Daylilies forum: Some Thoughts on Plant Vitality

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Name: John
Marion County, Florida (Zone 9a)
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farawayfarmer
Nov 7, 2014 9:41 AM CST
Some thoughts about plant vitality

I really wanted to use the term ‘plant hardiness’ at the top of this piece, but was afraid that the topic would be mistaken for ‘cold hardiness.’

I divided and replanted every daylily plant in my garden last fall, beginning in August. Wound up with about three hundred feet of daylily beds around three sides of our yard. Unfortunately, I made a few mistakes, the most egregious of which was that my eyes exceeded my pocketbook. The largest hundred foot bed had plenty of augmentation to the soil, mostly in the form of several cubic yards of Black Kow composted cow manure. But, as work progressed around the west and north sides of the yard, I ran out of funds, and wound up planting perhaps two-thirds of the daylily plants in plan old porous Florida sand. Oh, well, I thought, generous watering can compensate for that. I hope.

This year, my partner and I are redoing the beds yet again, and I’ve made a couple of unfortunate discoveries. For the past five years, we’ve been planting an L-shaped hedge of Ruby Loropetalum around the west and north sides of the yard. They make a gorgeous purple-leafed shrub and have scads of pink flowers in season. The oldest part of the hedge is being maintained at a height of three feet, and looks wonderful. The newer sections will get to that height by next year.

What I did not know, until I began digging daylily plants up was this: Ruby Loropetalum shrubs send out a network of tiny little purple roots as far as four feet away from the base of the shrubs. The daylily beds were a mass of those little purple roots, and any daylily plant too close to the shrub was choked with those roots.

And the competition for food and moisture cost us quite a few plants. Chalk it up to a lesson learned.

We’re in the process of excavating the beds in front of the hedge. We’ll be digging down about nine inches, and out about four feet. Then we’ll line the hole with nursery cloth - to prevent invasion by the roots. After that, Black Kow will be dumped into the hole, and nursery cloth spread over it. Problem solved - we hope.

Now to my main observation, and the focus of this writing: For the most part, the older the cultivar, the better it stood up to these adverse conditions. There were one or two exceptions, or as the saying goes, the exceptions that prove the rule. Some of the cultivars from the eighties actually seemed to be thriving in plain sand.

Which has led me to wonder this: in their rush to provide thousands of color combinations and patterns, have the hybridizers bred the vitality right out of the plants? And, if that’s the case, what can they do about it - if anything.

Your thoughts?

John
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
Service dogs: Angels with paws.
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lovemyhouse
Nov 7, 2014 11:29 AM CST
Most of my Daylilies are older cultivars, but I have noticed that newer cultivars of several other perennials are nowhere near as vigorous---meaning they are less vital, healthy, sturdy, hardy, etc., as the older ones. Snow Fairy Caryopteris and Golden Girl Salvia are the two more recent introductions that come to mind first.
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Nov 7, 2014 11:46 AM CST
The newer frilly things do not do anything much for me. It's the old varieties that do well in my garden. I also try to avoid the evergreens if I can and think the dips do better. But I haven't actually kept any record keeping on paper, so maybe it's just in my head.

As far as the fabric cloth keeping roots out of your flowers, it might be worth a try, but I am skeptical. If it were possible I would either eliminate the bushes all together or relocate the dl to an area further away. I planted some hostas last spring around a hemlock tree and by this fall they were choked with roots. I will have to move them. Sad
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Nov 7, 2014 11:51 AM CST
I think this is a view that needs to be approached carefully. The older cultivars growing now may represent just a few of what was new when they came on the market. Those that got relatively wide distribution AND proved to be strong growers, either widely or in specific regions, can be seen as sturdy growers. Those probably shouldn't be compared to all the newer introductions until time has done the job of separating the sturdy growers among the new things. Older varieties that weren't sturdy growers have probably just fallen by the wayside and are forgotten. I don't think many people have ever grown all, or even a high percentage, of what gets introduced to the general market in any given year. So both long term vigor and how widely they were distributed comes into play, but it's really difficult to compare them over a span of time and make a conclusion. After the new ones are out for a few years, it will be the vigorous growers that had wide distribution that are left. The weak growers and those that didn't move probably won't be extant or common anymore.
Donald
Name: John
Marion County, Florida (Zone 9a)
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farawayfarmer
Nov 7, 2014 12:06 PM CST
needrain said:I think this is a view that needs to be approached carefully. The older cultivars growing now may represent just a few of what was new when they came on the market. Those that got relatively wide distribution AND proved to be strong growers, either widely or in specific regions, can be seen as sturdy growers. Those probably shouldn't be compared to all the newer introductions until time has done the job of separating the sturdy growers among the new things. Older varieties that weren't sturdy growers have probably just fallen by the wayside and are forgotten. I don't think many people have ever grown all, or even a high percentage, of what gets introduced to the general market in any given year. So both long term vigor and how widely they were distributed comes into play, but it's really difficult to compare them over a span of time and make a conclusion. After the new ones are out for a few years, it will be the vigorous growers that had wide distribution that are left. The weak growers and those that didn't move probably won't be extant or common anymore.


Survival of the fittest works for me. I meant to state, but failed to do so, that the less than 200 cultivars I'm dealing with are by no means a large enough sample to constitute a "statistical universe."
John
Name: Julie
Roanoke, VA (Zone 7a)
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floota
Nov 7, 2014 12:22 PM CST
In my opinion, making such generalizations is not a path I'd want to follow. Yes, it is true that not all plants do well in all places. Yes it is true that some breeders test their plants in different climates before they distribute them, while others don't . And yes, it is true that some sell plants much more ethically than others. But there is merit in many old classics and there is merit in many of the new cultivars out there too. As a grower, I choose not to keep plants that do not perform well in my garden here for very long. The non performers have a 3 year max and then they're out of here. But if something doesn't do well, the first questions I always ask myself are, "Is this plant not thriving because of something in the environment here - is it getting enough water, enough sun, enough room to grow, is the soil good, etc.?" And if I feel the plant hasn't been given a fair chance, maybe it is getting too much shade, then it gets moved to a better spot before I'm ready to toss it out with the dishwater.

There are several newer hybridizers on the scene that I buy from regularly whose plants have proven themselves to be excellent, vigorous and hardy performers in my garden and those are the ones I'll continue giving my plant $$ to. There are also several who will never get my business again. There are some whose plants I really like, but I've learned ( the hard way) that many of their plants are just too tender or too evergreen to thrive here. That is not to say that those same plants wouldn't do beautifully in a more southern climate. I find it helpful to look first at hybridizers plants when they are breeding in close or similar climates to where my garden is, or to look at plants that perform beautifully in club gardens or regional tour gardens.

Good luck with your growing!! Many of the Florida growers I know ( who are not commercial growers) say they have to use sunken pots in their gardens to have much success growing there. This is only anecdotal information given to me by people who live there, as I have only observed, never grown daylilies in FL.


Name: John
Marion County, Florida (Zone 9a)
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farawayfarmer
Nov 7, 2014 12:35 PM CST
We all have to adapt to the land we live on. I know one commercial grower in Florida who has a plethora of oak trees in his front yard. As you may know, oak trees send out horizontal roots a very long way from their drip line, and these roots are often just below the surface. To solve that problem, he lays a layer or two of plastic down; builds a wall of bricks around the bed; then fills it with his planting soil.

I'm hoping that the Ruby Loropetalum roots will not be able to penetrate a cloth or plastic barrier. As to that, only time will tell.
Our house is on the corner of a ten acre field, so I could move the daylilies elsewhere, if it comes to that. However for the moment, I prefer to see them blooming in my front yard.
John
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
Service dogs: Angels with paws.
Dragonflies Dog Lover I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Photography Bee Lover Plays in the sandbox
Butterflies Region: Texas I sent a postcard to Randy! Charter ATP Member Annuals Garden Sages
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lovemyhouse
Nov 7, 2014 12:41 PM CST
Thumbs up
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Nov 7, 2014 2:02 PM CST
One thing is certain. In order to determine which new plants will show vigor long term, someone has to grow them for a while. New daylily prices probably slow down the test. How long before a daylily introduction is no longer considered 'new'? Probably not long enough for a really broad test under widely varying growing conditions.
Donald
Name: John
Marion County, Florida (Zone 9a)
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farawayfarmer
Nov 7, 2014 3:46 PM CST
needrain said:One thing is certain. In order to determine which new plants will show vigor long term, someone has to grow them for a while. New daylily prices probably slow down the test. How long before a daylily introduction is no longer considered 'new'? Probably not long enough for a really broad test under widely varying growing conditions.


There's a sort of Catch-22 there, isn't there. The most I've ever paid for a daylily is $50, and I thought long and hard about that purchase.
We want new and exciting cultivars, but most of us have to wait until the prices drop, as inevitably, they will.
John
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Nov 7, 2014 4:53 PM CST
I do think some of the ones I have had had trouble with would do better farther south, so the zone they are grown in makes a huge difference. A dl would need to be grown several seasons in several zones to come to a conclusion of whether it was hardy or not.
Name: John
Marion County, Florida (Zone 9a)
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farawayfarmer
Nov 7, 2014 5:02 PM CST
Frillylily said:I do think some of the ones I have had had trouble with would do better farther south, so the zone they are grown in makes a huge difference. A dl would need to be grown several seasons in several zones to come to a conclusion of whether it was hardy or not.


Which is why I never buy a daylily unless I've seen it growing lustily in a Florida garden.
John
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Nov 7, 2014 6:54 PM CST
Daylilies are seldom seen growing in my immediate area. Not sure why, exactly, but water requirements and the fact that this just isn't gardening country are my best guesses. Farming, ranching, but not gardening. When I've seen the occasional daylily, it's been clearly an older type and generally looks very similar to 'ditch lilies' from a distance though I haven't examined them up close. When I buy any daylily, old or new, high dollar or cheap, it's taking a chance on an unknown. Wait - I've seen Stella d'Oro growing a couple of times. Unfortunately, as daylilies go, I don't find it very appealing except from a distance.
Donald
Name: Pat
Near McIntosh, Florida (Zone 9a)
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Xenacrockett
Nov 7, 2014 7:42 PM CST

Plant establishment time seems to make a difference.
Plants that have shipped in sometimes don't have as much strength until they've been here awhile.
I have some old established plants from the early 90's and see that there are strength differences in them also.

Since I'm new to hybridizing, I purchase plants wherever/if I can afford them..

Last month I got Curt Hanson's "Women Seeking Men" from a lady up North.
She was hesitant about shipping it to me since I live in the South and she didn't know if it would do okay here..
WSM is doing great.
I don't care about intro year; just strength and if plant features will get me where I want to go.

I also got some newer intros this year --- one is pretty strong
and the other which I expected to be stronger isn't showing vigor expected, yet.

Newer plants I got from Tink came in strong and stayed that way.
So how they are started helps too.
Name: Fred Manning
Lillian Alabama

Charter ATP Member Region: Gulf Coast I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Seller of Garden Stuff Dog Lover Region: United States of America
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spunky1
Nov 8, 2014 5:53 AM CST
From my experience, if your putting something in the bottom of the bed to stop roots and water will drain through it, it will not stop the roots. Even at four feet away from the problem the roots will soon reach all that good fertilizer and water. I had an on going battle with roots several years, they won, so I constructed raised boxes.
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Name: Maurice
Grey County, Ontario (Zone 4b)
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admmad
Nov 8, 2014 9:52 AM CST
Scientifically and formally I have to agree with needrain, the question of whether older cultivars are "fitter"/more vigorous/have more "vitality"/etc. is extremely difficult or impossible to answer because we cannot get a random or unbiased sample of the older cultivars while we can of the newer cultivars.

However, the theoretical answer is that the newer cultivars are less fit than the older cultivars and the newer cultivars are more fit than the older cultivars.

Before people started hybridizing daylilies there were different daylily species growing in different regions naturally. In natural conditions no one waters, fertilizes, weeds, divides, etc. The plants have to survive, grow, flower, produce seeds, with no help and while competing with other plants. People began growing some of the daylily species in gardens and crossed them with each other and began selecting them. In gardens daylily plants are watered, fertilized, weeded, divided or more simply grown under unnatural conditions. In the beginning the daylily hybrids will have been more fit for natural growing conditions and less fit for garden conditions. As generations of selection passed daylily cultivars will have become less fit for natural conditions and more fit for garden conditions. That is an unavoidable consequence of being selected in garden conditions.

If one grows daylilies in conditions that more closely resemble those in nature (for example, with strong competition from other plants or their roots) then cultivars that are less adapted to garden conditions and more adapted to natural conditions will on average do better or be fitter. That would be older cultivars.

On the other hand if one grows daylilies in conditions that are most different from those in nature (watered, fertilized, divided, weeded, without competition, deadheaded, etc.) then the cultivars that are most adapted to garden conditions will on average do better or be fitter. That would be the newer cultivars.
Maurice
Name: Pat
Near McIntosh, Florida (Zone 9a)
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Xenacrockett
Nov 8, 2014 10:37 AM CST

A knowledgeable horseman might look at an early 1900's picture of an Arabian horse and marvel at the use-able confirmation.
A horse lover today would look at that same picture and deny that it even was an Arabian horse.
We come to expect certain features in things and fads may rule for awhile.

If Man O War were cloned and available at stud today, would breeders use him?
Polish Arabian breeders understood breeding can be done for certain features, but eventually the well source must be re-visited.

Maybe some breed daylilies for bling (sales) while others go for strength like the fellow who is working on rust resistant dips and thins about 95% of them. Some appear to try to incorporate both features.

Plant catalogs available to the general public include many older proven selections. If you sell to the general public and expect to stand behind your product to replace what they [accidentally] kill off, tough plants of any age are needed.

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