Daylilies forum: growing daylilies in a container

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Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Oct 14, 2017 9:49 AM CST
I grow the daylilies in containers. It's a control issue. I got a deal on some used, nursery tree containers this year. It takes some creative maneuvering to move them, but I devised a method to do that. A bigger problem has been the drain holes are large and that has allowed a lot of soil to escape. Also, due to the size, I sort of used a hugelkultur method which involved a lot of things in the bottom which apparently decomposed a lot faster than I counted on. Now the poor plants have settled too much and the containers need dumping and the soil replenished.

But the biggest problem in my growing conditions using these really big containers has been soil shrinkage on the sides of the containers. Then the root balls get too dry and it's really difficult to get moisture back into the soil. Today on garden.org the article about growing citrus plants in containers has the following statement:

"Rewet dry citrus rootballs by placing a few drops of mild dishwashing soap directly onto the soil, then water with slightly warm water.'

I haven't tried that and I'm curious whether others growing daylilies in containers have tried that. Under my normally hot and dry conditions combined with daylilies penchant for appreciating lots of water, it's a problem I would like to solve. On my big cattle tubs where I drill the holes myself, I've taken to putting the drain holes up a couple of inches on the sides rather than in the bottom. That ends up creating a built in water reservoir in the bottom of the container and that method has clearly worked for the daylilies. It would probably be a death sentence for some plants, but daylilies here cope with sitting in water during the growing season. Those that have a mosquito castle to sit in clearly manage the hot summer months better than others.

So if that dishwashing detergent will help, I love to hear some people who have actually used it. How many are a 'few drops' - that sort of thing :).
Donald
Name: Ken
East S.F. Bay Area (Zone 9a)
Region: California
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CaliFlowers
Oct 14, 2017 11:35 AM CST
I've had the exact same problem here, and I've also drilled holes in the sides of containers to hold water. Depending on the heat, water quality and what's in the bottom of the container, things can get funky down there. I ended up going with big saucers, because I can tell how fast the plant is taking up water.

Another trick I've used is to cut water bottles to make 3" tall "cups" and set them in the bottom of containers with normal drainage holes.

It's hard to find real soap anymore, and the detergents in most cleansers are probably harmful to the soil, plants and soil organisms.

The alcohol-based surfactants are the most powerful, but are probably not that good for soil health, so I use CoCo-Wet and other horticultural wetting agents, one of which was a Yucca-based wetting agent that I can't remember the name of. They work fine, but I've heard that regular use of any wetting agent isn't recommended–the person said something about soil structure and water-uptake chemistry. Seems to me that daylilies get so much water run through them that a dose of wetting agent once a month shouldn't hurt anything.

I think the soil "shrinks" initially because of root contraction, and once a channel for water appears, soil can escape from the pot, the rootball dries more, and a viscious cycle begins.

Capping the soil mix with a thin layer of garden soil has worked very well for me, because mineral-based soil re-wets easily, resists channeling, and promotes slow, even percolation. It also works its way into the potting mix slowly, which seems to help all aspects of plant growth.

In extreme cases of dry rootball, I have to dunk the pot in a big bucket of water for a couple of hours to soak it all the way through. That's when the wetting agent really comes in handy. A good rinse-through afterward, and some liquid fertilizer, and they're good-to-go again.

Recently, I've had good luck using a bark-heavy mix. It seems to stay broken up better than bagged peat-based potting soils. Fine orchid bark, with particles around 3/16 - 1/4 works the best.

A good starting point is 5 parts bark, 1-2 parts potting mix, 1part perlite, plus some dolomitic lime. There's a lot of info about this mix online, search "5-1-1", "container" and "soil".
Name: Nikki
Yorkshire, UK (Zone 8a)
LA name-Maelstrom
Dog Lover Cat Lover Rabbit Keeper Container Gardener
Scatterbrain
Oct 14, 2017 12:04 PM CST
Hi Donald,

What you describe is a very old tip which has been around for a long time, as you have discovered when soil in containers gets very dry it cracks in the top and shrinks around the sides, any water you then add just washes straight off or straight through.

Using a few drops of washing up liquid (the stuff for washing dishes by hand NOT the detergent that goes in a dishwasher) helps to emulsify the soil (is that the right word?) so that the water can soak in again.

I haven't tried it personally as I live in an extremely wet area but I will look around on the British websites for more info for you.

Edited to add--

Hi Donald,

Just had a quick look around. Here they recommend adding the washing up liquid to the water (a couple of drops per average size watering can -around one gallon in UK) and watering it in.

Another thing which you can try is pack in sheets of newspaper between the soil and the container wall when it has shrunk away so that when you water the container the paper gets soaked and stays wet and this gradually rewets the soil so that it can be worked again.

Hope this helps.
[Last edited by Scatterbrain - Oct 14, 2017 12:20 PM (+)]
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Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Oct 14, 2017 8:15 PM CST
CaliFlowers said:
Another trick I've used is to cut water bottles to make 3" tall "cups" and set them in the bottom of containers with normal drainage holes.

--This is a great idea, Ken! I tend to have all kinds of plastic containers circulate through here that I can start cutting off - milk, coffee, orange juice - seems like a lot of things are in plastic containers that would work. Definitely something I can and will try.

It's hard to find real soap anymore, and the detergents in most cleansers are probably harmful to the soil, plants and soil organisms.

--I have some Murphy's that I've used to mix with water to spray plants. I wonder if that will work? It doesn't damage the plants if they are sprayed, so I wouldn't think it would hurt with a soil application. I'm just not exactly clear on how it's supposed to work by putting it on the soil. Maybe it would be more efficient to mix some in water to start out with and then water the container as usual afterwards.

The alcohol-based surfactants are the most powerful, but are probably not that good for soil health, so I use CoCo-Wet and other horticultural wetting agents, one of which was a Yucca-based wetting agent that I can't remember the name of. They work fine, but I've heard that regular use of any wetting agent isn't recommended–the person said something about soil structure and water-uptake chemistry. Seems to me that daylilies get so much water run through them that a dose of wetting agent once a month shouldn't hurt anything.

--Wetting agents always seem a bit high priced to me.

I think the soil "shrinks" initially because of root contraction, and once a channel for water appears, soil can escape from the pot, the rootball dries more, and a viscious cycle begins.

--Yep.

Capping the soil mix with a thin layer of garden soil has worked very well for me, because mineral-based soil re-wets easily, resists channeling, and promotes slow, even percolation. It also works its way into the potting mix slowly, which seems to help all aspects of plant growth.

-With my red clay, that might be more like capping it with concrete. Once it gets really dry, it repels water for a while. Using my yard soil has always led to trouble sooner or later. Usually sooner :(.

In extreme cases of dry rootball, I have to dunk the pot in a big bucket of water for a couple of hours to soak it all the way through. That's when the wetting agent really comes in handy. A good rinse-through afterward, and some liquid fertilizer, and they're good-to-go again.

--Dunking and setting containers in water is my 'go to' method on pots I can manage to lift. I even got a couple of cheap child swimming pools that have big pots sitting in them. The problem with those big pots is lifting them. When they are dry I could probably get them in, but once the soil is thoroughly wet I'd probably have to get help to lift them back. Manageable when I was younger maybe, but asking for trouble to try it now. I've still considered setting one or two in those kiddie pools, though, and then waiting 'til someone drops by that I can get to help me lift them out :).

Recently, I've had good luck using a bark-heavy mix. It seems to stay broken up better than bagged peat-based potting soils. Fine orchid bark, with particles around 3/16 - 1/4 works the best.

--I use bark in my mixes. Too expensive to only use potting mix for pots that large. That's why I put limbs, twigs, leaves and other organic material hugelkultur style to take up space. The plants don't object, but it didn't last through the season. I guess the organics just broke down too quickly and now I'm needing to replenish the volume. The daylilies do a good job filling even large containers with roots. For some reason clay pots don't have as much shrinkage as the plastic. I wonder if the clay, soil and roots tend to bond a bit where the plastic doesn't bond at all.

A good starting point is 5 parts bark, 1-2 parts potting mix, 1part perlite, plus some dolomitic lime. There's a lot of info about this mix online, search "5-1-1", "container" and "soil".

--Daylilies haven't proved to be all that picky about the mix. At least mine haven't. Mostly they grow well and I do try to give a bit of supplemental fertilizer from time to time to compensate for what gets used up and leeches out.



Donald
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
Image
needrain
Oct 14, 2017 8:27 PM CST
@Scatterbrain Nikki,

I like the newspaper idea. Unfortunately in the days of the internet and living out in the country where they won't deliver a paper off the highway makes newspapers almost a thing of the past. A small weekly local paper - and expensive - that comes via mail is about all the paper that shows up here. I think I may stack up a few and try them, though. It certainly gets wet easily enough so it seems like it would keep the water running straight through. I have paper sacks that cattle feed comes in that I may try. It's cheap paper that also soaks up water easily. I use it under mulch to suppress weed growth for that reason. I wonder if cardboard boxes would work? They also tend to be absorbent and might even be easier to stuff in the containers to fill in the shrinkage. Both those decompose rapidly when I use them outside on the soil. Not sure how fast they would disappear in the containers. Worth trying. Thanks for the idea!
Donald
Name: Nikki
Yorkshire, UK (Zone 8a)
LA name-Maelstrom
Dog Lover Cat Lover Rabbit Keeper Container Gardener
Scatterbrain
Oct 15, 2017 7:52 AM CST
You're welcome, Donald,

Hope it helps! Smiling

Edited--forgot to say, as regards proper soap you might be better looking on etsy or similar for independent soapmakers as they still make soap as a craft or maybe look up soapmaking supplies/suppliers for the raw ingredients.
[Last edited by Scatterbrain - Oct 15, 2017 7:56 AM (+)]
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Name: Jimi
Jacksonville, FL (Zone 9a)
Daylilies
Jimiimijz
Oct 26, 2017 8:56 AM CST
I have most of mine potted up also and use a Hugelkultur approach to combat moisture loss. Take an oak log, about 2" smaller in diameter than the pot and short enough to leave planting room, and place it in the bottom. I then like to use larger pine bark mulch as a "filter" to keep the potting mix from washing out the drainage holes around the log. I don't think a few drops of Dawn or Joy will affect anything as a lot of people use them a "spreader sticker" when spraying chemicals.

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