Daylilies forum: Crown Planting Depth - Especially in Areas with Very Hot Summers

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Name: Tina
Where the desert meets the sea (Zone 9b)
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chalyse
Oct 28, 2013 1:16 AM CST
I may be mistaken Confused but I think I noticed during replantings this fall that many of my largest, most vigorous DL fans seemed to have had their crowns at nearly two inches below the soil line, while smaller and more fragile fan crowns were at the standard "no less than one inch" under the ground. This held true for both garden and pots, north-and-south grown varieties, dormants and evergreens, and full-sun versus deep-shade gardens. The only constant I can put my thumb on was that the heat held steady around 100 degrees for about 2.5 months (July through mid-September) when nearly all of them stopped blooming or growing and showed some signs of stress (not real dormancy, but a kind of limbo land).

Is it possible that 1) fans will adjust themselves to the crown-depth they like most and we should not work to raise them back up, or 2) that I could have mistakenly planted some deeper and they did well because their crowns or roots needed more buffer from the heat or access to cooler, wetter soil below, and I should re-plant them at a similarly deeper level this time, or 3) that their vigor was not likely related to having their crowns deeper (temporary boost burrowing down for moisture at the expense of long-term health?) and that I should re-plant at 1-inch again to avoid distressing them over the winter?

Related to that is my question about planting with "moats" around the fan or clump. I normally make a 2-inch high moat out of packed dirt around newly or re-planted daylilies so that waterings will be most effective early on. But, soon enough, that moat melts down around the fan and, in effect, puts the crown at a little deeper level under the soil line. Do people in warm climates generally find it better to scoop out around the fan again, or lift up and re-set the fan's crown higher, or just leave it as is? Shrug!
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Name: Fred Manning
Lillian Alabama

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spunky1
Oct 28, 2013 5:45 AM CST
We do not have the extreme heat as you, I never plant a daylily with the crown any deeper than one inch below the surface. I know when it gets hot here during July and August the daylilies will slow there blooming and sulk if they do not get enough water. I do not believe planting them deeper is the answer, if this is the first time it's happened I would leave them as they are and see if they bloom normal next year.
Name: Michele
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tink3472
Oct 28, 2013 6:04 AM CST
I find if they are planted too deep here they will not bloom as well as they should. I've had some (in pots) that ended up pulling themselves deeper and they didn't grow very well until I dug out some of the soil. I've had some in ground that have done this and I lift those. But like Fred said, we don't have the extreme heat as you do.

I have actually read somewhere, can't remember where, that it's best here in Florida to plant the crowns less than an inch deep. I don't know how true that is but I assume it worked better for the person who said it.
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OldGardener
Oct 28, 2013 8:01 AM CST
tink3472 said: I've had some (in pots) that ended up pulling themselves deeper


I am fascinated by this concept - do d/l's in cooler climates pull themselves deeper, too, or does this occur more often in warmer areas?. I am forever "lifting" daylilies but, like Tina, live in an environment that gets scorching hot in the summer (115+ degrees).

Regarding the moats, it may be what I am seeing in the open ground is related to "moat wash-out" but it seems that the d/l;s are deeper than their neighbors when planted in the garden = and everyone is subjected to the same mulching practices. I do "re-moat" each time I mulch which can be as frequent as every 6-8 weeks over the spring and summer as we have an extremely active earthworm population here. We currently go through 8 to 10 or more inches of bedding/rotted manure every month and half or so until it cools down. It seems to me, though, that the d/l's are deeper than mulch decomposition would account for as the soil I pull back from them is heavier and denser than what I typically see when bedding breaks down.

I recently pulled a Johnny Cash fan out that was extra-large and it, too, was anchored particularly deep in its pot. Is the habit of "pulling down" a mechanical function (ie, more support for larger fans)?
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
Name: Maurice
Grey County, Ontario (Zone 4b)
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admmad
Oct 28, 2013 8:22 AM CST
Daylilies do have the ability to re-position themselves in the ground.

Only one researcher has looked at this but he has looked at it in some detail. His scientific article can be downloaded and read from (all one line)
http://www.uni-vechta.de/fileadmin/user_upload/news/Biologie...

That ability may work best when the crown is small rather than when there are many fans and the crown is large. There will probably be differences between cultivars in whether they re-position themselves and how deeply, etc. The type of soil and other factors may also influence the behaviour of the roots.

I am in zone 4 and some daylilies here also pull themselves deeper but unfortunately not necessarily when it would have saved them (after being frost heaved).
Maurice
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Name: Tina
Where the desert meets the sea (Zone 9b)
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chalyse
Oct 28, 2013 10:23 AM CST
Awesome article, Maurice, thank you! These are some generally savvy and hard working daylily roots, for sure, and it was fascinating to learn more about what we see as we observe their activity and root systems. The temperature side of the experiment seems to have been designed to test for root-contracting-work during large daily temperature fluctuation, so I can only wonder if there might be some different result when the temps are extreme hot or cold but fairly constant (less than 20 degrees between day/night). Indeed, the function of daylily roots to move the plant downward, store up nutrients, and spread daughter corms, might also include the benefit of increased depth to accommodate much larger leaf/plant size.

I'm inspired by OldGardener's idea that we extreme growers might try some informal ways to observe differences in our own pots and beds. I think I will take some fans of the same cultivar and try 1) very shallow, 2) 1-inch, and 3) 2-inch crown depths in each main planting area and then leave one set undisturbed in their natural movements, and one set lifted up each spring/fall. My take on the article was that beyond 50mm/2-inches crown depth there may definitely be a negative effect in the vigor of the plant, as leaves are pulled too far under the soil and away from light...?). So this totally matches Michele and Fred's observation that keeping or repositioning crowns at 1-inch or less may well result in better vigor and blooming.

I'm still very curious to see if there might result some difference in growth or health in the extreme-but-stable range of temperatures based on crown depth. I'll also try to be more aware of whether there are different soil areas that produce different crown depths based on soil's chemical composition, as I think the article implies may be possible. Micro-location is one factor I did not pay much attention to as I was pulling fans in random order from different bed and potting areas. Sometimes I get different planting medium into the pots or beds, if only by virtue of using soil material from different suppliers over time, though it may be that OldGardener has been more consistent with that.

Regarding winter heaving, Maurice, I recently read about "bricking" where daylilies planted in cold-extreme areas may avoid heaving if there are bricks placed on the ground to surround or ring each fan/clump. The idea conveyed was that the bricks can pick up warmth during the day and radiate it back during the night, avoiding the heave altogether, though I am not sure how that warm-up/radiation would work under snow cover, or to what temperature it was believed to be effective.

These dang daylilies are just a constant source of marvel, delight, and fascination ... Hurray! Lovey dubby
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So Cal (Zone 10b)
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OldGardener
Oct 28, 2013 12:26 PM CST
What is bothering me is, when a daylily is actively repositioning itself, should I assume it is attempting to correct for an existing issue unbeknownst to me? If so, should I then be resetting its height 2 or 3 times per year based on a universal rule of thumb or would it be more wise to allow it to re-position itself unfettered (and assume that it is not going to reposition itself to its own detriment)? In other words, by lifting these d/l's, am I working in opposition to what is best for that particular individual? So many questions to ponder but so little time ....

"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
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Name: Tina
Where the desert meets the sea (Zone 9b)
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chalyse
Oct 28, 2013 8:06 PM CST
I agree Exactly my underlying concern here! What is best for the plant - since the main function of downward motion seems to be to accommodate the new rings of roots that grow above the old ones as the plant goes through blooming seasons. And, especially if there is some kind of increased stress that may increase their borrowing, perhaps due to extended 2-3 month extreme heat (100+). The article does give very good evidence that downward movement occurs, but also notes other plants that are more able to keep repositioning as needed (up and down). It seemed like daylilies, having burrowed down, may be unable to "right" themselves and get back up when critical conditions have passed ...

I know I will be thinking about this long and hard in the next few days before I start a final push to get fans set for the winter. If they need to stay near ground level, even under extreme conditions, I'm wondering about some sort of stabilizing structure, something like a fixed horizontal rod or even a large-gauge screen the roots could grow down through, but that the crown could rest on, fixed at a height so that repositioning crowns so often would be less necessary? With so many fans to attend to, and the longer between-times of tending to them during winter... I might just try this out ... Whistling
Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of old; seek what those of old sought. — Basho

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Name: Maurice
Grey County, Ontario (Zone 4b)
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admmad
Oct 29, 2013 7:07 AM CST
If one wishes to test the effect of the crown moving deeper then one would need to run an experiment in your growing conditions.
To run tests one always needs two groups of plants, one group which is left alone (the control group) and the second group which is 'tested' (the treatment group - in this case the group that will be lifted and replanted). Because each location in a garden or even in a planting bed can be different one needs to place a few plants from each group in several different locations in the garden.

One might look for three to five cultivars that have shown re-positioning in your garden and divide each cultivar into two groups (two clumps or two single or double fans, etc). The two clumps should be as similar as possible (same size fans, same number of fans, etc). Plant the two clumps of each cultivar (one is the control and the other is the treatment) near each other. Then after the treatment clump sinks, raise it in the soil back to level at which you originally planted it. Leave the control alone. Otherwise treat both clumps in exactly the same way (same amount of water, weeding fertilizing, etc, each clump should have the same number of neighbouring plants, of the same size in the same relative positions (North-South-East-West), etc). If the control clump of one cultivar is near a path then so should the treatment clump of that cultivar be, etc.

After sufficient time has passed the control and treatment plants would need to be compared. One cannot do this with just one control and one treatment since chance always affects experiments/tests. Chance can make the control different from the treatment even when the treatment did not have a 'real' effect. One cannot do it with plants in just one spot in the garden because each location in a garden is different in many unknown ways (as well as possibly obvious ways) that affect how plants grow and such differences may cause the control to be different from the treatment when there is no real effect of the treatment.

Of course one must decide what one is going to compare between the control and the treatment plants before one starts the test. One cannot wait and then look at the plants, see that something is different and decide to use that characteristic - that biases the results of the test. Perhaps, the most important characteristics are the number of buds, or amount of rebloom or the amount of fan increase, etc. In any case one decides before starting the test and one decides how long the test should run.

Such tests, done in garden settings can usually at best, only be considered as indicating what happens in that particular garden.
Maurice
Name: pam
gainesville fl (Zone 8b)
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gardenglory
Oct 29, 2013 1:37 PM CST
When a daylily pulls itself down, its because its planted in sand , or a sandy medium. Watering a pot once or twice before planting wont do the trick. If you really dont want the plant to drop down, I find you need to keep watering it in a good three months before planting. I forget which grower told me that down here, but its true for me. My best plants were actually just set on the ground, forgot about. They are the ones that ended up blooming the best and never get crown rot. Im not suggesting doing that, but just my experience.
Name: Natalie
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Natalie
Oct 29, 2013 1:58 PM CST
I'm thinking that I've been lucky in that none of my daylilies have pulled themselves out of the ground and moved to a neighbors house! Whistling Blinking Rolling on the floor laughing
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Name: pam
gainesville fl (Zone 8b)
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gardenglory
Oct 29, 2013 2:03 PM CST
lolol, Im guessing there is not sand in Idaho
Name: Tina
Where the desert meets the sea (Zone 9b)
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chalyse
Oct 29, 2013 3:43 PM CST
Maurice, I'm greatly indebted for you outlining a clear way to set up an experiment to find out how my DL fans are faring in my gardens! Hurray! Since there is so much stress on them it is worth it for me to prepare and do such a test. I'll have to start, I think, with ordering a number of fans from one cultivar next spring so that a larger number of similarly sized fans from the same clump and field will start out in the mix (none are that established here yet). I'm bookmarking your excellent description for reference as I get it underway next year - thank you so very much!

And, Natalie and Pam, lol, I too wonder if my furnace blasted plants wouldn't march right out of my yard if there wasn't fencing around the perimeter! Rolling on the floor laughing I'm glad to say mine don't have enough sand to burrow under and sneak on down to the coast ... or ... huh ... maybe that's where my Magician's Apprentice fan disappeared to last year! Glare
Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of old; seek what those of old sought. — Basho

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Name: Becky
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beckygardener
Oct 29, 2013 5:47 PM CST
Tina - This is a wonderful topic! I have been reading all of this with great interest.

I have a 7 year old bed that I have had the same plain jane yellow blooming daylilies growing and blooming in for all those years. I might add leaves and just a little bit of compost to it annually but really not much at all. This year I noticed they bloomed sparsely. After looking closely at them, I saw that the crowns were quite deep below the surface of the soil line. My initial reaction was "who buried them?" They are not vigorous plants, so dividing them is not the issue. It never occurred to me that the roots would pull them deeper. The ground has been settled in that area for at least 4-5 years. It gets some partial shade during the day, so it is not a "hot" bed like my other garden beds. I was really wondering what was going on. This thread now has me thinking about why the plant roots might pull them deeper.
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Name: pam
gainesville fl (Zone 8b)
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gardenglory
Oct 29, 2013 6:37 PM CST
If mine get down to deep. I just dig under them and build up the hole. If you plant like asparagus, just make sure the hill is at least ground level for the crown, and the roots can fall on down.
Name: Maurice
Grey County, Ontario (Zone 4b)
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admmad
Oct 30, 2013 8:19 AM CST
Daylily crowns are very compressed stems. When a daylily fan grows the crown becomes taller like a normal stem. If the crown does not change position in the soil (if it does not move up) then either the old lower parts of the crown must disappear (rot away or be absorbed, etc) and the crown settles, or the crown pulls itself lower or perhaps some of both.

I went out and dug up a few fans from a clump of Wynnson (has not been disturbed for 15 years) and the photo below shows one fan's recent growth.



There are probably four year's of crown growth visible in the photo and I don't know how much broke off at the bottom. There are two year's of roots.

Wynnson has not moved up in the soil during those 15 years.


Maurice
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Name: Tina
Where the desert meets the sea (Zone 9b)
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chalyse
Oct 30, 2013 1:18 PM CST
Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!

... my eyes can see now ... its so awesome to have this reference ... Maurice, you have increased our knowledge so much, again so with this picture! I have to just absorb this now, and its especially timely as the work with bare roots and re-potting and planting is in full swing. Many, many thanks!
Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of old; seek what those of old sought. — Basho

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Name: Tina
Where the desert meets the sea (Zone 9b)
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chalyse
Oct 30, 2013 1:52 PM CST
PS @admmad - I sure hope your roots image gets uploaded to

Daylilies (Hemerocallis)

I'd nominate it myself but the search function for the parent plant area, when in the nomination window, just isn't taking me there....
Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of old; seek what those of old sought. — Basho

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Name: Cynthia (Cindy)
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Hemlady
Oct 30, 2013 2:23 PM CST
Very interesting. I have been growing daylilies for 20 years and never knew this. Goes to show that you can still learn something new about daylilies.
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Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
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beckygardener
Oct 30, 2013 4:13 PM CST
Maurice - THAT is an excellent photo! A photo speaks a thousand words!!

I requested it added to the daylily database under "Wynnson". If no one else beat me to it and any acorns are awarded ... I will give those acorns on to you! YOU deserve them for this great photo!

So ....

Let me wrap my head around this .... Daylilies produce new roots and fans on TOP of the previous year's growth. So the plant should be moving UPWARD in the soil, right? Yet some are being pulled down by their roots? Pulled down more than they are growing upward? Why would that happen is the big question! What eventually happens to the old growth ... it dies off?
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
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