Gardeners' Dirt: Successful hybrid daylilies in bloom

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. Look for the Bridey Greeson daylily in the center of the half-moon bed.
  • WHY TO HYBRIDIZE DAYLILIES

  • •  Pure, solid-color blooms

    •  New colors and shapes

    •  Special form, i.e. spider

    •  Taller stalk

    •  Higher bud count

    •  Larger blooms

    •  Longer blooming period

    •  Reblooming capability

  • DAYLILIES THEN, NOW

  • •  Approximately 24 different, original species

    •  Some 60,000 registered cultivars today

    •  Various species, numerous hybrids at Victoria Educational Gardens

  • SAVE THE DATE

  • •  WHAT: Master Gardener Plant Sale

    •  WHEN: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. March 29

    •  Some daylily plants likely at sale

Editor's Note: This is Part II of a two-part series on hybridizing daylilies, the first of which was published in last week's Home&Garden section.

This article follows last week's publication, which described six simple steps to begin hybridizing daylilies. I will share a bit more information with the help of a couple of my Master Gardener friends about the what, how, why and where to view successful hybridizing.

What: Origins from a few species

Master Gardener Virginia Ruschhaupt shares that today most hybridizers of daylilies are crossing hybrids with other hybrids, which originated from approximately one to two dozen different species of daylilies native to eastern Asia. None of the species are native to North America.

The species brought here were various shades of orange or yellow, brownish-red, reddish-orange and some combinations of all these colors - not the myriad of colors and combinations we see in our modern hybrids.

Today, there are more than 60,000 daylily cultivars registered with the American Hemerocallis Society. Take a look at these beauties at daylilies.org/AHSregister.html.

How: Characteristics make them look like they do

Daylilies have always been included in the gardens where Master Gardener Nancy Kramer has lived. She never wanted to take the time to hybridize her own, but has enjoyed learning about and researching their characteristics.

When she became a Master Gardener in 2002, she was anxious to start learning more about the many cultivars and how they were hybridized to create a special form, like that of the spider lily, or to get a daylily with a special color or shape. Daylilies can be hybridized to get a taller scape or stalk on which the buds form or even to get a daylily with more buds.

One of her favorite learning experiences was hearing a local daylily hybridizer, American Hemerocallis Society judge and instructor Bridey Greeson, explain the quest for a bluer and bluer daylily. Greeson, a native of Victoria, actually has a cultivar named for her, which is planted at Victoria Educational Gardens.

If you visit the gardens, located at back side of the Victoria Regional Airport, take the time to read the plant marker for each daylily to learn its name, hybridizer and the year it was introduced as a hybrid. For example, Bridey Greeson (Grace-Smith, 2003).

Why: Genetics make them what they are

It is understood that successful hybridizing to achieve certain goals can be quite complex. It requires knowledge of genetics as it pertains to numerous characteristics of daylilies in general, as well as the genealogy of the daylilies that have been selected to hybridize.

You may know someone who has certain traits of his or her grandparents or even more distant relatives, which were not evident in his or her parents. The same can happen in daylilies, leaving the hybridizer perplexed if he or she has not done adequate research. It is important to know which features of daylilies, such as specific colors, time of bloom, and so forth are dominant or recessive traits.

The goals of hybridizers are endless, but may include finding a purer white or truer blue bloom (neither of which appeared in the original species of daylilies from long ago). Others may search for a higher bud count, larger blooms, longer blooming periods or reblooming capabilities.

There is always the quest for that perfect exotic combination of color, substance and form. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so the possibilities are endless.

Regardless, there are challenges. The hybridizer may be rewarded with the creation of high bud count and larger, fuller blooms only to find that the scapes are not strong enough to hold up the blooms. If the scapes are too short, those beautiful blooms may be hidden among the foliage. Some of this is trial and error, but it also entails extensive research in genetics.

Choosing healthy, vigorous plants with good growth habits is important. Daylily hybridizing is a combination of science and art, but as beginners, let's just "put pretty on pretty," as stated by the late Elsie Spalding, a famous hybridizer.

Where: Victoria Educational Gardens is home to successful hybrids

Hopefully, the information shared has sprouted your interest about hybridizing daylilies. We cannot recommend a better place for you to start than by visiting the Master Gardener Victoria Educational Gardens.

There you can enjoy the labors of love and see for yourself what beautiful daylilies have already been successfully hybridized there.

Choose the kind of flower you would like to create, then research and learn the genetics to go forth in bloom. Learn more about gardening or becoming a Master Gardener by going to our website at vcmga.org.

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 vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.