Daylilies forum: Cutting Back Daylilies

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Name: Karen
Minnesota (Zone 4a)
Region: Minnesota Garden Art Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Cookies4kids
Aug 5, 2014 5:52 AM CST
I have a lot of work to do in my daylily beds this fall which will involve moving many of my established plants. I want to cut those plants back to 12inches or so and am wondering if it's too early to do that in August. I will also be adding composted manure and milorganite around the plants at the same time. I want to get as early a start as possible so the plants can take hold before winter.
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Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
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chelle
Aug 5, 2014 7:14 AM CST
I'll toss out some thoughts since I'm also in a more northern zone...

I try to judge when it's time to move perennials by an average system; how moist the soil is now, the likelihood of plentiful rainfall to follow, how strong the sun is (yet) likely to be, how hot it's likely to be, and how healthy the plants in question are right now. If those averages look good to me, I'll move plants just about any time.

The last few years here almost nothing was moved, divided or messed with -to my mind, our drought was just too deep. This year we've had cooler overall temps, more cloudy days and more instances of rainfall, and the ground is moist to depth, so it seems to be a good year to move things early. I've even started transplanting a few shrubs.

Just wondering...why would you cut your transplants back? I've always thought that the plants benefit from all the healthy leaf surface they can possibly have when they're working hard to become reestablished, so I just leave my leaves intact. They flop over and look ratty for a bit, but I've never lost any plants doing it this way.
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Name: Karen
Minnesota (Zone 4a)
Region: Minnesota Garden Art Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Cookies4kids
Aug 5, 2014 12:58 PM CST
Hi Chelle,
I have always been told that the leaves should be cut down to about a foot or even a little less, so the plant will send the energy to the roots instead of trying to keep the leaves going. I always thought that you wanted the roots to develop and take hold when moving things especially in the fall. Now that said, we are suppose to leave the leaves intact on tulips and lilies so that sends energy to the bulbs for next year. Glare
I guess I have no idea, lol, which is correct!!!!
Happiness is doing for those who cannot do for themselves.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Aug 5, 2014 1:21 PM CST
Plants make their food themselves with their leaves, and this is the food that is used for root growth. So cutting back the leaves more likely reduces root growth, it doesn't send energy to the roots. The reason we cut back when transplanting bare-root is to reduce transpiration water loss which can be life-threatening. When you dig up a plant it will almost inevitably lose some roots. Those roots are what supply the top growth with water which passes up through the plant and out of the stomata (pores) in the leaves - this is transpiration and it's a cooling mechanism for the plant. If you leave all the leaves on then the plant is out of balance because the root area for supplying those leaves with water has been reduced.

If the leaves wilt as a result of the water shortage, then the stomata will close and the plant is no longer making food (photosynthesizing) anyway, so it is a lose-lose situation. Hence we reduce the leaf area so that the remaining roots can supply enough water for the tops. There are times of year when you may get away with not cutting back for transplanting - transpiration rates are low during cool, cloudy, humid weather for example. But if the plant starts to wilt, you've lost the food producing capability of the leaves and you are better to cut them back so that the roots don't have as much leaf to try and supply with water.
Name: Margaret Moore
West St. Paul, MN (Zone 4a)
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cataddict
Aug 5, 2014 1:39 PM CST
I agree with Sooby, particularly if you live in zone 4. The roots NEED the leaves to grow bigger, just like tulips and daffodils.
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Forum moderator Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Dog Lover Cottage Gardener
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chelle
Aug 5, 2014 7:46 PM CST
I agree with Sue; bare-root plants often need a bit of help to acclimate, but Karen, since yours are established plants that just need to be moved, they should be fine if the leaves are left intact. I'd dig with as much surrounding soil left undisturbed as possible, set the whole thing on your shovel blade and carefully drag it to its new home. This is the method I also use for moving huge chunks of hosta, and I successfully move them around all season long. They could almost be on my weed list here; they multiply like rabbits!

Seriously though; daylilies are tough plants. It's usually pretty difficult to make a fatal mistake. I've unintentionally left pieces in a wheelbarrow in the shade for weeks already...dealt with a crisis or two, and then returned to plant them...and they survived. Move them when you feel the time is right and I'm sure they'll be just fine. Smiling
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Name: Michele
Cantonment, FL zone 8b
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tink3472
Aug 6, 2014 4:34 AM CST
If I am moving big clumps, when digging it up and leaving as much soil as possible I still cut the foliage back. Even if I am leaving them right where they are I will cut them back in the fall when I replenish the fertilizer and such. It just makes it easier to work with the clumps instead of fighting with the foliage.
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Name: Karen
Minnesota (Zone 4a)
Region: Minnesota Garden Art Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Cookies4kids
Aug 6, 2014 6:07 AM CST
Thanks for all the answers to my question. I agree with Michele that the main reason I probably do it is ease of handling the plant. I have foliage coming out of my ears in my main garden which is a good 20 x 100 with brick paths running throughout. This fall when I do my major overhaul, I want to be able to see how it all fits and do the fertilizing without fighting the jungle of greenery!! Wouldn't it be nice if we could do to the Daylilies what they do to potatoes before harvest. I do not agree with pouring chemicals on plants to kill the leaves as we end up eating the stuff, but it sure would make life easier. I am no spring chicken anymore and we take trailer loads of greenery out of this garden every fall!!! What a job.
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