How To Repot Daylily Seedlings-and other valuable info


First you need some daylilies, Hemerocallis blooming at the same time. They need to be of the same type, Diploid or Tetraploid. Our trio above had a late June tryst, assisted by the Fairegardener who plucked a flower from H. ‘Dave Rhyne’ and tickled the fancies of H. ‘Heavenly Treasure’ and H. ‘Elegant Candy’ on one fine midsummer day. Romance was in the air.


The flower stalks on the female plants were tagged with the names and date of pollination. Then we waited for a pod to form. Then we waited for the pod to ripen, open and expose the seeds inside. Freshness counts. The seeds were planted in four inch pots about one half inch deep in seed starting mix covered with chicken grit and set in a shady spot outdoors where they could be watched for the babies to show their heads. The time from seed planting to babies was a few weeks. When the weather turned colder, nights below 50 F, the pots were brought inside the greenhouse.


Having a greenhouse is optional for this to work, as is the whole potting process. The ripe seeds can be sown directly into the ground and will grow. It just takes a whole lot longer, several years, before the seed grows into a flowering size plant. This extra work is being done in hopes of getting blooming sized plants sooner. I use a bagged seed starting mix, purchased at the big box store. When sowing all seeds, we use either chicken grit or vermiculite as the top layer. This prevents disease and keeps the leaves cleaner from soil splashing when being watered. Latex gloves and a tray help keep the messiness to a minimum. Our greenhouse has a sink, the old kitchen sink from the main house renovation project, and a drain in the tiled floor. We save pots and trays from plant purchases to reuse. We do not sterilize them. We are lazy that way. Onward.


Moisten the potting mix very well. VERY WELL. Do not skip this step or worry about too much water, it will drain out the bottom of the pot. I use my hands to make sure it is wet, like mixing cookie dough. Hands are the best tools in the world. Fill the pot about two thirds full, tamping down and make a depression in the center with your index finger, about one inch in diameter.


Gently separate the seedlings, pulling the roots apart trying to break as few as possible. There will be some breakage anyway, don’t worry about it. Form the rootball into a shape that will fit into the depression you have made with your index finger and insert it into the pot. Holding the stem carefully, add more moist potting mix around the stem and lightly tamp to secure the little plant baby. Aw how cute!


There were only three seedlings produced from the cross of Elegant Candy and Dave. The label is wrong, it says Strawberry Candy instead. The same Dave flower was used to pollinate both females, Heavenly apparently getting most of the pollen. Lesson learned, use a new flower for each encounter. The other seedlings are the larger Salvia transsylvanica from purchased seed and Erigeron kravinskianus just repotted.


And now the big finish! Sixteen seedlings of the cross of Heavenly Treasure and Dave Rhyne. The other two pots contain more Erigerons. There are bound to be some deaths, there always are. That is why it is a good idea to have extras. These crosses may not result in flowers that even look like either parent, there might be vast differences between them. The plants may not be healthy or vigorous, but both parents are superior daylilies and the mother was listed as a very good female for breeding when the research was being done to begin this project. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be from these efforts. But so far it has been fun and rewarding, keeping us busy with real gardening during the colder months. The seedlings are sprayed with a very weak solution of organic fertilizer every other day or whenever I remember to do it. They will be kept moist but not soggy. The grow lights are set to shine for fifteen hours. A fan runs to circulate the air 24/7. The temperature is cool, warming up when the sun shines and dropping to no lower than 50 F at night, using the heating system of the house with a vent in the ceiling. For more information about the greenhouse/sunroom, click to read one of our earliest posts, here, The Greenhouse/Sunroom . There will be updates when and if there is something to write about, like flowers, someday.

For other How To posts written by Fairegarden, look for How To on the sidebar page listing or click here.

Frances

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46 Responses to How To Repot Daylily Seedlings-and other valuable info

  1. Darla says:

    Seriously you just tickled the pollen right on the other flower? I’ve been wanting to learn more about hand pollination..hopefully this will be my after Christmas research topic. Do keep us informed of the progress here.

    That’s all there is to it, Darla. Daylilies are only open for a day, so best to do it early in the morning while there is still lots of pollen on the stamens before the bees have gathered some. You will see the reproductive organs on the flowers and will be able to distinguish the male from the female parts and how it works, as a married woman. As always, do your best with this effort for the enjoyment of all. :-)
    Frances

  2. Sylvia (England) says:

    Frances, this is an exciting project, the anticipation, I can feel it over the miles! I can see why people just breed more and more varieties, very addictive! Looking forward to the results.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    Thanks Sylvia. This is a first for us and we are quite excited as well. I don’t know how long it will be before we see flowers, but the lights and greenhouse are supposed to speed things up. I will update. :-)
    Frances

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What excitement awaiting new blooms. I wonder what color and form they will take. Do you know how long it will be before they bloom? Your greenhouse will speed process. Oh to have a greenhouse. ~~

    Hi Lisa, thanks. The mystery here is what the flowers will look like, but there are other things that are inherited from the parents, such as flower form, ruffles, height, size of bloom, vigor. Seeds from daylilies that I noticed and planted years ago took five years to bloom outdoors. I hope this is faster. While this is not a real greenhouse with all glass, it is just a room with many windows and skylights, the grow lights make this a project that could be done anywhere, even a closet.
    Frances

  4. Randy says:

    Frances,
    Thanks for showing all of us how this is done! Very exciting to see the outcome.

    Thanks Randy. BTW, I loved your 15 minutes of fame!!!! :-)
    Frances

  5. Daphne says:

    What a fun breeding experiment to try. I can’t wait to see what flowers you get. I guess I have a long wait, but I can be patient if necessary.

    Thanks Daphne, it was and still is fun. The seed starting in the greenhouse has been scaled back to make room for the daylilies so they are getting the full attention of the gardener. Hope this will speed things up. :-)
    Frances

  6. I can’t wait to see how they turn out! I attempted to cross pollinate some daylilies this year but never went back to collect the seed. Perhaps I’ll make another attempt this year since I’ll have more room to grow things with the greenhouse-shed.

    Thanks Dave. I read up on the method before doing it, and talked at length to a local daylily breeder too. So far things are looking good. Do give it a try, nothing to lose and much to gain! :-)
    Frances

  7. Gail says:

    Hi Frances, Five years from fertilization to possible bloom…Daylily Plant Propagators are very patient people! Even with a wait of a few years, I find this very exciting. It’s easy to see how folks could get hooked. Just looking at the parents and wondering if the offspring will have yellow ruffled petals with a green eye or even if it could end up with no ruffles! I assume that daylilies cross all the time with the help of bees? gail Thanks for showing this How To.

    Hi Gail, thanks, glad you enjoyed it. The greenhouse and lights are supposed to speed up the process. We’ll see. The babies look quite healthy and put out new growth as soon as they were repotted too. It will be fun to see what the flowers are like. :-)
    Frances

  8. Teresa O says:

    Like everyone else, I look forward to seeing the appearance of your brand, spanking new daylilies. I’ve never gotten into hand pollination and marvel at those with the patience to breed new varieties of plants. I giggled while reading your response to Darla. I tend to forget that plants are sexual, too. Great post, thanks so much.

    Thanks Teresa. I hope to someday see the flowers from this, even if they looked exactly like the mother. And plants are VERY sexual, right out in the open too. They even get help from the pollinators. Reproduction everywhere! Blush!!! :-0
    Frances

  9. Rose says:

    Luther Burbank, move over–here comes Frances! Seriously, this is very interesting, Frances, but most of all I admire your patience. I don’t know that I would be patient enough to wait five years to see the resulting blooms. It will be interesting, though, to see how these seedlings turn out.

    HA Rose, thanks. It is lack of patience that has moved this enterprise into the greenhouse and under the lights. I am hoping to shave some time off of that five years. :-)
    Frances

  10. Kat says:

    How cool. I love the science of gardening as much as the beauty. Who knows what you will have when they bloom. It’s like a present that will open a year down the road. I hope you get a very pleasant surprise.

    Thanks Kat. No matter what the outcome, I assume there will be a flower of some kind eventually. I am doing what I can to help it along, and do know the parentage of these, being careful to tie a tag on the stalk and only allowing one flower to be pollinated on it. Now we wait. Very fun on wintry days. :-)
    Frances

  11. nancybond says:

    A wonderful tutorial! Like the others, I’ll look forward to the day we can see those exciting new blooms. :)

    Thanks Nancy, glad you enjoyed it. The progress of the baby daylilies will be recorded. We hope to still be blogging when blooms arrive. :-)
    Frances

  12. I’m so glad you are breeding plants! I think all gardeners should be doing it. So easy, and so much fun! I try crossing just about everything I grow… It is kind of an obsession. I’m excited to grow up check out a bunch of tomato hybrids this year, along with oodles of other fun stuff. Plant breeding is the best!

    Thanks Joseph. It is really easy, I don’t know why I didn’t do it earlier really, just never thought about it. Most of the breeding is done without any interference from me, with dianthus, penstemons, salvias and others. I am happy to just come across something new and different. This time we will be watching and waiting. :-)
    Frances

  13. Oh, I think this is wonderful. I’ve wanted to breed my own flowers before, and it’s so inspiring to watch someone get in there and do it. Just think what you could end up with! The next must-have daylily could be one of those teeny babies, and definitely you will learn so much from the process, even if the blooms are not your favorites.

    Congratulations on a fabulous project!

    Hi ME, thanks and welcome. How this turns out remains to be seen, but the babies are growing nicely in the warm artificial light now. It is gratifying to just get that far with it. Do give it try yourself. :-)
    Frances

  14. gittan says:

    And mine still haven’t shown up yeat =( but there’s still hope isn’t there.

    Hi Gittan, there is always hope.
    Kram,
    Frances

  15. Hi Frances

    I love these sort of posts. Proper gardening again

    I wish your daylilies to be strong and blooming. It’s a really good project and I hope you have some pleasant surprises.

    Once you plant out the Erigeron you’ll never be without.

    Made me smile, ‘first you need some daylilies’, it’s a bit like creating a cottage garden, ‘first buy a cottage’.

    I look forward to the updates.

    Hi Rob, thanks for the endorsement. I am hoping for the Erigeron to somewhat assertive, like onChristopher Lloyd’s garden steps. The babies look good now, we have a very thuggish fleabane that is quite the weed, so I am hoping this little one likes it here too. Glad you liked the little bit of humor. :-)
    Frances

  16. Do you need music during the process? Something sultry to get them in the mood?

    Maybe Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On? Too blatant? HA

  17. lynn says:

    OH, the anticipation of new daylilies…better than Christmas morning…lol! I have neither of these parents, Frances, so I’ll be excited to see what the offsprings will look like. Like you say, it’s a game of chance…you could have a future STOUT Winner…we can dream right? My record keeping were the pits this season so I’ll be starting over again next year ;)
    Lynn

    Hi Lynn, thanks so much. I remember having a conversation with a breeder, who seemed to be trying to discourage us, saying most of the babies of these crosses are not good, lacking vigor and floriferousness. We shall see how it plays out. Nothing ventured, right? :-)
    Frances

  18. You are amazing… I may not ever do this, but then again… maybe I will (someday in a sunnier garden). :-) Thanks, Frances!

    Thanks Shady, who knows what the future holds for us? You might do all sorts of things you never dreamed of. I know I have. :-)
    Frances

  19. I love seeing new, baby plants. I have always thought of creating new varieties of flowering plants. I used to have Daylilies with Erigeron karvinskianus planted around them. Just loved the combination.

    Thanks for stoppping by, Noelle. There is much promise in these baby plants, and it is so nice to see fresh growing things at this time of year for us. Glad to know about the Erigeron, it has many possibilities and was easy to get going from seed. I am hoping to spread it far and wide. Hope it turns out to be hardy for us. :-)
    Frances

  20. Nell Jean says:

    I gathered some seeds from someone’s daylily bed. ‘Help yourself,’ she said, ‘I tried planting some once and they were UGLY.’ Well, from that handful of seeds I got a pretty pale pink with a lavender eye that I gave the garden name of ‘Meet my Sister’ and a red that I could hardly distinguish from some important reds I bought. There was even a bright gorgeous orange that I’ve forgotten where it went. My opinion is that our own crosses are as important as those fancy-dancy hybridizers’ wares, because they are ours alone, one of a kind.

    Thanks for that, Nell Jean. I can’t imagine any daylily being ugly. Yours sound quite lovely and one of the best things about being that they were free and nurtured by you. One of a kind is right. I am not hoping to have the next must have, I am hoping to get some pretty flowers on a healthy plant. And have some fun waiting to see what comes of the playing around with male and female. :-)
    Frances

  21. ourfriendben says:

    Priceless, Frances, and thanks for the (always) great directions! Glad I’m not the only one who loves using my hands and can’t be bothered to sterilize!

    Thanks for visiting, OFB. Some things can best be done with hands, with gloves on. I feel good just reusing the containers, but can’t go the extra step with sterilizing them. We shy away from bleach unless absolutely necessary. :-)
    Frances

  22. Catherine says:

    This was really interesting! Can’t wait to see what the flowers look like.

    Thanks Catherine, glad you liked reading about this. When there are flowers, rest assured they will be shown. :-)
    Frances

  23. Blossom Swap says:

    I’ve always wanted to do this. This is such a great lesson, thanks. Now to wait till spring…

    Hi Blossom Swap, thanks and welcome. Do give it a try next year, it is rewarding and easy! :-)
    Frances

  24. Kanak says:

    Would love to see how the flowers turn out. Interesting post and I liked going through the entire process. The blooms in the first set of photos are stunning!

    Thanks Kanak, glad you liked this post. The parents chosen were some of our very best daylilies, so we are hoping that follows the gene pool into the babies. So far they are growing nicely in the greenhouse.
    Frances

  25. Hi Frances, This is a great post. I look forward to seeing the flowers… to see who they favor. Many possibilities. I confess I am so jealous you can play in the dirt. It is cold and icy here and I have no greenhouse. Fun to see your images in any case and they do lift my spirits. Carol

    Hi Carol, thanks. I am excited to see flowers of any kind from this at some point. You don’t need a greenhouse, just lights. I am a true believer after getting them last year and seeing what a difference it makes with the growing of things underneath them. Comments last year said people even had them in closets.
    Frances

  26. Speaking of full disclosure, the only day lilies I have have been given to me as divisions. There’s nothing wrong with Googling the line… but the title needs to be totally correct. (I’m literal. I’m an editor. A gal can’t help it!)

    Hi Monica, divisions are still the best and easiest way to get dayliliies. As for the song title, that site shut down my computer, I was lucky to remember that much of it and wasn’t going back. I knew it wasn’t exact, but am just very competitive and love a challenge, not hoping to win or anything. HA :-)
    Frances

  27. Barbarapc says:

    Frances, it all looks very professional. I’m very keen to see how/if the ruffles, watermark make it through and what the colour will be. I adore those daylilies with the chartreuse colour at the throat.

    Hi Barbara, thanks. It will be a wait, but I do hope to show the flowers of some of the babies someday. I honestly love every single one of the daylilies, that is why it is hard to choose the parents. I went for robustness, thick stalk and those mentioned in a listing online of the best parents for such a thing. Looks were secondary. :-)
    Frances

  28. Lola says:

    That sounds like raising a child. I do hope you have much success.

    Hi Lola, thanks. This is way easier than raising human babies! HA :-)
    Frances

  29. Susie says:

    Thanks for the info, I can’t wait to see how they turn out….you make it sound so easy!

    Hi Susie, thanks. Glad you enjoyed seeing what has happened so far. It was super easy, daylilies are so tough. Give it a try! :-)
    Frances

  30. Blossom says:

    I miss working in the garden. I’m renovating my house now and have no time to tend to the garden … I can’t wait to get back to the beautiful flowers …

    Hi Blossom, the garden will wait for you. That is the beauty of it. :-)
    Frances

  31. Sunita says:

    I got stuck at the very first step. No daylilies here. I dont think I’ve ever seen one. But I think I’ll save this anyway ( just in case a miracle happens and I do get one). Thanks, Frances.

    Hi Sunita, thanks for looking to the future. You might just get a whole slew of daylilies and now will know how to hybridize them yourself. Or at least know how to repot the seedlings. HA :-)
    Frances

  32. Grace says:

    Hi FG~~ Your patience impresses me. I am looking forward to seeing your babies grow and mature. [I bought a 'Strawberry Candy' on sale last summer. No blooms though it looks like a beaut.]

    Hi Grace, thanks. I am actually quite impatient, but have so many things going on that watching them all makes the time go faster. Today, for example I made two more bonsai. My daughter Semi has several of the *Candy* series daylilies. They are all quite nice. :-)
    Frances

  33. A hundred and fifty years ago, home gardeners often bred their own plants; I’m glad to see you’re promoting a revival of the custom!

    Hi Pomona, thanks. You are always a font of knowledge. I do hope to see more of this type of playing in the garden, what have we got to lose, and much to gain! :-)
    Frances

  34. Stevie says:

    Great info. I wish I had a greenhouse! PS: I love the cedar waxwings in your header photo.

    Hi Stevie, thanks and welcome. While greenhouses are fabulous, I wish I had a real one too, it is the lights that work the magic. People have even set them up in closets with good results. Glad you like the waxwings. I normally like to change my header periodically, but love that shot from late last winter so much it has been there for many months. It may never get changed. Here is the post that went with it: http://fairegarden.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/thirsty-throngs/ :-)
    Frances

  35. Jenny B says:

    Great info and pictures, Frances. I look forward to getting updates from time to time on their progress. I was torn between making a smart-aleck comment about what kind music did you play, or if you offered them a cigarette afterwards. But sheer scientific interest won out. I found it quite interesting that you didn’t feel a need to sterilize your equipment–a lady after my own heart!

    Thanks Jenny. I like smart aleck comments as well as sweet ones. HA As for the sterilizing, perhaps I am losing some plants because of that, but there will always be losses and I am lazy. If there has been disease in a pot, it goes to the recycle after being washed with the hose. Bleach is rarely used here, a last resort even inside.
    Frances

  36. Autumn Belle says:

    Reading this post of yours is like attending a tutorial. The wonder of it all is that I feel like I am witnessing the birth of life and I am extremely curious what the babies/youngsters will look like. A process of making natural babies, not clones. How very interesting. Plants can’t talk and move much but they give us so much satisfaction when they grow and bloom.

    Thanks Autumn Bell, that is the idea behind the how to posts. This year we had some daylily babies flower that had been sown from gathered seed off the plants. It took five years for flowers and the babies were similar to the parents. We shall see how this arrangement works, hoping for a quicker flowering with the use of the lights.
    Frances

  37. Anna says:

    A most interesting post Frances and what fun you will have waiting to see your offspring emerge. I hope that you keep us posted. I have only just acquired my first day lilies this year. Not sure why I have ignored them up to now. Maybe in a year or two I could be experimenting too :)

    Thanks Anna, glad you enjoyed it. Make sure you cross dipliod with dipliod and tet with tet. I hope you are able to do this, it is really loads of fun and very exciting. :-)
    Frances

  38. Janie says:

    I agree, Frances, I cannot imagine an ugly daylily. They are just about my favorite flower, (except for all those others!) and I am always so happy to see them blooming! I seldom sterilize either. I don’t have time for all that!

    Thanks for the backup, Janie. The daylilies give so much and ask so little. Maybe we should be sterilizing, but I never ever have, so it seems unlikely that we will start now. HA :-)
    Frances

  39. Zach says:

    Very informative post. Thanks! But I do have a question. How do you know if your plants are diploid or tetraploid?

    Hi Zach, thanks and welcome. The only way I know is to check them out on some online sites, like Dave’s garden. You need to be sure of the name. I used ones that were purchased from a reputable local daylily breeder. His site also will list if they are dips or tets, Champion Daylilies. There is also good info about breeding daylilies on his site.
    Frances

  40. What a great post, I love daylilies. Your pictures take me back, I worked in greenhouses for years, and did countless crosses and potting of seedlings. I am crazy about planting trays, colour coded tags, making potting mixes and watching the little ones grow. Wonderful post!

    Hi Rebecca, thanks so much. You must know about the joys of parenthood with the daylilies. How nice to have a large greenhouse to work in. I love all that stuff too, but don’t have the room to do it justice in our cramped greenhouse space. There are these orchids, see…. :-)
    Frances

  41. What a delightful story. I learned quite a bit reading this, Frances. Thank you so much for sharing it. You are a truly patient gardener. I can’t wait to see these when they flower.

    Hi Jackie, thanks so much. This is an exciting experiment and a good thing to keep us occupied during the winter. I will show any flowering when it occurs! :-)
    Frances

  42. Janet says:

    You are a busy little bee aren’t you? ;-) Hand pollinating, very cool. I look forward to seeing what you end up with. (I know, don’t end a sentence with a preposition…
    :-p)

    HA Janet, thanks. That preposition thing is a bugger, isn’t it? We do end the sentences that way in normal speech, it is hard to write differently, unless one happens to be British! ;-)
    Frances

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