Too many Daylilies

Fenton, MO

I moved into my home about 4 years ago and inherited a fairly large garden, with ALOT of daylilies all grouped together. I'm new at this and recently realized that they are growing into each other and overcoming the rest of my gardening surrounding them! I've tried to dig some up, but the roots are very entangled. I'm not sure...but, aren't daylilies supposed to have some amount of space in between each other? And if so, how do I space them apart when they are already so entangled? Help! (I included a recent photo of the area I'm discussing-they obviously have not bloomed yet)

Thumbnail by mmclane
Brimfield, MA(Zone 5a)

Hello there,

I just read an article on Daylilies today from Perennials magazine. I just pulled out out my 2005 spring and summer catalogs to re-read. Here is what they say on dividing:

Daylilies grow into large clumps that can easily be divided to make more plants for your own garden or for sharing with friends. Established clumps that have not been blooming as well as they should, might be a little crowded. Most experts recommend dividing dayliles every 5 years. You can divide daylilies in any season althought some gardeners say the best time is just after they finish blooming. Avoid dividing daylilies when it is too hot, too cold or too wet.

Work with recently watered (but not wet) soil. Use a garden fork to lift a clump of daylilies from the ground.

Separate the clump into several new clusters using your fingers; use a knife to cut them apart, if necessary. Each daylily division should include two or three fans, or clusters of leaves.

Trim the foliage back to 3-4 inches above the crown. Also remove any damaged foliage. Some gardeners prune roots lightly with scissors or a knife to encourage new growth.

Replant, spreading the roots out in the planting hold and setting the crown of the daylily so the white part is just covered by soil.

Water well until the daylilies are established.

NOTE: I hope you can get a feel by looking at this picture I took from the article on dividing them with your fingers.

Thumbnail by lafko06
Fenton, MO

Thank you very much for that explanation from that article! I will definitely try that and hopefully it will help them to prevent more overcrowding. It's probably going to be alot of work, as you can see, I have alot of them! I've already tried to get some out recently and it was very difficult because the daylilies must be so entangled. Using the explanation above, do you think that I should take out large amounts of daylilies (groups at a time) or just every other one? Thanks for the help, I appreciate it!

Lincoln, NE(Zone 5b)

I would take out several at a time and then only put a few back in. If you only take out every other one, you may be doing the same thing again next year. ;-)

Brimfield, MA(Zone 5a)

Last summer, a neighbor and I took our shovels, plastic grocery bags and our gloves and hopped in the good ol'e minivan. We went roadside to dig up the native daylilies in our area. Because the flowers were so close together, I just jammed the shovel in with my foot and lifted whatever came up. We collected about 20 bagfuls. When we got home, we helped each other plant them into our yards. Basically, I found that once this particular type of daylily was up from the ground, they were easy to separate or keep in clumps. If it were me, I would just dig up where it looks most crowded and replant someplace else. You could always make a friendly gesture to one of your new neighbors and send some their way too. A good neighbor is worth their weight in gold! Good luck with your wonderful aquisition.


Boxford, MA(Zone 6a)

I took a large shovel to a hoplessly overgrown daylily patch last year, and an explosion of tubers came forth! I really didn't have to do much cutting; just shaking until clumps came apart in my hands.
I transplanted (with sucess) what I could. I had so many left over-- what to do? I popped about 30 or so into plastic cups with soil and took 'em with me to the local flea market. I sold the entire lot for $1 apiece in about 10 minutes- before the flea market actually opened! I brought other items to sell (Spring cleaning household junk) but I never had anything sell so fast as the ordinary orange daylily that I am still hip-deep in!
This year, I may dig up more. With the $ I get from the sales, I can buy some of those fancy purple and pink varieties without DH having a fit!

Weedville, PA(Zone 6a)

We've had huge patches of DLs that were becoming overgrown and I was tired of them...the orange ones. My SIL decided she wanted them, so they ALL needed divided. We started at the edge of the patch and dug deep, lifting the clump of DLs. If you have to just dig the shovel into them to break them up, like mentioned above, it won't hurt them.

Once they are out of the ground remove as much dirt as possible by hand. Don't be afraid to lift them a bit off the ground and drop them to get the dirt to fall off. Seriously. For the dirt that absolutely won't come off use your garden hose with a gentle spray and wash as much dirt off as possible so you can see the roots. Don't worry so much about the "dangly" roots, but the bulbs. Some of the regular "dangly" roots will wash away, that's no big deal.

Once you have the dirt gone and you can see what you're doing the clumps should be easier to pull apart. Grab them by the top of the bulbs, not the bottom of the stalks of the plants, and wiggle them around. They'll start to loosen. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle. Get a butter knife and pry if you need to. If all else fails get out a sharp knife and cut them. Pay attention to where you're cutting and how the bulbs criss-cross each other and try not to chop off the bulbs from the stalks if possible. But, remember, even one bulb will produce a plant! So, you can save or give away even single bulbs...plant them with groups of fans.

While you're doing all of this work you're going to find out that you'll only need a small portion to put back into the ground to fill in this area. I'd say your best bet is to divide what you need for the area and then give the rest away and let the recipients divide for themselves.

When you plant them make sure you put them in the ground as far apart as you'll want them when they are full size so you won't have to do this again for a long while! For how far apart, I found this on this website "In a mixed perennial flower border allow a circle of 16-18 inches in diameter if the Daylily will be divided and replanted in 3-5 years. If you expect to leave the Daylily clump intact for 10-15 years, it will need a 24-30 inch space." You can always fill in with something else if it looks bare (think annuals). While you have the area cleared it would be a great time to amend your soil if you'd like to. Don't forget to mound the soil in each hole you're planting in and spread the root bulbs over that mound.

Sure, it's a LOT of work...but just think of all of the rewards!! Better blooms, healthier plants, all that time in the fresh air and how nice it will look!
And maybe you can trade off some of the DLs for other plants!
Good luck,

Fenton, MO

Thank you so much everyone for your ideas!! My mom is coming soon to help me out with digging them up (she has a huge green thumb!). It sounds like you really can't hurt them too much and I will definitely use a shovel! I was getting pretty frustrated with the whole process, but you all have made me re-invigorated to tackle my garden and make it beautiful! Thank you!!!

Gilbert, AZ

Any extra daylillies send my way. I have a heck of a time keeping them alive in our heat.

Boxford, MA(Zone 6a)

I just attacked my patch again! I have about a dozen extra clumps. It seems the more you dig up, the more they take over! If you want to d-mail me, I can send 'em your way.

McLean, VA(Zone 6b)

I read this post with interest because I am going through the same thing now, but with tickseed. I tore out half of the bed because they were so tall, that they were blocking the light of some smaller perennials that I wanted there. Because it was such a big job, I was thinking that I might wait until next summer to tackle the other half.

Now, I think that I will try to selectively thin the other half. I believe that I could easily take out half, and the bed would look wonderful. In fact, I could probably take out more than that, since they seem to multiply quickly.

They are beautiful plants, but they take up alot of room. I've already transplanted two dozen, with another two - three dozen waiting in a box. I'll probably have to remove an additional 40-50 plants. They are so close together and intertwined, that I gave up trying to seperate them, and just resorted to removing them in clumps.

At least this way, I will finally be able to amend the soil. Right now, I can't see the soil. I'll also be able to get the grass that grew in between them.

Concord, NH

Do you know what colors they are? If they are all the same, you can just divide them however you want, but nowadays there are many different colors, heights, flower shapes, etc. in daylilies. If you have many different varieties, you might want to wait to divide them until after they bloom so you can decide which ones you want to keep where they are, which ones to completely give away because you don't like them, and which ones you think might look better in another area of your yard. You can label them as to color, height, and bloom time (or whatever is important to you) and then divide once you've decided.

Also, I can't really tell from your picture what your garden as a whole looks like, but you might want to consider adding something to the area to give it some variety in height or texture, whether it's a shrub, a birdbath or another perennial that can compete with the daylilies.

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