The Q&A Archives: Dividing Daylilies

Question: I am cultivating a garden which has been neglected and overgrown for about thirty years. I dug up a big bed of daylillies which were doing poorly to divide them and refurbish the soil with peat moss and manure (only four out of about 40 bloomed this year!) My question is, short of teasing the clumps apart, am I supposed to actually cut each clump into sections, or just replant the naturally occuring bulb/root clumps, you know how they look like little octopi ? Help! I have never done this before.

Answer: Dividing big old clumpsof daylilies (Hemerocallis) is hard work but the plants will reward you for it next year. As you have discovered, some daylilies will naturally separate into "crowns" and some stay tangled together. This seems to depend on the variety.

First of all, it's best if you can prepare the spot you are moving them to before you divide them. Some gardeners dig up the entire clump, some don't. Of those who do dig the entire thing up, some wash them off with the hose so they can see what they are doing better and some don't. Some use an improvised tool such as a screwdriver to carefully separate the roots, others use two pitchforks back to back to pry them apart, others use a knife. I have been known to use a shovel to blunt cut straight down through the clump without even digging it up, but this rough method will not result in the maximum number of new plants.

Any top part with roots attached will eventually grow into a new plant, but you will get larger plants faster by using larger divisions. Whatever method you use, you are bound to have many leftovers to share with friends! In general, it is a good idea to water the plant well the day before you divide it. Then cut the top back by about half to two thirds. Replant your division at the same depth it grew before and water it in well. (If they are bare root, dig the new hole, place a mound of soil in the center and drape the roots over it; firm it well, fill in around it and water it.) Keep an eye on the moisture until the plants re-establish themselves; a layer of mulch helps, too.

Some gardeners prefer to divide them early in spring and the next best time is late summer, and you can do it any time if you are careful; but do check any fall planted daylilies for frost heaving during the winter.

You may also wish to check the website Q&A Search for more information on daylilies. Good luck with your project!

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