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Daylily Division

September is a good time to dig up, move and divide perennials. Naturally we want to wait until late September or early October to do this for perennials which are still producing some bloom; there is no point in cutting short the bloom period as it is short enough as it is in my area. Left too late, however, and the plants I’m rejuvenating may not have time to settle in to their new quarters before cold weather arrives. Another good reason for not waiting too late is that this task is much more pleasant done on a nice, warm, sunny fall day.

Daylilies need to be divided on a regular basis, usually every four years. The clumps get larger and larger and begin to die out in the centre. As the clumps grow and get thick, the plants will produce fewer blooms, which may also be smaller than desired.

Dividing a daylily is not a difficult task. Gently ease the clump out of the ground with a sturdy spade, taking care to do minimal damage to the fleshy roots while loosening the clump. Often shaking the clump vigorously will cause it to come apart to produce numerous smaller pieces that can be planted, but sometimes a sharp knife will have to be employed to create appropriate divisions.

Daylilies are very versatile plants. They are at home in a mixed flower border, can be mass planted to create a bed of grassy foliage and vibrant flowers, or daylilies can be used as accent plants here and there in the landscape. They are often included in plantings around ponds and along riverbeds where their reed-like foliage fits in perfectly. A daylily planted near a patio or other sitting-out area allows up-close appreciation of the exquisite structure and colouration of the blooms.

Anyone who has a troublesome slope or embankment or an area that requires a planting to cover and hold the soil in place would do well to consider daylilies. Although the newer cultivars would perhaps be too expensive for such a purpose, the older-species types, including that old faithful one with the buff-coloured blooms, would be ideal.

Daylilies come in a range of sizes, from over a metre tall to much smaller ones which grow only 25 cm tall. The largest are the older-species types which tend to have longer leaves and taller flower stalks. Flower colour varies also, with yellows, pinks and all kinds of shades in between predominating. Orange and apricot, purple and red, wine and burgundy – these are colours also found in many daylily varieties. Often the blooms have interesting markings and coloured throats to add to their unique beauty.

Daylilies like rich, well-drained soil although they are not fussy plants. They are very drought tolerant once established and are often used in rural landscapes that are not regularly watered. Insect pests do not seem to be particularly interested in daylilies, which is a good thing, and diseases appear not to be a problem for these plants either. Regular deadheading will improve the appearance of the plants and extend the bloom period, which occurs sporadically all summer with the heaviest production of flowers taking place in midsummer.

– Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba

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