Daylilies forum: Newbie starting 1/3 acre Daylily farm

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Mattio
Jan 28, 2018 11:53 PM CST
Hello all,

I've definitely done some lurking on this forum to get info and after kicking around various ideas of what to do with the land (from pumpkin patch, onion patch, having chickens for eggs etc.), I think I've settled on daylily farming. The thing that steered me away from the other types of farming is the type of work required. I have a full-time job with an unpredictable schedule and a growing family. I sometime go stretches of days without any free time and then stretches of days with lots of free time. The daily responsibilities of things like caring for chickens make them impractical. I don't want to be nailed down during a vegetable "harvest time" either. I would like to make a little money off the land but I'm not in a rush to do so. In comes daylily farming (I think). I also love the idea of permaculture and supporting bee populations but I have other sections of land to do that with in the future and, for now, I want to focus on the daylilies...

There doesn't seem to be much consolidated info in websites or any books on starting a daylily farm. Perhaps this is due, in part, to how easy they are to grow. However, I still think that good planning will pay off.

We're in zone 6a, the land gets enough sun for daylilies and has been a horse pasture for many years. We have some established daylilies on property that seem to be doing well without any care. I also have a metal frame that I could put plastic over and turn into an 8x12 greenhouse and lots of big southern facing windows in the house. I haven't decided on timeline but I'm thinking 3-5 years to have the 1/3 acre mostly covered in daylilies, without really selling any before then. My main questions right now... if someone could be so kind?

1. I have the patience and the desire to start from seed if it will save me lots of money, however I don't see many seeds for sale online. Any recommendations on whether I should start with seed, bare roots, or mature plants?

2. Do you think the end goal should be beds, rows or just try to fill the whole field? What kind of spacing? (I like the idea of mulching with organic matter to cut down on weeding.)

3. How much weeding and deadheading needs to be done to maintain healthy plants?

4. How long do you have to wait after planting a seedling before you can divide it? Do you have to wait until after it blooms for the first time?

5. Do you think I should target specific best-selling varieties or save money and just buy "white daylilies" and "pink daylilies" (which may be cheaper)

Really appreciate any helpful info!!!

Thank you,
Matt


[Last edited by Mattio - Jan 29, 2018 2:01 AM (+)]
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Name: Mike
Hazel Crest, IL (Zone 5b)
There's a place of quiet rest !
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Hazelcrestmikeb
Jan 29, 2018 8:31 AM CST
Hello Matt. Where in zone 6a are you located? Congratulations on your plans to start your daylily farm.
To solve your seed myth Rolling on the floor laughing of finding daylily seeds. Go here : https://daylily.com/cgi-bin/au...
There are also plants for sale on the same website. Some of our fellow gardeners here also sell in the classified section very reasonably. I have seeds from my own garden that I can share for the cost of shipping. Ruby a seller on the auction have hybridizing supplies to get you started.
It seem to me that most are pining for some of the newer daylilies to add to the proven older cultivars. Some like the newer ones. You will be able to get the older ones for a reasonable price. You can gauge from the daylily auction what is selling and take notes. Variety rather than specific colors are the norm. Eventually you can start your own hybridizing program and create your own masterpieces. Create something unusual and "they will come.
Prepping you planting area well should help control weeds. For seedlings the spacing can be tighter. Before they get to a bigger size most hybridizers move the standout seedlings to a "evaluation bed" to further evaluate seedlings. The weaklings are composted to make room for the next crop of seedlings. Seedling spacing can be anywhere from six to eight inches depending on your available space. Deadheading is optional. If you are hybridizing you would want to leave the flower to see if the pollination process is a success. Bear in mind that some plants are pod and/or pollen sterile. You definitely want to check the fertility of the plant before you buy it. You would also have to check your own seedlings for the same. That's a separate subject. Seedlings are usually not moved until they have bloomed. You don't want to set them back. Some multiply faster than others. Rows make it easier to keep up with the seedlings. Irrigation is another thing in itself. Most seedlings will need supplemental water during the first year if you don't get sufficient rain. I am sure once others see this post they will chime in with more suggestions. Good luck in your endeavor.
robinseeds.com
"Life as short as it is, is amazing isn't it ?" Michael Burton
"Be your best you".
[Last edited by Hazelcrestmikeb - Jan 29, 2018 8:33 AM (+)]
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Name: Elena
NYC (Zone 7a)
Daylilies Plant and/or Seed Trader Winter Sowing Hybridizer Peonies Vegetable Grower
Seed Starter Organic Gardener Composter Container Gardener Spiders! Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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bxncbx
Jan 29, 2018 9:01 AM CST
Hi Mattio! Welcome!

I live in NYC so I have no words of wisdom for you about pursuing you goal. I would like to add though that if you live in an area with deer you will have to fence the field. Deer LOVE daylily blooms! Even if you have daylilies planted around your house that the deer leave alone I wouldn't count on them being too timid to ravage a field full of daylilies. Also watch for burrowing critters, but a dog or cat roaming around would most likely deter them.

I do hope you achieve your goal! There can never be too many daylily farms as far as I'm concerned! And definitely get into hybridizing your own. I'm hybridizing in my tiny garden and getting some great plants. And registering new daylilies is pretty cheap. Definitely a way to get your new farm on the map! Good luck!
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
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sooby
Jan 29, 2018 9:12 AM CST
I would say the biggest obstacle would be the work/time involved. Weeding is time consuming and digging and dividing for sale is hard dirty work that can be underestimated until you start doing it. I would not start with seeds because you will find that not all seedlings are worth keeping and daylily people probably won't be all that interested in buying unnamed seedlings that you don't want to keep unless and until you become a well-known hybridizer. If the primary reason is to sell, you would be better to start with named cultivars IMHO. You may find that the general gardening public will pay for "a pink one" or "a red one" but they won't want to pay a lot for them. Don't look at the high prices of well-known hybridizers' new introductions and expect to get the same until you are one Smiling
Name: pam
gainesville fl (Zone 8b)
Bee Lover Birds The WITWIT Badge Butterflies Daylilies Enjoys or suffers hot summers
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gardenglory
Jan 29, 2018 9:22 AM CST
Boy do I agree with that.
Do you now how much a gallon the stuff they use to get those lilies, cost. Its not a cheap to grow lilies. Know what your up against. Have you been to MECCA to check out the gardens, and see what they do.
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Composter Garden Photography Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Region: Alabama
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Seedfork
Jan 29, 2018 9:32 AM CST
Mattio,
Now maybe I am way off base here, but I got the impression that maybe you think planting daylily seed will result in a duplicate of the plant the seed came from? Daylily seed do not come true, in other words the plant you get from seed may be nothing like the plant the seed came from.
From the questions you asked, I would suggest growing a large bed of daylilies for a year or two at least, before deciding to make it a business.
Search out some daylily farms in your area, go visit them, talk with the owners, get a feel for what it is like to be in the daylily business.
[Last edited by Seedfork - Jan 29, 2018 9:57 AM (+)]
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Name: Christie
43016 (Zone 6b)
Plays in the water.
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cwhitt
Jan 29, 2018 10:07 AM CST
I don't have Irises, (I grow Amaryllis) but I have been watching and admiring this forum for quite a while. There are quite a few hybridizers and growers here. I would look at what some of the members are growing and contact some of them to inquire about buying/swapping some of their plants - I think you will find the best of the best right here. Good luck and happy growing! I tip my hat to you.
Plant Dreams. Pull Weeds. Grow A Happy Life.

Mattio
Jan 30, 2018 12:07 AM CST
Wow, thanks for all the responses!!

To Hazelcrestmikeb: I live in Metrowest MA (Boston suburbs). I believe we used to be Zone 5b but got changed to 6a (global warming?). I see that daylily auction site now, thank you. I am surprised at the cost of the seeds. I'm used to being able to buy burpee seeds 40% off when they go on sale... and they don't seem to sell any daylily seeds. Partly due to this, I was under the impression that daylily farms propogated mostly by dividing but it now seems that hybridizing and planting seedlings is the majority of the work. Thank you for offering to share your seeds! That is very nice of you!

To bxncbx:
Thanks for the heads up! We have lots of deer around but luckily there is already horse fencing in place with electric wire where I want the main daylily nursery to be.

To sooby:
Thanks for the heads up on the manual labor. I've spent nearly all my free time renovating the neglected farmhouse we purchased for the past two years so I'm no stranger to manual labor. (I actually enjoy it over non-manual labor.) Thank you for the insight on starting with seeds vs plants. Also, if space isn't at a premium then would you still recommend not growing cheaper generic daylilies? I have a lot of space in relation to the amount of money and time I'm willing to invest. I have other areas of the property that I'm realizing I could grow daylilies too besides the 1/3 acre... Part of the reason I want to do the daylily farm is for the curb appeal. We also do a bnb with some rooms. It would add to the appeal and improve that business as well.

To Seedfork:
You may be on to something. The area that is to be planted includes our road/driveway frontage and I was thinking of planting a row along both, would be about 200 feet in total length and could be as wide as desired. Maybe that would be a good starting place!

Thank you all for sharing your knowledge!!! Smiling
Name: Valerie
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Irises Roses Peonies Butterflies Birds
Bee Lover Region: Canadian Ponds Garden Art Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters
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touchofsky
Jan 30, 2018 7:45 AM CST
Hi Mattio,
A few thoughts just as a daylily buyer, and not a seller or hybridizer (other than for my amusement).
The idea of your beds along your long driveway is a great one. It would be seen from the road and would be good advertising and also would encourage people to stop on the spur of the moment. Daylilies are so beautiful en masse. Also it will beautify the entrance to your b and b.

I would purchased named cultivars from reputable sellers. They don't have to be the 'latest and greatest' to start. There are many very beautiful older varieties very reasonably priced. Our members regularly sell off extras for great prices and I am sure you could get a lot of wonderful daylilies from them. I do think you should get good plant markers to keep everything well marked. Most people like to know the name of the cultivar, even if they eventually forget or lose their marker :lol

Anyway, good luck. The draw of a renovated farmhouse with gorgeous daylilies should prove successful!
Name: Mike
Hazel Crest, IL (Zone 5b)
There's a place of quiet rest !
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Hazelcrestmikeb
Jan 30, 2018 7:52 AM CST
Matt a variety of plants on the frontage mixed with the daylilies will lengthen the bloom season for you. Being a BnB, some spring blooming bulbs and plants mixed with fall blooming plants would make the frontage POP all season long. Bear in mind that daylilies start blooming at varying times during the season.
http://www.daylilies.org/ahs_d...
Choose base on mixing bloom season plants along with consistent rebloomers for your zone.
The thread "Favorite Long Blooming (or Reblooming) Daylilies" in Daylilies forum
robinseeds.com
"Life as short as it is, is amazing isn't it ?" Michael Burton
"Be your best you".
Name: Valerie
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Irises Roses Peonies Butterflies Birds
Bee Lover Region: Canadian Ponds Garden Art Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters
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touchofsky
Jan 30, 2018 8:00 AM CST
Good point, Mike! Daffodils are gorgeous planted along with daylilies. Other bulbs would be lovely, too.
Last year I started lining my long laneway with extra daylilies interplanted with daffodils. I can't wait to see them in spring.
Name: Mike
Hazel Crest, IL (Zone 5b)
There's a place of quiet rest !
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Hazelcrestmikeb
Jan 30, 2018 8:38 AM CST
Valerie we can't wait either Rolling on the floor laughing
robinseeds.com
"Life as short as it is, is amazing isn't it ?" Michael Burton
"Be your best you".
Name: Valerie
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Irises Roses Peonies Butterflies Birds
Bee Lover Region: Canadian Ponds Garden Art Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters
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touchofsky
Jan 30, 2018 8:40 AM CST
Hilarious! Mike, hubby and I keep telling ourselves not to wish our life away, but it is hard Rolling my eyes.
Name: Mike
Hazel Crest, IL (Zone 5b)
There's a place of quiet rest !
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Hazelcrestmikeb
Jan 30, 2018 9:03 AM CST
I wish all the time Whistling
robinseeds.com
"Life as short as it is, is amazing isn't it ?" Michael Burton
"Be your best you".
Name: Sue Petruske
Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
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petruske
Jan 31, 2018 12:55 AM CST
Matt Welcome!

Be sure to keep an eye on the Daylily Classifieds here on garden.org (as mentioned previously). You will find a lot of good bargains there. You will be able to purchase many very nice cultivars there. In case you don't know where to find it, just go to the Daylily Form and look for this:
Thumb of 2018-01-31/petruske/553582

Also, when you find some you are interested in buying, look at them in the Plant Data Base before you purchase. The pictures in the Plant Data Base will show you how the DL looks in gardens across the country. The same cultivar may look very different in your garden soil than it does in another location.

If it happens to be reviewed as a "daylily of the day" you will see comments from people that already own them. You will find out which zones it does well in (or what zones it may struggle in), if it is a fast or slow increaser, if it holds its color well after all day in the sun, and much more.
Name: Teresa
South central KY (Zone 6b)
Consider the lilies of the field
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bluegrassmom
Feb 1, 2018 7:52 AM CST
Welcome to the world of Daylilies. I started out as a collector but as everyone knows with perennials you have more and more each year. I buy and sell. I also have some seedlings. So many are not going to bring a high dollar because most collectors want a named daylily. Unless both parents are from newer intros.

This forum has lots of info and is a friendly group that is helpful. Wishing you the best of luck.

Teresa in KY
McLean, VA (Zone 6b)
daylilly99
Feb 2, 2018 9:02 AM CST
Welcome Mattio,

Daylilies are a wonderful hobby plant, but the word on the street is that nobody gets rich selling daylilies. I do my best to help pay the (daylily) bills by selling on a few venues (including here, Craig's List and the Lily Auction). Whatever I make is nice but it's certainly a drop in the bucket compared to my expenses for materials, water, fertilizer, new plants, etc.

My question is what plan do you have to sell these and do you know what your market will be? Will you pot them and take them to a Farmer's Market (probably more of a comittment of time than you want to make)?, Can you sell them potted or bare root to local nurseries? Can you get enough people walking in to the farm to sell direct, and would that be as they showed up or would you have a few open garden days (where you might need helpers if there is a crowd) ... would you dig to order or have some in pots ready to go?

To answer another one of your questions, you can divide the plants when they are even at two fans, but it's not recommended. It's said daylilies like company so even two single fans in one hole seems to make them grow better than one fan on its own. Therefore, I would wait until at least 4 fans before dividing them into new plants.

Go to the AHS website and explore whatever information you can find there. http://www.daylilies.org/
Before you buy named daylilies I suggest you look them up on the Daylily Database there and perhaps shy away from the evergreens (Though some will do fine in your zone, it's hard to know unless you know they are growing locally.) I'm zone 6b and I try to buy from sellers in zones 7 up through the colder zones. For me this is mainly due to the rust issue but for you it might means plants that do better in your climate.

Good luck and most of all have fun. Daylilies are a source of endless enjoyment.

Pat

p.s. I grew up on the south shore of Boston and I sent a lot of daylilies to my Dad before he died to grow in his rocky New England garden.
Name: Teresa
South central KY (Zone 6b)
Consider the lilies of the field
Seller of Garden Stuff Irises Hostas Region: Kentucky Lilies Peonies
Region: United States of America Garden Photography Vegetable Grower Hummingbirder Cat Lover Heucheras
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bluegrassmom
Feb 2, 2018 9:45 AM CST
Pat, a source of endless enjoyment. What a true statement! Another true statement is don't expect to get rich, lol. It is needs to be a labor of love.

I also have a Boston tie. My oldest lived in the area for 4 yrs and now my youngest daughter is in MA.
Name: Ed Burton
NE Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
Hybridizing, Lily Auction seed sell
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Garden Photography Seed Starter Pollen collector Peonies
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EdBurton
Feb 3, 2018 8:55 AM CST
Matt your looking for seeds? Mike Longo's daylily auction is full of both seed and plant sellers.
https://www.daylily.com/cgi-bi...

Another site to check out Charlotte's Daylily Diary, nurseries and sellers from all over the world listed in there
http://www.daylilydiary.com/
Ed Burton

seed seller "gramps"

Mattio
Feb 3, 2018 10:58 PM CST
A big thank you to everyone who has chimed in. I have certainly found cheaper named cultivars (in bare root form) now that I've looked around more and checked out some of the suggestions.. I think I will start with bare root plants to get a quicker start and save the hassle of starting from seeds. There's going to be a lot of stella de oro growing! I'm going to plant them along the horse fencing closest to the driveway with other taller cultivars behind, I think the yellow looks great with our property. To answer your questions, I'm definitely not looking to get rich quick. I'd be happy to break even for a while and having enough deductions (continual investment in the farm) to balance out the income when the income eventually starts. I'm not sure on the tax laws on hobby loss yet but I'd be happy to do that up to the point that is allowed. In the longer term, selling online and creeping "into the green" profit-wise would be great. We have very fertile soil that has been fertilized by horses for the past 40 years. Not to mention being surrounded by streams (can't divert them for irrigation but they add nutrients I think). I hope that will prove to be a boon for us. I'd love to sell locally but the insurance/liability/town issues of having people come onto the property are daunting. But I suppose I can figure that out later if I change my mind. Right now the biggest thing is making decisions on the scale and layout. I'm trying to decide if I should plant them close in less beds so there's less weeding with the plan of splitting them earlier or plant spaced farther apart in more beds with the plan of splitting them further down the road, but that may mean more weeding... Thoughts on that would be greatly appreciated and thanks again!!!! Really siked about it

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