hybridizers in the world. According to Keith, pure white and pure blue remain elusive to daylily hybridizers.

Most daylily lovers think the blooms are enough for their investment. And after a few years in the landscape, you'll get free plants by digging and dividing. "A lot of times daylilies will quit blooming as much as they did previously and this is a good sign to know when to divide your plants," Keith says.

Fans are the individual plants that make up a clump. To propagate more daylilies, Keith divides up a clump into three or four fans each. Then he plants the fans so that the soil meets the white of the plant division.

Since this is a dwarf variety, transplants are spaced six to eight inches apart. Full-sized plants need two feet or so between them to stretch their roots. Finally, water and give your daylilies a little fertilizer.

There are more reasons to love daylilies: they're durable, relatively disease-resistant, pretty much pest-free, and drought-tolerant. They require minimal care and adapt to a wide range of soil types. But maybe the best reason to love the dandy daylilies is they're just plain easy to grow no matter where you live.

"The daylily is known as the easiest perennial to grow," says Keith. "It grows in a wide variety of climates from Canada all the way down to Mexico. You can grow daylilies anywhere, and there's a variety for every garden." Easy to grow, easy to hybridize and easy to propagate, daylilies are just easy to love. And even though each bloom may last only one day, daylilies can provide many years of enjoyment. "It's like Christmas every morning during the daylily season," says Keith. "I can't wait to get up, get out, look at the new seedlings and see what's in bloom. It's very exciting."

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