A wise woman once told me (OK, it was Clara Miller from the Perennial Post in Mesopotamia), that the best time to plant daylilies is in the fall.
Clara, a longtime grower and breeder of daylilies, said if you plant them in the fall, they will bloom the next season, but if you wait until spring, you will be waiting an entire year to see flowers. That doesn't mean you can't plant them in the spring. If that's the only time you find a nice daylily, by all means, put it in the ground.
I love my daylilies. Spring brings lots of exploding color to the garden from the time the first blossoms appear on the crabapples to the first blushing rose petals on the Knock-Outs. But after that early burst of bloom, things start to slow down in the garden, and that's when daylilies come alive.
The flowers we call daylilies aren't really lilies at all, but are from the Genus Hemerocallis, which translated means day (hemera) and beauty (kallos). Living up their name, each flower truly only lives for one day, but the plant itself is so prolific that one daylily plant can produce 200 to 400 flowers in one season and several plants grouped together can be breathtaking. That is, as long you deadhead.
I know, the word deadhead can bring out groans from many people who associate plucking off spent flower blossoms as tedious work, but when you visit your daylily garden every morning like I do, picking off a few withered blossoms just enhances the time spent in the garden. What I appreciate is that daylilies can be tall, three to four feet in some cases, and there is little to no bending involved in the deadheading process.
When you buy a daylily plant, you will get what are called fans on each section, at least three of them, trimmed to about four to six inches with lots of roots attached. Daylilies have a variety of roots, some are thick, bulbous tubers and others are like hairs. When planting, be sure to dig a hole deep and wide enough to accommodate spreading out the roots. The planting soil should be rich with organic matter and should drain well. Daylilies love sunlight, at least six hours a day, but will tolerate light shade. A little shade during the hottest time of the day will keep the flowers from wilting.
So now that late summer is here, and I want my daylilies to bloom next June, this is the time to divide and transplant. After preparing a new bed for the transplants, I will dig up the existing plants, making sure to get as much of the roots as possible. The plants should be divided into sections that contain three groups of leaves, those fans we talked about earlier, because the leaves on each plant look like little fans by the way they are splayed out from the crown, I'll trim those leaves to about four to six inches with a pair of sharp garden scissors and plunge the roots into a bucket of clean water to wash and hydrate the roots. After a good rinsing, I will check the tubers for any signs of disease.
If everything checks out fine with the newly divided plants, I can then replant them in the new garden bed, or I can give the extra plants to my friends so they can enjoy the same varieties I like. New plants and divisions should be planted so that the crown, which is the portion of the plant where the stem and the roots meet, is about one-inch below the soil surface. After a good watering, I'll surround the new plants with about two inches of mulch to hold in the moisture and protect them over the winter.
There's still plenty of time for the roots to establish themselves in their new bed before the cold weather puts them to sleep.
With more than 35,000 varieties of daylilies to choose from, there are more colors and combinations of colors to enhance any garden from mid-June through July. Some new varieties are even nocturnal, blooming from early evening one day until early evening the next and many are fragrant as well.