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Ask a Master Gardener: Divide daylilies in early spring — unless soil soggy

Daylilies benefit from division every three to five years.

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A Tutankhamun daylily, a bicolor with purple and yellow, blooms.
Steve Kuchera / 2019 file / Duluth News Tribune
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Q: What is the right time of year to divide daylilies?

A: The best time is now: early spring, when they have just started to emerge from the ground.

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A Janice Brown daylily blooms.
Steve Kuchera / 2019 file / Duluth News Tribune

Daylilies benefit from division every three to five years. Over time, they tend to form thick clumps and stop flowering as well. Division can rejuvenate them — and it’s always nice to have more plants to fill in spaces in your yard or give away to friends.

Dig up the entire clump, and then pull it apart or cut it apart with a sharp knife. Each division should have roots and at least four fans of foliage. Replant as soon as possible.

Prepare the soil before you plant the divisions by loosening it and adding some compost. Make sure whatever site you’re planting them in will give them full sun, or they won’t flower well.

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A daylily adds yellow flare to Greg and Judy Bonovetz's garden. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com
A daylily adds yellow flare.
Bob King / 2019 file / Duluth News Tribune

Plant so that the spot where the roots join the leaves is about an inch below the surface. Water well after planting.

Your daylilies may not bloom the year they are divided, and may even take two years to bloom again, but eventually they should give you a nice show.

You can also divide daylilies in late summer, and this year that might be a good idea, because we’ve had such a wet spring. My yard is still squishing underfoot when I walk on it. If your soil is wet, it’s best not to dig around in it. Digging in or tilling wet soil can compact it, making it harder for plants to grow, and it takes a long time for soil to recover from compaction.

If you decide to wait until late summer to divide, trim the plants back to about 6 inches tall and then divide as described above.

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Written by U of M Extension Master Gardeners in St. Louis County. Send questions to  features@duluthnews.com .

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