Daylilies forum: Getting to the bottom of things...the root of the matter

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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
Aug 24, 2018 4:41 PM CST
Lets talk about daylily roots. I have some examples and need some advice.
Some daylilies have a lot of very fine roots, what I call "feeder roots". They also have some thicker roots that I call "stabilizing roots" and then some of them have those "thick tuberous roots".
I had promised some fans of some of the older varieties to a member and as I dug and separated them I realized how different the plants roots were and how hard some were to separate while others were much easier.
The one takeaway I got from this session was that dividing plants every couple of years makes for easier dividing. Some of the older clumps were a real pain, I tried my best to just get nice respectable single fans or double fans without cutting the roots(something I hate to do) but there was just no avoiding it. I sawed my way through trying to find a nice path with the least resistance, but with a solid mass of roots intertwined into a nightmarish mess it was not to be. So I just sawed through the mass and hoped for the best.
I did have two plants 'Irish Envy' and 'Laura Harwood' that had tons of fine roots, others had very few of these roots. One of the hardest clumps to divide that had almost none of the fine feeder roots comparatively was 'Lady Neva' but even though the plant had several crowns, it was if they had all meshed together as one plant, and it had to be hacked up in pieces.
I removed hands full of the small "feeder roots' from a couple of the plants and my question is what percentage of those feeder roots can be removed without doing great harm to the plant. I could barely fit the plants in a large priority shipping box but without extreme trimming of the foliage it would not have been financially possible to ship the plants. I think I have read that they can mostly be removed and that they will die back any how when planted and then regrow. The larger roots were very long also so I cut them back about a third, just to be able to fit the plants in the box.
Any advice on trimming back the roots, would be appreciated.
P.S.
I did knock off all the dirt I could, I did take the hose and wash them and remove as much dirt as I could, I did soak them and then wash them again. Still had to saw through them.
These are some of the remains that were not shipped just to show the different roots. I wish I had taken before and after photos, but as usual, I thought of it to late.
'Lady Neva'
Thumb of 2018-08-24/Seedfork/f6743a
'Laura Harwood' very hard to separate, I must have removed several pounds of fine roots.
Thumb of 2018-08-24/Seedfork/b8a205
'Mister Lucky': The clump was transplanted in the past two years so it was pretty easy
Thumb of 2018-08-24/Seedfork/65570a
'Carnival In Mexico' Look how these roots appear to be stacked
Thumb of 2018-08-24/Seedfork/3e0984

'Irish Envy" very hard to separate, the clump had been divided just by digging a few fans from the edge over the past two years, but the clump had not been dug till today.
Thumb of 2018-08-24/Seedfork/302f0b

[Last edited by Seedfork - Aug 24, 2018 5:22 PM (+)]
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Name: Mary
Crown Point, Indiana (Zone 5b)
josieskid
Aug 24, 2018 4:59 PM CST
Wow, Larry, your plants are wonderful! I hope mine are like that this fall when I go to divide some of them. They'll probably be all crappy and stringy from my heavy clay soil.

Those plants will recover just fine from having their roots cut. You should have seen the mushy, rotten roots I had to cut off the last daylily I received a couple of weeks ago. The plant now looks gorgeous. They're just expensive weeds!
Name: Vickie
Elberfeld, Indiana, USA (Zone 6b)
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blue23rose
Aug 24, 2018 6:07 PM CST
Very good to see pictures of the different roots. All daylilies are not alike on top... or bottom Rolling on the floor laughing

The ones I really hate are when the roots curl under the other roots.

I hate cutting into the roots too. I have found that using a flathead screwdriver works pretty good to get in between the roots to divide them, but when a clump hasn't been divided for 10 years it takes a lot of time and patience to tease all those roots apart.

I recently dug a clump of Stell de Oro that had not been divided for at least 15 years. Oh. My. Goodness. I did not know that roots could be so small. There had to be about 50 fans (or more). I just had to cut them apart into bite-size pieces because the fans were so small.

Vickie
May all your weeds be wildflowers. ~Author Unknown
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
Aug 24, 2018 7:52 PM CST
15 years, I can't imagine what that would be like, break out the chain saw!
Name: Vickie
Elberfeld, Indiana, USA (Zone 6b)
Bee Lover Garden Photography Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Region: United States of America
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blue23rose
Aug 24, 2018 8:15 PM CST
They had been sorely neglected and had not bloomed well for several years:)
Vickie
May all your weeds be wildflowers. ~Author Unknown
Name: Charley
Arroyo Seco New Mexico (Zone 4b)
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Charlemagne
Aug 24, 2018 10:04 PM CST
I find it helps a lot if, as you lift the plant out of the ground, you say; "Boy I hope this clump stays in one piece."

Charley
To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.
Name: Vickie
Elberfeld, Indiana, USA (Zone 6b)
Bee Lover Garden Photography Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Region: United States of America
Region: Indiana Garden Art Annuals Clematis Cottage Gardener Garden Ideas: Level 2
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blue23rose
Aug 25, 2018 12:27 AM CST
Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Good one!
Vickie
May all your weeds be wildflowers. ~Author Unknown
Name: Sue Petruske
Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
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petruske
Aug 25, 2018 12:32 AM CST
I know when a clump has been in one spot for 10+ years it can be like cement and all you can do is actually cut with a knife (or saw). However, the clumps that need the help of a screwdriver or dandelion diggers are a challenge (even after being soaked in a tub of water. For the first time this year I tried Don's Daylily Divider. It REALLY works like a charm. It's worth every bit of the cost. I wish I wouldn't have waited so long to finally purchase one.
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
Aug 25, 2018 6:03 AM CST
I did not have Don's Daylily Divider, but I did have two garden forks which did do a good job of prying apart the large clumps into quarters.
Name: Vickie
Elberfeld, Indiana, USA (Zone 6b)
Bee Lover Garden Photography Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Region: United States of America
Region: Indiana Garden Art Annuals Clematis Cottage Gardener Garden Ideas: Level 2
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blue23rose
Aug 25, 2018 7:09 AM CST
When there is no way around getting the clump apart, I use my spade shovel and a garden fork to cut through. It works pretty good, but there is definitely damage. I don't have to do that very often.
Vickie
May all your weeds be wildflowers. ~Author Unknown
Name: Ken
East S.F. Bay Area (Zone 9a)
Region: California
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CaliFlowers
Aug 25, 2018 12:55 PM CST
Clumps in the ground can be a challenge, but the ones in large containers can get really knotty. I also use a bucket of water, and find that the crowns separate more easily if I work on them while they're submerged. Also, after the piece gets pared down to a few crowns, a lot of what's holding it together are intertwining roots. Often they can be traced and untangled, which lets the crowns separate more easily. Fortunately, when the clump is large, there are plenty of relatively intact fans to choose from once the carnage is over.

I use a trenching spade at a low angle all around the clump, sometimes at a distance of around 14 inches from the crowns in order to sever the roots and break the clump free. Then, while the clump is still in the hole, I'll use back-to-back digging forks on it. Once it's out and hopefully broken up a bit, I use smaller tools. At first, I used a very large screwdriver with the blade ground smooth, but eventually I bought 3/8" stainless steel rod, and made a pair of 18" prying bars. I glued on some 3/8" neoprene fuel line for handles, and ground the ends down to a rounded 'ogive' point, like the nose of a bullet or rocket. These are nice because they can be gently worked into a knot of roots with little damage. They don't rust, so I can leave them stuck in the ground in my work area and never have to hunt for them.

Fine feeder roots are probably not going to survive shipment, so unless I'm replanting immediately, I gently strip most of them away, but the other roots will usually heal and branch if damaged. For shipping, I like to clean the roots up really nice, then loosely wrap the root ball in paper towel, giving it a spritz of water before placing it into a plastic grocery bag. I always get good reports from the receiving end. Plants shipped "just damp" seem to recover much more quickly than those with dry roots.
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
Aug 25, 2018 1:11 PM CST
Thanks, that was the info I was looking for feedback on about the fine feeder roots. Some of the plants I was working on had an abnormal amount of them. I have no idea why some plants have so many feeder roots while others seemed to have almost none. But I was hoping that by removing so many feeder roots I was not doing irreparable harm to the plants. Glad to have confirmation that they will heal and branch as they grow back. The plants with the most feeder roots were growing down in the bog area, so I am wondering if they developed roots as if they were growing in a bowl of water. Maybe plants growing in dryer conditions tend to grow more of the tuberous type of roots?
Name: Elena
NYC (Zone 7a)
Daylilies Spiders! Plant and/or Seed Trader Winter Sowing Hybridizer Peonies
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bxncbx
Aug 27, 2018 1:48 PM CST
Seedfork I grow most of my daylilies in containers or raised beds and I've seen the same thing. Some plants produce a ton of fine feeder roots and others don't. I think it's something genetic. Some fans I can easily separate no matter how long they've been planted and others just refuse to come apart. I don't think I'll ever give anyone Malihini again. It was torture trying to get those roots apart. But I've had Butterscotch Ruffles for much longer and it comes apart easily after almost 10 years in one spot. I really hate the ones with short, stubby roots like Irish Envy. I always end up breaking those off when I try to pull them apart. Luckily I don't have too many of those.
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
Aug 27, 2018 2:07 PM CST
Maybe this would be a good spot for everyone to post those plants that separate easily and those that are just a terror to try and separate. Maybe some will find a plant easy while in other gardens it is a hard one, it would be interesting to see if the soil type is the main reason some plants are hard to divide or if it more cultivar related..sure it is some of both.
I just dug a small clump of 'Jolyene Nichole and the little fans almost separated themselves, very easy. Of course that small clump was just planted there last year, and that soil is very soft and easy to dig.
I wonder if anyone that grows 'Malihini finds it easy to separate? Anyone find 'Irish Envy' easy to separate?
Name: Daniel Erdy
Catawba SC (Zone 7b)
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ediblelandscapingsc
Aug 28, 2018 8:53 AM CST
Daylily (Hemerocallis 'Zoe Allegra') & Daylily (Hemerocallis 'Velvet Rose') where both easy to separate for me.
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Name: Ginny G
Central Iowa (Zone 5a)
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Legalily
Aug 28, 2018 9:19 AM CST
Larry I'm so glad you started this thread! Hurray! Hurray! I've gleaned a lot of good information from it. I'm hoping to share some of my daylilies and the older clumps are a really pain Glare Last year I took two turkey fork lifters and used them back to back to separate the clumps, but still had issues with a couple. Really good information and thanks Ken for your detailed input too Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!
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