Growing Daylilies by Bruce Fowler

Before we begin, it is worth saying… that there are multiple ways to grow good daylilies, but in order to do so, and to do it well, you must find your own niche.  This means having patience as well as taking the time to educate yourself on the daylilies needs.
Firstly, I do not claim to be an expert, but I do have 45+ years of experience in agriculture.  We grew many different crops, each one having the individuality of your own children.  In 1996 we added greenhouses to our operation, where we germinated and grew 40 to 50 million vegetable transplants per year.  Here I totally had to relearn the art of growing plants.  The fertilization went from pounds per acre in the field (lbs./ac) to parts per million (PPM) in the greenhouses.  I went from planting seeds in unlimited amounts of soil in the field to 14 to 15 cc of soil in the greenhouses.  I had the opportunity to make many mistakes and did.  Thankfully l had the opportunity to learn many things throughout this journey, or at least one would hope, and hopefully you will find some information here that will benefit you with your own Daylilies.
We believe that there are 4 main components to growing a good daylily: water, soil, fertilizer and a good spray program (fungicide, Insecticide etc.).  In this article we will focus more on the first three components.
1st there is Water:  Some say water, water, water and you will have a good daylily.  As you well know water is essential to survival, but we also feel it takes more components for the daylily to reach its full genetic potential.  Generally, 1 ½” to 2” of water per week is sufficient.  However, this is relative to the weather and how hot it may be, what stage they are in blooming, soil density, population and many other factors.  So, be sure to adjust accordingly.
2nd there is soil:  The soil we use is made up of 60% pine bark, 10% sand, 15% Canadian peat moss and 15% cow manure.  Pine bark is a popular additive in the southern area because of its availability.  This should be well processed pine bark and chipped into small pieces.  Let’s not forget, pine bark tends to tie up some of the nitrogen, so don’t forget to adjust.  Next in our soil is sand.  Why sand you may say?  Our reasoning is that pine bark will deteriorate over time and we need a material that will keep the soil from becoming compacted.  It also helps the water to properly drain.  Any material such as sand or perlite to add bulk is fine.  We said earlier you want to water your daylilies a lot, but you also want them to dry our rather quickly.  The third component in the mix is peat moss.  We prefer to use Canadian peat.  The Canadians have some of the best peat bogs in the world.  A tad bit of information here:  The shorter the fiber of the peat the more water it will retain.  This is the reason that in Lowes or Home Depot you will see some peat labeled as germinating mix.  Normally the shorter fiber is used for germinating your seed.  The last component in the mix is cow manure or cow compost.  This makes your daylily smile.  Horse compost is better, but not as readily available in this area.  The last thing we have the supplier to do is blend in a minor element package into our mix.
3rd factor is fertilizer:  There have been some discussion as of late, about Southern daylilies being too large due to over fertilization.  My response to this is, if one doesn’t like large daylilies, please don’t cut back on the nutrients just to hold down the size.  Instead, maybe selecting a smaller cultivar, yet still supplying it with the nutrients it needs, would be a better alternative. Also, I cannot stress enough, always fertilize according to your soil sample, which we take every year.  After adjusting the PH to 6.3 to 6.8, be aware, with the PH at this level, some of the minor elements may not be 100% available.  We could go into this in another article.  We also go into more detail of how to correct low minor elements in the program that we present.  If soil sample allows, we like using Nutricote 18-6-8 360-day slow release, or some form of fertilizer with Florikot (high-performance coating technology).  The reason we favor this is we can fertilize once a year and it doesn’t burn the roots when placed close to them. Another good fertilizer is Super Rainbow 16-4-8 this is not a slow release and require fertilizing in the Spring and the Fall.  Don’t get this fertilizer against the roots, it will burn.  Next in our fertilizer regimen is Milorganite.  A source of organic material derived from human waste.  Warning, when using some byproducts, pay close attention to the zinc level in your daylily beds.  You can find the zinc level in the last column on your soil sample.  Normally we fertilize in the fall when we are redoing the beds and are lining out.  The fertilizer we mentioned earlier is a slow release, which means when temperatures are 70 degree or below, little to no fertilizer will be released.  This is the reason we add a “top dressing” 18x6x10 which is a 100 to 120-day fertilizer.  We apply this fertilizer just like the name implies, as a “top dressing” letting the water carry the nutrients down to the root system.  We like to use this so we can get the growth during the cooler months.  As a result, when we start shipping in late March to early April our customers will receive a nice sized plant with a well-established root system.  Again, the size is determined mostly by the cultivar, not necessarily the fertilizer.  Some are just going to be smaller due to their genetics.  Note:  We are in South Georgia.  The top dressing benefits us during the colder months.  The further north you go the less you would want to top-dress in fall months.
At what rate do we apply fertilizer?  Remember, if soil sample allows, we normally like ¼ cup per double to triple fan in our beds or ¼ cup per 3-gallon pot of the 18 x 6 x 8.  Plus 1/8 cup of milorganite.  When we are finished, we come back and sprinkle on some of the topdressing 18 x 6 x 10.  (Not up against the crown) This is all done in the Fall.  When Spring comes, we like to take a tissue analysis and correct according to the test results.
In a future article, we will discuss how to determine how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash you are actually using per 100 sq. ft. of the daylily bed.  Also, we would talk more about tissue analysis and why we feel it can be an aid in growing your daylilies.

Till next time,
Bruce Fowler of “Kathy’s Daylilies”

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