Wildside Gardens 
         Hybridizing Daylilies 

Seedlings From 2003 Crosses

The following is information on how to hybridize daylilies in your garden, along with some examples of seedlings from crosses in my garden. Feel free to contact me on any aspects of the process that are not clear, or that you need addition information on. 

Hybridizing daylilies is one of the more rewarding activities associated with the growing of daylilies. It's a very easy process to learn, and will provide you with some very interesting results. All it really is, is the transferring of pollen from selected flowers of different cultivars (cultivated varieties). There are several approaches to hybridizing, but they all arrive at the same result. Here's what works best for me.        

First Step:  Select two varieties that you would like to cross. The first rule of hybridizing is that you can only cross diploids with diploids, and tetraploids with tetraploids. This is because of the chromosome difference between the two. Dips have 22 chromosomes, and tets have 44. In general, look at the flowers and identify the characteristics that appeal to you. It could be ruffled edges, color of eyes, height of scapes, number of buds per scape, dormancy, substance of the flower, etc. Then decide which two flowers you want to cross.

Step Two:  Transfer pollen from one flower to the otherThe best time to do hybridizing is in the morning because of the cooler temperatures. The closer temperatures get to 90 degrees, the less effective pollen transfer becomes.  Each of the two flowers has  six stamens (male part of the plant) and one pistil (female part of the plant) The pistil will be the longer part, and  will not have a pollen packet on  the end. When the flower opens in the morning, and usually after it warms up a bit, the pollen packets at  the end of the stamens  will  open to expose the pollen ( yellow powder like substance)

Gently remove one of those pollen packets from one flower and transfer some of the substance to the pistil of the other flower. I usually end up removing one of the stamens from the flower I just pollinated, and cross-pollinating back to the original flower. (i.e. X to Y, and Y to X.) ,since I’m working with those two anyway.

Step Three: Label your crosses.   There are a lot of different ways to label your crosses. I normally use plastic strip labels that are used for labeling plants because they hold up better in the sun and rain. Paper labels tend to fade and fall off, or get stolen by birds that find them attractive for nest material. Remember, the label will have to last for up to two months while you wait to harvest the seeds. I list the “pod parent” first, followed by the “pollen parent”. The pod parent is the flower receiving the pollen, and the pollen parent is the flower from which the pollen came.  You will also start to notice seed pods in the garden which do not have labels with them. These can occur due to natural hybridizing by various insects visiting the flowers. I make a point to harvest these also, and label the seeds with the pod parent name. As far as I’m concerned, mother nature can do just as good a job selecting crosses as I can, so don’t ignore potential “treasures” from that avenue. The next day the flower will have wilted as normal. Do not dead-head the spent bloom!!!! Within the next few days the spent bloom will fall off on it’s own, and if your cross was successful, a small seed pod will have started to develop. 

Step 4: Harvest the seeds. Over the course of 1½ to 2 months, the seed pods will continue to grow larger. The seedpods will eventually turn brown and start to crack open at the top. This is the time to harvest the seeds. Carefully remove the seed pod from the scape so that you don’t spill any of the seeds out in the process. I normally place the seeds in an envelope, writing the parentage information on the outside. 

Step 5: Planting the seeds. You can plant the seeds in outdoor beds immediately if you have harvested the seeds early enough in the growing season. You have to leave enough time between planting the seeds and the first frost for the seeds to germinate and develop enough of a plant to survive the winter. If you are in doubt about the timing, save the seeds for later planting.  I plant my seeds in outdoor beds late in the fall when it has turned cold enough that the seeds will not start to germinate and grow, but will wait until warm soil conditions in the spring. You can also just wait until early spring to plant them. 

Sow seeds about ½” deep, spaced about 6” apart (closer if space is a problem) in straight rows. Planting in straight rows makes the plants a lot easier to spot when they start to grow. This is important because early plants look just like grass, and they can be very hard to identify if you are weeding. You will need to maintain constant soil moisture, but be careful not to over-water. The seeds should start to germinate within 1-1/2 to 2 weeks. I mulch my beds in order to maintain both soil moisture and temperature. This is especially important if you plant in the fall like I do. Mulching helps protect the seeds from frost heaving until spring.

Once the plants start to grow, you can fertilize them with a small amount of common 10-10-10 fertilizer. Be careful not to use too much fertilizer or you will “burn” the seedlings. Repeat the feeding around mid summer. 

If you decide to store your seeds for spring planting, you will need to put them in air tight containers (zip-loc bags work very well) and place them in the refrigerator until spring. You can start you seeds indoors about four six weeks before the last danger of frost in your area. Window garden spots work well for this. Just be sure to keep the temperatures and moisture as constant as you can. Transplant them to outdoor beds after the danger of frost has passed

Step 6: Wait.   This is the hardest part of the whole process.  If you planted seeds during the year of harvest, it is possible to see some of them bloom the next year. But don’t be discouraged if they don’t. By the second year, you should be seeing plenty of blooms. Keep in mind that first year blooms often are not true indicators of what the seedling’s flowers will look like when mature. Just be patient and let nature take it’s course. Most seedlings don’t show their true colors, form, scape height, bud counts and foliage habits until the 3rd or 4th year. Trust me, the wait is worth it.

Hybridizing daylilies is a very rewarding process. You can never tell just what you will get
 with each cross of two parents. Below are examples of seedlings from 2003 crosses.  

                                                               Seedling 0
3-35 (double)
                                                   Sibling of
some of the characteristics of PEGGY JEFFCOAT
          only it's a lavender blend bi-color, 6" diam.  
                                         See the pod parent of 0
3-35 below for comparison.


                                                             Another example below:

Seedling 03-34 (double)

Sibling of KAREN MY LOVE 

Pale yellow with a hint of pink, 4-1/2 - 5",

Petaloids project straight up while the sepals

and petals lay out or recurve, giving the 

appearance of a crown or coronet.

Very encouraging for first time seedling bloom.  

See KAREN MY LOVE below for comparison