How To Divide Daylilies

When kids can’t get along, parents know it’s time to divide them. The same goes for perennials that won’t make room for other plants in the garden. And daylilies are one of the biggest offenders; quickly crowding out other, smaller species with their big, drooping foliage. But don’t despair. Just follow the simple steps below and you’ll have things back under control in a jiffy.


Daylilies are tough and reliable and, with only minimal care, they will light up the garden. In the past several years, the introduction of many re-blooming varieties have made them stars of the late summer border as well.

However, when daylilies grow too large for their space, they often stop blooming. Or, they start crowding out other species. This happened to me recently when I lifted up an overgrown clump of daylily ‘Happy Returns’ (pictured below) to find a few prized Heuchera buried below.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s time to divide your daylilies.


The first thing you should know is this: It’s pretty hard to kill daylilies. In fact, I’ve left clumps out, unplanted, for an entire winter and they still flowered come June. 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, though, daylilies can be tough to dig out. Here in Maryland, we have heavy clay soil, so I use 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.

Following are four easy steps for how to divide daylilies. 


Start by inserting a shovel into the soil about 6 inches away from the roots. Dig around in a circle, gently prying up the plant as you go. Once the plant is 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.


Once you’ve removed the clump, you have two choices. You can cut the mass into smaller groups, leaving the soil on. Simply 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.

On the other hand, 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.


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.


Finally, after dividing your daylilies, replant your divisions 12′ to 18′ apart (remember, these plants grow fast), adding compost or LeafGro to the soil. Then 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!

For photos of my garden designs, including plant lists, check out my Instagram. I post seasonally from spring through fall. 


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