Daylilies Giving You Trouble? Here’s How To Divide Them

Hemerocallis fulva, commonly known as Tiger Daylily

We parents know that when our children aren’t getting along it usually helps to divide them. The same goes for many perennials that stop behaving as mature specimens in the garden. Daylilies are one common plant that benefits from a good shaking up from time to time when things start to get out of control.

Warning signs

You may have noticed that your daylilies aren’t blooming as prolifically as they used to. Or that they’re crowding out or overshadowing other plants in the garden. Recently I lifted up an overgrown clump of ‘Happy Returns’ (pictured below) to find a few forgotten Heuchera ‘Obsidian’ barely surviving.

If this sounds familiar, now is the time to start dividing!

Tips for dividing

It’s pretty hard to kill daylilies (I’ve left clumps out, unplanted, for an entire winter and they still flowered come summer.) However, to play by the rules, most experts advise dividing them right after they flower, or in late summer or early fall.

Depending on your soil type, daylilies can be a bear to dig out. I prefer using a long, narrow shovel with a platform step for my foot. This seems to be the right length for getting under the daylily while providing me with a little extra leverage.

Step 1

Start by inserting the shovel into the soil about 6 inches away from the roots. Dig around in a circle, gently prying up the plants as you go. Once the plants are loosened, slide the shovel horizontally underneath the clump and cut it from the ground.

TIP:  Most times I dig the whole clump up and immediately begin dividing. However, you can save a little time by leaving a small sized clump in the ground.

Step 2

Once you’ve removed the clump, you have two choices. You can simply cut it into smaller groups, leaving the soil on. Just dig new holes and replant. (Don’t worry if you cut through a few of the roots. The plants will do fine.)

Or, you can remove the dirt from around the roots and pry the plants apart. I prefer this latter way because it gives me an opportunity to tease out the roots and replant my divisions in fresh soil.

If the clump is a large one (which it probably is if you’re dividing it), then 4 to 5 fans (green sections) is a good number. This will ensure you get blooms the next year.

But, there’s no reason you can’t break the clump down to single fans if you’re looking to fill a big area. You may have to wait a year to see new flowers, though.

Step 3

Not really a step, but very important: No matter how many divisions you choose, always leave a fan attached to the roots. Without it, the daylily won’t grow.

Step 4

Finally, replant your divisions 12′ to 18′ apart (remember, daylilies grow fast), adding compost or LeafGro to the soil. Build a small mound under your transplant and fan the daylily roots out into the soil. Cut the foliage back to around 4 to 6 inches, water generously and look forward to next summer’s abundant new blooms!

 

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About carole funger

I'm a garden designer and Maryland Master Gardener living in the Washington, DC area. I blog about new trends in horticulture, inspiring gardens to visit and the latest tips and ideas for how to nurture your own beautiful garden. Every garden tells a story. What's yours?

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