How To Keep Your Day Lily Plants Looking Neat After They’re Done Flowering

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How To Keep Your Day Lily Plants Looking Neat After They're Done Flowering

How To Keep Your Day Lily Plants Looking Neat After They’re Done Flowering

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Day lilies are reliable perennials that produce a prolific non-stop show of flowers starting in July and continuing into early August. Some varieties flower even earlier, and some varieties re-bloom in late summer (such as Stella D’Oro, Happy Returns, or Scarlet Orbit). Day lilies got their name from their tendency to put out new blooms every day in their flowering season, as well as the tendency for each new bloom to only stay full and vibrant for a single day.

Once the flowers are done blooming, however, the foliage can sometimes become a bit messy. It’s easy to clean up these plants and keep them looking neat for the entire season. The first thing to do is to pull away any dead leaves from the base of the plant. You can also deadhead spent blooms to make room for the new flowers. 

If you know what variety of day lily you have, you can find out if they re-bloom or not. If they are re-bloomers, you won’t want to cut back the foliage until after that second bloom period, as there may be new buds forming. But if the variety is not a re-bloomer, then cutting the foliage back in late summer or early autumn will allow for fresh foliage to quickly take its place.

How to trim your day lily

dark maroon day lily in front of fence

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Once your day lily is done blooming for the season, you basically have three choices. You can let the foliage fade naturally, and cut it back in late autumn when you put your garden to bed. You can let the foliage fade and then leave it until spring, cleaning away the old foliage when you do your spring clean-up. Or, to keep the plant looking neat, you can cut the foliage back to about two or three inches above the soil line. This will stimulate new growth, and within a couple of weeks you will have a tidy new clump of fresh foliage.

There are several tools you can use to cut back your day lily. A large pair of garden shears can do the job. You can also use your hand-held pruners. A weed whacker might do the job, but the resulting cut edge would probably be uneven.

First, clear away any dead or dried foliage to expose the base of the plant. If you’re using a pair of hand pruners, gather the foliage so you can trim the leaves all at once.  Hold the foliage on one hand and use your pruners to trim them. If using large garden shears, place them beneath the plant and shear close to the ground leaving about two or three inches. If your day lily plant is very large, you will have to trim it in several sections, whether using pruners or shears.

Other ways to keep your day lily neat

purple day lilies blooming green foliage

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Once you have trimmed off the dormant leaves, your day lily plant will start to regrow that central crown of foliage. In a few days you will see the first shoots of new growth, and the foliage will finish regrowing for the season within about three weeks. Before that happens, you can clean up the base of your day lily, which may have some dried debris (such as old leaves) attached to it. You can also refresh your mulch if you have it in your garden.

This is also a good time to dig up and divide your day lily plant, if it has grown too large. Right after you divide and replant the new divisions, that trimmed foliage will continue to grow and you will have more plants that will grow tidy little clumps of green leaves, bringing a bit of new life to your fall garden.

Treat your newly planted day lily divisions as you normally would any day lily in the late season, watering as needed. A top dressing of compost or manure can give your day lily some added nutrients before winter sets in. 

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.