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Gardeners' Dirt: Hybridizing daylilies in six steps

By Brynn Lee - Victoria County Master GardenerEdited by Charla Borchers Leon
Feb. 13, 2014 at midnight
Updated Feb. 12, 2014 at 8:13 p.m.

The daylily garden at Victoria Educational Gardens has numerous daylilies in bloom from April to June. All species are identified with plant markers for educational purposes and record keeping in hybridization. As you walk along the path, you can appreciate the dedicated volunteer efforts in this garden, which is mirrored on both sides of the walkway located on the back side of VEG.

Editor's note: This article is the first of a two-part series. Read about the six steps of hybridizing daylilies followed by more in-depth information on daylily origins and genetics in next week's column.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with four of my Master Gardener friends to discuss hybridizing daylilies. The room was buzzing with hints and tips from personal experiences in learning how to create very showy blooms. While keeping in mind that some of these tips are from their own trial and error, I think you will enjoy reading about them.

In general terms, hybridization is the fertilization of the flower of one species by the pollen of a different species.

Specifically, in this article, I am referring to cross pollination of a species, hybrid or cultivar of the genus Hemerocallis or daylily.

Choosing the right daylily

The late Elsie Spalding, a famous hybridizer who is noted for her excellent form and creation of pastel colors, was asked how she decided which daylilies to cross, and she simply answered, "I just put pretty on pretty."

Simply choose the daylilies you like and start your crosses. My daylily friends all agreed - some daylilies may be sterile, so you may need to do some research. A suggested website for this is

Transferring pollen

Nancy Kramer, experienced Master Gardener of 12 years and a retired middle school science teacher, taught that flowers have stamens and a pistil. Daylilies have a noticeable six stamens and only one pistil. The pollen is the powdery substance at the end of the stamens.

Mary Greeson, a Master Gardener since 2002, said she simply pinches off the stamen from one daylily and rubs it on the pistil of another. Remember smelling buttercups and usually ending up with the orange pollen on your nose? This is the same way pollinators, such as bees, transfer pollen.

Master Gardener Doris Martinak tries to transfer the pollen midmorning or when the flowers are open to their fullest and the pollen is dry. Martinak has been a Master Gardener since 2001 and volunteers in the daylily garden section at the Victoria Educational Gardens.

She keeps records with a tag on each plant from which she has removed pollen and on which flowers she has brushed the pistil. If she has made a successful cross, there will be a little green pod at the spot where the flower was attached. This pod contains the seeds, which will continue to grow for a couple of weeks.

Harvesting seeds

The seeds will mature in 40 to 60 days and will be ready to harvest. These ladies gather the seeds when the pods begin to split open. They suggest letting the seeds dry overnight then putting them in a small plastic bag in the refrigerator for about four to six weeks or plant them directly in a pot.

Planting seeds

Virginia Ruschhaupt, a Master Gardener for eight years, recommends you start them in pots and transplant them later. The names and dates should be on each pot so the plant can be labeled when planted in the ground.

She points out that daylily seeds need warm soil temperatures for good germination, and one should preferably plant seeds in September. Her rule of thumb is to plant the seeds twice as deep as the seed is flat. Therefore, daylily seeds can be planted one-fourth to one-half of an inch deep.

Ruschhaupt and other volunteers water the seeds and plants at Victoria Educational Gardens on a regular weekly basis. Pine or hardwood mulch is used to help keep the area weed-free.

Waiting for the blooms

You can expect blooms in the spring if you planted in summer or early fall. Ruschhaupt reminds us that not all flowers will bloom in the first year of planting, but be patient. Most will bloom in the second year.

Seeing the results

Spring is the time when the Master Gardeners are anxiously awaiting their new creations in full bloom. We invite you to come to Victoria Education Gardens for a breathtaking view from April to late June.

While you may not be the next Spalding, you for sure may be on your way to a new adventure in hybridizing daylilies. Be sure to look for more information in next week's column about various daylily cultivars.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at



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