Torture testing of Daylilies in South Dakota

What makes South Dakota daylilies so tough?  They must endure the following:

Winter –  35F degrees below zero with no snow cover

Summer – heat up to 115F.

Dry – So little moisture in the air, it can dry a daylily to death

Soil – very alkaline

Rainfall – Only 13″ average annual rainfall.  Not enough to keep a daylily happy.

Other – Hail, hail, and more hail.  We don’t even count pea size hail storms.  One year had 12 hail storms.  The flowers have to be able to take it.

For a daylily to survive South Dakota, it has to be extra tough, so they will grow other places with ease and be very happy, bigger and have more flowers than here in Rapid City.

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Planting daylilies
In general, daylilies are very tough plants.  The wild ones are sometimes called ditch lilies, because that is where they like to grow.  They like lots of sun, like they would get growing alongside a road with no trees.  It is very important to select a sunny spot to plant daylilies.  They will tollerate shade and 6 hours of full sun, like a rose bush, but are happier with more sun.  Please do not expect them to flower in full shade.  They probably won’t. Drainage is important.  Do not plant a daylily anywhere you generally see patches of ice in the winter.  This indicates poor drainage, and the daylily roots will rot over the winter.
Planting potted daylilies is easy.  Dig a hole, remove the pot, and check the roots.  If there is a spiral around the bottom, you need to untangle them or trim them off.  If you don’t,  they will continue to grow in the spiral, and the plant will die a slow death. Also check the sides of the rootball for roots growing around the outside.  This is worse.  These roots need to be cut.  Use a knife and cut about 1/2 inch deep from the top to bottom of the root ball, several times around the root ball.  Put the root ball in the hole.  Make sure the soil level is even with the ground. Too deep is really bad,  too shallow you may be able to make up for by putting 3″-4″ of mulch over the top of the potting soil that is sticking out of the ground, and another foot on the soil all the way around.  Over the years the daylily will grow to the correct level. Replace the garden soil around the root ball, and water 3 times to settle the soil.  If the pot is made of peat or fiber, remove the bottom of the pot before planting.  Put it in the hole, check that the crown of the plant is level with the garden soil, fill the hole 1/2 way.  Then remove the lip of the pot down the side as far as you can.  Use a knife to cut the pot if you have to.  Removing the lip is improtant because it can act as a wick and dry the soil around the roots too much.
Planting bare root daylilies is not difficult.  These usually come in the mail.  As soon as you get them, open the box, check the labels to see if you got the correct cultivars, and put them into a bucket of room temperature water.  They need to come out for 15 minutes every 12 hours or so, and change the water every day if you can.  The fresh water should be the same temperature as the old water was.  They will be fine for up to 3 days, so you can plant them at your convenience. I soak them at least 2 days if I can.  Dig a large hole to accomodate the roots.  Remove some soil if you have to, and add peat moss and compost if you have it.  It is ok to add milorganite, osmokote, nutrikote, rabbit manure, horse manure, or alfalfa pellets at this time.  Mix it all up with the garden soil with a shovel.  Make a cone in the bottom of the hole and spread the roots over the top of it.  CHECK NOW to make sure the crown (where the roots meet the leaves) will be right at soil level.  Remember, you just mixed the soil up and it will settle , so you must account for this.  Water the plant well,  put more soil under the roots if it sank too much, and water again.  Fill the hole in, putting soil on top of the roots.  At this point, I use the extra soil to make a little wall around the plant, about 1 foot away from the crown in a circle.  Water to fill up this well and let it soak in 3 times.  This will settle to soil around the roots.  If there are any air pockets around the roots the plant will die, guaranteed.  The watering will fill in any air holes.
If you are lucky, you planted your daylily on a day that was overcast.  If you are really lucky, it will be overcast for another 2-3 days after.  If it is blazing sun, you can consider covering the plant, but the cover must have some holes in it for air circulation, otherwise you will cook the plant.  My grandmother used to use a holy old bushel basket.  I use a large holy cardboard box, tall, no lid.  Make sure to wieght it down if wind is a problem.  3 days is good.  If it is really dry, water it every day for a week.  Your plant is like a flower in a vase, because it takes time to reestablish the hair roots, so keeping the soil moist for the first 2 weeks is essential.  This is true of all perennials, except cactus.
A daylily can stay in the same place undisturbed for years.  I’ve had some plants 10 years in the same spot doing fine.  This is not true of all cultivars.  Some need deviding in only 3-4 years.   When you notice the flowering seems to diminish, it is time to dig and devide your daylily.  The extra fans can be given to friends, donated to garden clubs or parks, transplanted around the yard, or composted.
Please be careful, daylilies are very addicting.  There are many beautiful cultivars.  Happy gardening!  
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