GARDEN KNOW HOW

Hybridizing Daylilies

Hybridizing daylilies at Sensible Gardening and Living

When you use the term hybridizing it all sounds rather serious. What it simply means is to crossbreed. There are plant breeders who spend a significant part of their lives hybridizing plants, and daylilies are no exception. Much of present day daylily hybridizing takes place in the southern United States. Northern breeders are however on the increase, and this includes Canada.

Seedling 5-A Canyon Ridge Daylily Farm

This increase of northern daylily hybridizers is important for Canadian daylily enthusiasts as they generally produce hardier daylilies which can withstand our colder temperatures. Often the southern hybrids are shockingly beautiful, but wither under our old man winter. Over time the selection for northern gardeners can only get better.

When hybridizing there is more to consider than just a pretty face. It’s important that a cultivar be healthy, strong and virile. Consideration must be given to scape height and strength, branching, bud count, bloom shape, petal substance, foliage form, color concentration and fertility.

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In simple terms, hybridization is the act of placing fertile pollen from an Anther onto a fertile Stigma, which fertilizes the eggs in the Ovary at the base of the bloom. If the transfer is successful, fertilization occurs within a few hours of pollination. The ovary at the base of the bloom will begin to swell and produce a small green pod in a few days time.

You know your daylily seeds are ready to harvest when the daylily seed pods turn brown and crack between the three lobes of the seed pod. Failure to harvest your seed at the right time will result in lost seeds sprinkling to the ground.

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Seed Pods / Sensible Gardening and Living

I generally start my seed crosses around 8 weeks before our last frost date then transplant them into the nursery beds for further growth. It usually takes 3 years of growth before your daylily is mature enough to produce a reliable bloom. Patience is required but the reward is being the first to see the realization of a new cultivar. Most end up in the compost as they do not stand up to the hybridizers goals, but every now and again a winner is born.

I made several crosses last summer and am preparing to plant them within the new few weeks.  

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Daylily Seedlings / Sensible Gardening and Living

Just a quick note: You often see the word daylily spelled as two words day lily. This is incorrect, it should all be just one word..daylily.