Hybridizing daylilies is an easy and fun way to learn all about hybridizing flowers. Daylilies, or hemerocallis, are the perfect flowers to use when learning about this process. The parts of the daylily are all “out there”and easy to access during the pollination process. Learn how to hybridize daylilies, also known as cross-pollinating daylilies, and enter a whole new world of flower creation.
Learning To Hybridize Daylilies
Many years ago when my baby was just a baby, I learned about hybridizing daylilies.
I had actually read about the process in a magazine, and although it sparked an interest at the time, I set the idea aside for when I might have the time to learn about this exciting new endeavour.
One evening when the baby was sleeping, I ventured out into the yard to locate my two daylilies.
One of the daylilies was a bright apricot self named Heron, which fortunately for me turned out to be hugely fertile, and reinforced the success of my efforts.
I took the pollen of one daylily and dabbed it onto the pistil of the other. Then I did the exact same thing to the second daylily, dabbing that one as well with the pollen of the other.
I loved the feeling of dabbing the pollen onto the pistil. It was soft and somewhat velvety. It was so easy to do, and the whole process was finished in an instant.
Over the course of the next week I watched as the flowers on each daylily slowly withered and dried.
I watched and waited, observing the results of my efforts.
At the base of each flower formed a tiny seed pod, which started to swell and grow. Over the course of the next several months I watched those pods, which continued to grow on to maturity.
I dabbed more blooms as well, because frankly, this was lots of fun. I was so excited to see the results of my efforts, although I knew it would take some time.
Creating With Daylilies
At the end of that summer, I successfully harvested my first daylily seeds. I also had plans to invest in some special daylilies to hybridize with for the next summer.
I had caught the daylily hybridizing bug.
That was sixteen years ago, and I have been dabbing daylilies ever since.
Creating hybrid daylilies is easy and fun. It is also very rewarding.
The anticipation of the first bloom makes a hybridizer feel like a child on Christmas morning. You never know what you will get until the bloom actually opens.
It can be a very exciting time, especially if you find a special treasure among your new seedlings.
Each new daylily seedling is unique, like a snowflake that falls from the sky. Some will resemble the parents, and some will have characteristics that have never been seen before.
If you get a plant that is unique and special, you can register it with the American Hemerocallus Society.
Choose Your Hybridizing Goals
If you have never hybridized daylilies before, I recommend that you just try to do some crosses with the daylilies that you have growing in your yard.
When you decide that you would like to delve into daylily hybridizing a little more seriously, you can explore the different types of daylilies that you would like to cross pollinate.
This is the wonderful thing about daylilies, there are so many different types and characteristics.
There are daylilies with teeth, and some shaped like spiders. There are super large flowers, and some tiny minis.
As well, there are complex eye zones, and green edges.
And then there is the search for blue, which is getting pretty close.
Try To Narrow Down Your Goals
Sometimes it can be difficult to narrow down your hybridizing goals, however it will make the process so much easier.
When I first started I dabbed everything ruffly and pink. I had many pink ruffled seedlings.
Then I switched my goals to complex eye zones, which were a little more challenging. I also choose toothy edges as another goal.
My garden is full of complex eyed seedlings, and many toothy edged ones as well.
Every year they get better, and every year I feel blessed.
Check Your Daylily Ploidy
When planning to hybridize daylilies, it is important to be aware of genetic considerations.
Daylilies can have different numbers of genes, and it is important that you are crossing daylilies with similar genetics.
The most common genetic forms of daylilies are diploids and tetraploids. There are also triploids, however these are generally sterile and not useful in hybridizing.
Diploid daylilies have 22 chromosomes, and while tetraploid daylilies have 44 chromosomes.
Cross Daylilies With Similar Genetics
When you are hybridizing daylilies it’s important to cross diploids with diploids, and tetraploids with tetraploids for the best success.
Tetraploid daylilies have been in existence for well over fifty years, and came into existence with genetic manipulation.
The resulting tetraploid daylilies offer twice the potential for spectacular hybridizing outcome, since there is twice the genetic material.
Tetraploids are often larger and sturdier than diploids.
I use both tetraploids and diploids when I hybridize, as they both have varieties of daylilies that I consider to be important to my breeding program.
To check on whether your daylily is a diploid or tetraploid, you can look this information up in the daylily database at the American Hemerocallis Society website.
How Do You Pollinate Daylilies?
First and foremost, it’s important to realize that individual daylily blooms only last for one day. So if you want to dab or harvest pollen, it must be done when the flower is fresh and blooming on any given day.
To hybridize daylilies you need to catch the bloom on the day that it opens and blooms.
Daylilies may have many blooms over the course of several weeks or longer, so you will probably have many opportunities to dab some daylily flowers.
However each flower will only last a day- thus the name, “day” “lily.”
During daylily season I am dabbing every day. I have a collection of daylilies that I use, and sometimes buy new cultivars to introduce new genetics for new seedlings.
I try to take advantage of every bloom if I can, and this makes for a busy hybridizing season.
Review Of The Anatomy Of The Daylily
As I mentioned, all of the hybridizing parts of the daylily are visible and accessible and this makes this process very easy.
Daylilies are one of the easiest flowers to cross pollinate.
I have also tried to hybridize dahlias, and you just can’t compare the ease of process between daylilies and dahlias.
Dahlias are fairly difficult to hybridize. You can’t easily see the reproductive parts. And then there is the issue of fertility timing.
For dahlias, I prefer to let the bees do the work.
For daylilies however it is very easy to cross pollinate. So therefore I choose to do the work of the bee.
And since I am choosing the pollen, it is much less random than if fertilized by the bees.
To understand the process of how to hybridize daylilies, first you must understand a bit about the anatomy of the daylily reproductive parts.
Let’s have a look at the daylily parts:
The Daylily Pistil
The pistil grows up through the centre of the daylily, and consists of the female parts of the daylily reproductive system.
The pistil, also known as the carpel, consists of three parts:
- the style
- the stigma
- and the ovary
The style is the longest part sticking out of the centre of the daylily. Sometimes however it is shorter, and you have to go looking for it.
On top of the style is the stigma, the structure on which the pollen will be dabbed. If you look closely at the stigma you will often see some sticky fluid forming there.
The stigma is where the pollen is deposited.
The Importance Of The Stigma Fluid
- The sticky solution on the stigma is great if it is there, as it will increase the chances of successful pollination. It is one of the keys to successful fertilization.
- I notice that here in zone 5b the sticky fluid on the stigma tends to be more apparent later in the morning and sometimes in the early afternoon. This is important to recognize, as it may guide your daylily hybridizing time.
- I usually do not hybridize first thing in the morning, and rather wait until the blooms are more fertile with the fluid being produced from the stigma.
- When the pollen is placed at the tip of the pistil (on the stigma), it mixes with the fluid, and then grows down the style ( the long part of the pistil) and into the ovary of the daylily bloom. This is where it will fertilize the ovule, which is the potential seed from your cross.
The style extends down into the ovary. Here is a cross section of a daylily bloom to demonstrate the structures:
Here is a great article found at the Grace Gardens website written by author Tom Rood. The article was originally published in the AHS Journal, describing the process of daylily hybridizing and reproduction in some more technical terms. It’s called Simple Daylily Hybridizing for Us Simple Folks- Part 3 (un-edited).
It’s helpful and descriptive, outlining the technical aspects of daylily reproduction.
The Daylily Stamens
- Look closely at the stamens protruding from the centre of the daylily.
- These are stick-like protrusions similar to the pistil, however each stamen will have an oval structure at the tip, which is called an anther.
- The anther is the structure that contains the pollen.
- There will normally be six stamens with anthers growing up and around the pistil, although sometimes there may be less due to bug damage.
- As well, sometimes there may be extra stamens if the flower has produced extra petals. This is always a nice bonus.
The Daylily Anthers
- The anthers are the structures at the top of the stamens that contain the pollen.
- When the anthers are not mature they are closed, and you will not see any pollen.
- As the day warms up and the anthers start to open, the pollen becomes visible.
- I harvest the anthers of the daylilies from which I am planning to use the pollen.
- The freshly harvested anthers are placed in empty match boxes to keep them dry.
Storing The Daylily Anthers
- We use empty match boxes to hold the anthers, because these boxes are specially designed to keep their contents, which are normally matches, dry.
- I empty out the matches to use later, and then use the boxes for the pollen.
- Dry pollen is healthy pollen.
- Match boxes work very well, as they help to absorb moisture and help to keep the pollen dry.
- I generally like to harvest the anthers early in the morning, and before they are open if possible. The anthers from each individual daylily are placed a separate match box container.
- The name of the daylily is written on the outside of each match box along with the date of when they were harvested.
Remove All Of The Stamens From The Anthers
- Make sure when you harvest the anthers and place them in a container, that the stamens are completely removed.
- Sometimes the tip of the stamen will remain on the anther unknowingly, and if not removed will turn moist and allow moisture to injure the pollen.
- Just pull off the little piece of stamen, and it will easily come off the anther.
The Daylily Pollen
- Contained within the anthers, the daylily pollen will become available on each daylily when in bloom, and can be harvested and stored to keep it safe and dry.
- The pollen will become dry and fluffy, and once it reaches this state it is ready to use.
- I will use pollen over the course of three to four days. After this period I find that it tends to reduce in fertility.
- Pollen can also be frozen for future use, although again be careful to prevent moisture damage.
Avoid Contact With Moisture When Storing And Using Daylily Pollen
- Daylily pollen should remain dry and will be less effective or not work at all when wet.
- This is why dabbing your daylilies on a wet drizzly day may not be a successful venture. If you can somehow keep them dry you will have more success.
Helpful Hint For Fertility:
- I always look at the daylily pollen to tell me when the daylily is ripe for fertilization.
- If the anthers are still closed, the daylily is not yet ready to be pollinated.
- If the anthers are open with dry fluffy pollen, the daylily is ready to dab.
The Process For Hybridizing Daylilies
When you hybridize daylilies there’s a lot more to the process than just dabbing, and we will get to some of those considerations in a bit.
However, let’s just review the basics of the process.
Organizing The Crosses
If you have a number of daylilies to hybridize, the process of recording the planned crosses will help keep everything organized.
Writing the crosses down will help to keep track of what has been done throughout the season.
It is also a working record to help guide you on the day of hybridizing.
Here are the steps for organizing the crosses to hybridize daylilies:
Step One- Selecting The Pod Parents
- At the beginning of each day I observe all the daylily blooms available for cross pollinating on that day.
- I make my selection of daylilies to hybridize, and write the names down in a notebook.
Step Two – Selecting The Pollen Parents
- I then look at all the blooms listed and decide which ones that I want to harvest pollen from, and put an asterisk next to each daylily for harvesting pollen.
- The next step is to head back out to the garden to harvest the pollen.
- The earlier in the day the better for this process, as you will be covered in pollen if you do this after the anthers have opened up fully.
Step Three- Deciding On The Crosses
- Deciding on the crosses is the next step in this process.
- It can be a bit daunting at first, however eventually becomes very intuitive.
- Essentially you are deciding what daylily parents to cross, and what characteristics you will be hoping for in the new hybrids.
- You are deciding who is the mother daylily, or the pod parent, and who is the father daylily, or the pollen parent.
- The resulting seedlings will each be unique daylilies. They may have characteristics of either parent, have a combination of each, or be completely unique and not look like either.
Step Four- Document Your Crosses
- Once I decide on the crosses, I write them down in the notebook.
- For instance, today I crossed Angels Gather Around with the pollen of The Pink Shabang.
- So in my notebook I wrote: Angels Gather Around x The Pink Shabang.
- Angels Gather Around is the pod parent, and the flower which will be dabbed.
- The Pink Shabang is the pollen parent, and the anther of the Pink Shabang will be dabbed on the pistil of Angels Gather Around.
- I use the note book as a reference while I am making my crosses.
- I write down all the crosses that I will make that day.
- Then I go out to the garden with my pollen and my list of crosses, and complete the hybridizing.
Step Five- Labelling The Crosses
- Labelling your crosses is very important to keep track of the parentage of the new hybrids.
- Using the notebook with the listed crosses, I then make labels of each cross following my outline.
- There are many different ways to label your daylily crosses.
- I use foam sheets cut up into small labels for daylily crosses.
- These are waterproof labels.
- I mark on the label with a waterproof marker, and recycle the labels if the crosses don’t take.
What To Write On Your Daylily Label:
- I write the pod parent x the pollen parent, and date of the cross on the label.
- The label is then hung snugly on the flower that has been dabbed, and securely placed at the base of the bloom.
- Dating the cross is important, as it helps to check on maturity of the seed.
- Most seed pods will be mature by 56 days, although some will mature a bit earlier and some a bit later.
The Daylily Hybridizing Process
- The actual hybridizing process is very simple.
- Once you have decided on your planned cross, and written the cross down for your records, bring the pollen to the daylily you are crossing.
- Since I store my pollen in match boxes, I bring the matchbox to the daylily bloom.
- I remove the anther from the match box with a pair of reverse action tweezers.
- These are wonderful devices, and I would highly recommend getting some if you plan on hybridizing.
- The tweezers hold the pollen while you dab, without the risk of letting go and losing your precious pollen.
- You can use regular tweezers for this process as well, however it is easy to lose your grip on the anther and drop it on the ground.
- Take the anther, and dab the pollen onto the top of the pistil.
- If you aren’t doing many crosses you can also just break off a stamen with the anther and pollen attached, and use it as a substitute dabber.
That is it, you just have to label the cross!
Choose The Right Time Of Day To Hybridize Daylilies
There are a number of issues that can affect the success of the daylily hybridization process.
To simplify this explanation, it comes down to choosing the right time of day.
When it’s hot out, choose a cooler time of day. If hybridizing in the south, early morning is the best time ( however make sure that the pollen on the plant is open, otherwise it is still too early).
In the north, cooler temperatures can delay the opening of flowers. After a cool summer night I have sometimes had to wait until noon to access the pollen from the daylilies.
Choosing the right time of day, on any given day, will increase your chances of success in your hybridizing efforts.
How Do Daylily Seed Pods Form?
Daylily seed pods form at the base of the plant. Over the course of a week, if your hybridizing efforts have been successful, you will see a swelling beginning to form at the base of the flower.
The flower eventually dries up and falls off, leaving behind a tiny pod which may continue to grow over the next couple of months.
Sometimes the pods will stop growing and fall off. If this happens this means that generally the seeds did not form inside, or something went wrong with the process.
It is all part of the natural process, and hopefully you will have some pods that continue to remain until maturity.
Try not to pull the dried flower off the pod, as this will sometimes lead to pod breakage. I generally just wait for the flowers to fall off on their own.
When Will The Daylily Pods Be Ready To Harvest?
Daylily pods generally grow for two months to maturity.
What you may observe as the pods begin to mature are changes in the colour of the pod. Some pods will turn lighter green, while others will develop a brownish coloration.
The colour change is dependent on the cultivar and unique to that particular daylily.
The pods may also begin to open up at the top as they mature, and this is a sign that harvest is imminent.
Sometimes I will give the pods a light squeeze, and if they pop open I know that they are ready to harvest.
I generally like to leave the pods on the scapes for at least 56 days, however if they have opened I will harvest early.
You Can Bring Your Pods Indoors If Close To Maturity
Sometimes I will harvest the daylily scapes and pods if they are close to maturity, and place them in a bucket of water, leaving the pods in place. They will continue to mature on the scape for several weeks.
I resort to this method of harvest if we are expecting frost or bad weather with high winds.
My daylily harvest time often coincides with hurricane season.
Harvesting the scapes in these situations allows me to bring the pods inside to safety, while continuing to mature on the stem.
Will Daylilies Cross Pollinate?
Sometimes the daylilies in the garden will cross pollinate with others, through the actions of bees or other pollinators spreading the pollen.
They can also self fertilize if the stamens are long enough to reach the tip of the pistil, and the wind blows everything together, allowing the pollen to touch the pistil.
Generally however when dabbing daylilies in the garden there is no need to protect the pistil by covering it. A good dab of pollen from your selected source will cover the pistil and hopefully result in the cross you were hoping for.
When Are The Daylily Seeds Planted?
After harvesting your mature daylily pods, you will be able to open them up to reveal the seeds inside.
You may have only a few seeds in tetraploid pods, and have many in diploid pods.
The seeds are best stored in the fridge for at least a month for stratification, which will allow for successful germination of the seeds.
The seeds can then be started indoors, and planted out next season.
You will not likely get blooms that first year, however the following year may see many new wonderful daylily blooms from your hybridizing efforts!
For more on growing daylily seeds check out this article:
Here are some photos of some of my newest seedlings blooming this summer:
So far I am so happy to see the newest daylily blooms. My hybridizing efforts have been successful thus far.
Take a chance on learning how to hybridize daylilies. It may open up a creative world that you never knew existed!
It is lots of fun, and very relaxing. Some days it can be almost meditative.
And if you have some success, which will be sure to come, it will also be very exciting.
I am a self taught daylily hybridizer.
My seeds have been sent all over the world, and I’m proud to say that it has been a fabulous experience.
Have you ever tried to hybridize daylilies?
Be sure to leave a comment down below to share your experience!