By Samantha Burbach, Director of Education & Programming – 09/17/21
If you are growing daylilies, you may notice what looks like new plants growing up in the air off old flower scapes. These are known as daylily “proliferations” and they are new, identical plants beginning to form from the mother plant. This form of propagation occurs naturally on some varieties of daylilies. This new plant will form its own roots which allows us to harvest it from the mother plant and transplant it to a new area of our garden or share with a fellow gardener!
While the scape is still green, the proliferation is receiving nutrients from the mother plant so you can leave it in place to grow bigger roots. Once the scape begins to turn brown below the proliferation, you can harvest it by cutting a little above the proliferation and about two inches below, these two inches will serve as an anchor for the plant while its roots are developing. It is also good to cut the foliage down to about 4-inches on your proliferation so that the plant can focus on generating roots rather than supporting the vegetative growth.
After harvesting the proliferations, it is best to grow them in a container before transplanting to the garden. Fill a container with good quality potting mix, water it, and then tuck the proliferation in just up to the crown of the plant. The couple of inches of scape below the proliferation will act as a pin to keep the plant in place while the roots develop. Make sure the soil is consistently moist in the container to encourage root development.
Alternatively, before potting the proliferation in soil, you can set it in a clear plastic or glass cup filled with water up to the base of the proliferation to encourage roots to lengthen first. You will want to change out the water ever couple of days and make sure the water level is always covering where the roots are developing so it doesn’t dry out (hence the clear cup!). You can also use a diluted solution of a balanced water-soluble fertilizer instead of water alone to help feed the plant nutrients if you have it. You will still want to change out the water every few days though to prevent bacteria from growing. Once the roots lengthen you can pot them up as described above.
These new plants can be overwintered in their pots in a cold frame or unheated garage or shed. They need to go dormant for the winter but need a little additional protection since they are not established yet. In spring, bring them back outdoors as the weather warms up. After planting in your garden, the plant may take a couple years to flower as it gets established. With just a little work and care, you now have a clone of the mother daylily plant!