Growing Daylilies From Seed

One of the great adventures in gardening is reproducing new plants from seed. It takes a willingness to get in tune with the natural life cycle of your plant, careful observation of the seasonal changes in your area and the patience of Mother Nature herself.

If you have an unusual plant or an antique it is time well spent to try for some seedlings. All Daylilies are hybrids; their genetics a product of generations of tinkering and the new plants may be identical or completely different than the parent.

Unfortunately some modern daylilies are genetically modified to be sterile so that the plant can be patented and not sold or recreated by anyone but the patent holder. Hybridization and genetic modification (GMOs) are not the same thing. At Bulb and Bloom, we strongly recommend against purchasing any bulbs that have been genetically modified. Ask your nursery person for help understanding which bulbs are hybridized and which are genetically modified. Genetic modification isn't just tinkering with Mother Nature - it is totally disrupting the natural history of Earth. Although flowers are grown for pleasure they provide food and habitat to the creatures that make our food crops possible and we all benefit.

Gathering The Seeds
You will notice after the bloom cycle the flowers will have produced a seed pod. Left on the plant in early fall this will swell and pop open revealing the many seeds. A week or two later of breezy fall weather they will be dry, black and easy to separate from the pod. Spread the seeds out to dry completely in an airy dry location indoors or out.

Planting or Reserving
If you live in a mild climate you can re-hydrate and directly sow in a new location anytime up to 4 weeks before last frost. To over winter, store seeds loosely until ready for the next step. Up to 10 weeks before the last frost in your zone and at the minimum of 3 weeks put each seed in a plastic sandwich bag with 2 teaspoons of water and a small piece of paper to absorb excess moisture. Squeeze out air, seal, label and refrigerate inside a larger container. Check daily for sprouts and pot up the sprouting seeds. All seeds should be potted, sprouted or not in 3-4 weeks. Seeds may be sown in flats or pots, 1/2 inch deep. Water the daylily seedlings and place in a bright window or under growing lights. After the last frost, transplant to new garden location. If the weather chills down again, mulch new plants to keep them warm, if you get a hot spell be sure to water well. The new plants may not bloom the first year but as long as there is leaf growth there should be bloom in the second year. Just nurture along with the rest of the garden. For more helpful hints on this fun garden enterprise see Diane's Daylilies.

A Word on Hybridizing
If you grow several varieties of daylily, you may notice a few volunteers that are completely different from the others. Thanks to the pollen spreading bees and insects, you have a totally unique plant that has been hybridized naturally. You can do this on purpose by gathering the pollen from one type of lily and tipping it onto the pestle of another type's flower. If a swelling at the base of a faded bloom is left to mature into a seed pod, you have successfully hybridized. Save and label the seeds as a cross between the two, the parent being the flower. Only diploids can cross with diploids and tetraploids with tetras (the numbers of genes} so find out what kind your Daylilies are first. New crosses commercially can sell as plants for as much as $200 and are highly valued by collectors. Daylilies are such strong growers and their plant parts so well defined, it is easy to experiment with them. Look for some inspiration at Hybridizer's Corner. Who knows, you might be the next Garden Club Luther Burbank.