Q: My daylilies have not been blooming well, and they look cramped and dry. Is there anything I can do at this point in the season?
A: It sounds as if you know that this is not a good time to move your plants but you would like to do it anyway. You are right, but you can proceed if you are careful. Every gardener knows that it is foolish to think about moving plants as the hottest and driest part of the summer approaches. But then watching some of your favorite plants look wimpy and miserable is enough to turn us into gardening fools. So, as one who routinely moves plants at the wrong time of year and under stressful conditions (for the plants and myself), I say go ahead and move them. Watching plants suffer is intolerable, and your plants may thrive in their new surroundings.
Daylilies can do well in one area for years at a time but not necessarily forever. Since yours are showing signs of being overcrowded, you can attack the problem when you have the energy.
Daylilies are tough enough to survive a move, even in summer, if you are willing to give them a little extra care. You should have them where you can water them at least several times a week after the move and while they get acclimated to their new area.
The roots of daylilies are very tough, so you will need a strong four-tined garden fork to dig them out. Water the ground thoroughly the evening before you start to soften it. Make sure the plants are well hydrated and appear plump. You can wait until their blooming is over or you can remove the bloom scapes to save the plant's energy.
Start in the cool of the morning, and loosen the soil and root mass with the garden fork. Lift the root mass out with the fork or a round point shovel. Lay the hunk on the ground, and divide the roots by cutting with a machete or a sharp shovel. You can divide large root masses into three or four clumps. These can then be transplanted to new areas with softened soil and good exposure.
If you are very patient and you are lucky enough to have very soft soil, you can tease apart individual fans of daylilies and replant these in your new beds.
Keep your daylilies moist, and remove any dead or dried leaves. Watch out for insect or fungus problems, and treat them quickly. Most of your daylilies should do well, and their appearance will be improved for years to come.
Email Pat Lea at firstname.lastname@example.org.