Any Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts looking to earn a badge to do with gardening, we have volunteers available to give your group a tutorial on hybridizing daylilies! A CDS member will take you through a daylily garden, teach you the difference between diploids and tetraploids as it pertains to crossing plants, point out the various parts of daylily anatomy, and demonstrate how to pollinate hemerocallis. Scouts will be shown the wide variety of daylily types and will be allowed to make their very own crosses! They will tag their blooms and later be given the seeds from their crosses when the pods ripen.
Check out the Girl Scout Badge Explorer to see what types of horticulture-related badges could work for your Girl Scout troop. If you do Boy Scouts, here’s a link for the Gardening Merit Badge! I’m sure we can work together to formulate an experience that works within the Scouting parameters!
Scouts will also be given material on how to chill and subsequently plant their seeds. In two years’ time, their seedlings will bloom original flowers of their very own making. Who knows–you may have a future famous daylily hybridizer in your troop! We’ll even offer instruction on how to name and register your very own plant should you choose! Email Kim Krodel if you’d like to set up a hybridizing how-to for your group!
If you are a daylily gardener who would like to host a Scout troop, I recommend you check out badge requirements and see how they can fit into your gardening experience. You have so much you could teach kids about gardening in general, and daylilies in particular! Here’s a link to the AHS diagram of a daylily, which is excellent material to include with your handouts, and great to use while quizzing kids on the different parts of a daylily!
Below I will include my bullet points for starting a daylily from seed. As you probably know, there are many ways to achieve this goal, but feel free to use my list as a starting point and adapt it however you see fit:
Starting Daylilies from Seed
- After collecting your seeds, remove them from the pod and allow them to dry indoors for a few days before storing
- Store your seeds in a small plastic zip-top baggie (those made for jewelry/bead storage work well). Label the cross with a permanent marker. The pod parent is the first name, the pollen parent is the second. (eg: Lavender Blue Baby x Orchid Corsage)
- Store your seed in the refrigerator (door or crisper work well—not the freezer!) until you are ready to plant them
- About 2 weeks before you want to plant, soak your seeds by adding a tablespoon of 1:10 hydrogen peroxide and water mixture to the baggie and returning it to the fridge (if you start them indoors, you can plant before the last frost date for your area. I like to start soaking and planting any time after January first. I keep my seedlings in a sunny window with extra light from fluorescent lamps. If you will plant your seeds directly outside—which is recommended for those without light fixtures and seed-starting mix—you can usually safely plant outside after May 1st in CT.
- Check your soaking seeds every few days for signs of sprouting. If any seeds in the bag begin to sprout, it is time to plant all of the seeds in the bag.
- To plant outdoors, prepare an area safe from foot traffic and lawnmowers in full sun (ideally 6 hours of sun a day, but daylilies can manage in less)
- Till your soil. If you have compost, manure, or bagged top soil you can work that in for extra nutrients and water-holding capacity, but this is not a deal-breaker.
- Dig the soil down at least 8 inches to loosen it, smooth it over and poke a finger up to the first knuckle where you will plant your seed. Space each one about 8 inches apart
- If you have more than one cross, you may want to label your row of planted seed. A white plastic cutlery knife works well for this. Write the cross in permanent marker and bury the written-on part under the soil with the blank end up. This will keep the sun from fading your writing (this happens quickly!). Check it every so often to see if you need to re-write your cross. Knowing which two plants you’ve crossed to make your brand-new seedling isn’t necessary to love it, grow it, or ever register it, but it is desirable when it comes to registration. Many daylily hybridizers want to know the family tree of different plants before they will acquire them and use them in their own breeding. This info is also good for you—if you get a great plant, it’s nice to know which parents made fantastic offspring in case you’d like to use them again!
- Water your plantings daily for a week or two. You should see tiny green shoots, almost like thick blades of grass popping up within that time.
- Continue to water once or twice a week over the summer as they get established, especially if you don’t have rain of your weather is very hot.
- Weed between your seedlings, but be careful not to pull out your baby daylilies! I like to mulch between my seedlings with pine needle straw.
- Next summer you may get a few plants with scapes (stalks) and some blooms
- The following summer, all of your seedlings will likely bloom. Find photos of their pod and pollen parents online and compare them. Do your seedlings improve upon the looks of their parents? How tall is the scape on your plants? How many flower buds are on each scape? What qualities did they get from either parent? Are their things about your seedlings that surprise you?
- Finally, continue to evaluate your seedlings. The first year’s bloom can look a little different from subsequent years. Do any of your daylilies put on a better show than the others? Are any of them uniquely beautiful? Do they have many buds set apart on multiple branches on each scape for a long flower display? Do they still look pretty after a long, hot day? If the answer is yes, maybe you will decide to register one of your plants! Go to http://www.daylilies.org for more information on naming and registering your own daylily!
- Did you hope for something different in your seedling patch? Keep on dabbing that pollen, and the next crop could include the jackpot you’ve been looking for!
And here are some basic daylily care pointers as gleaned from the AHS website:
Daylily Planting Tips
Prepare the Soil
The soil where you intend to plant your daylilies should be worked into a good loose condition to a depth of at least 1 foot.
- Dig a hole larger than the root mass.
- Make a mound in the center of the hole.
- Set the plant in place with the roots spread on all sides of the mound.
- New plants should be planted about as deep as they grew originally. The original depth can be determined easily by the band of white at the base of the foliage which indicates the part of the plant which was underground.
- Do not set the crown (i.e., the point where foliage and roots join) more than 1 inch below the surface of the soil.
- Work the soil around and between the roots as you cover the plant.
- Firm the soil and water well.
- Make sure that there are no air pockets; this can cause the plant to grow poorly.
- When all the water has soaked in, finish filling in the soil, leaving a slight depression around the plant.
Daylilies should be spaced no less than 18 to 24 inches apart on each side.
Label each of your daylilies with some type of permanent marker so as to identify them. A plant loses much of its value when its identification is lost.
- Water is essential for good daylily performance.
- Water, supplied in sufficient amounts, almost certainly increases the number and size of daylily blooms.
- For daylilies, watering is most important in spring when the plants are making scapes and buds, and in the summer during the bloom season.
- Daylilies benefit more from deep watering, which reaches 8 to 10 inches into the soil, than from a succession of brief, surface waterings.
- Overhead watering during the heat of the day will cause any open blooms to spot and/or wilt.
- Watering in the evening can also cause spots on the next day’s blooms.
- Be careful not to overwater.
Are you a Scout working on a composting project?
For more info on backyard composting, check out this article from You Bet Your Garden for tips on how to make your composting project a success without the headaches!