Daylily Seeds, Soil Prep and Planting

One group of seedlings, plants have been trimmed
from their original height of 18-24 inches

photo 2012

There are many different methods for starting seeds. It's an individual thing as most learn what is best for them. Various weather, zones, and elevation play a role in what works best for each. I will relate my process for you to try if you so choose.
Seeds are ready to harvest 30 to 45 days from the time they begin to form pods depending on the daylily or environmental conditions. 

Watch them daily during 
this period. When the pods begin to turn tan or brown, then crack open at the top, they are ready to harvest, or you can gently squeeze the pod, and if the pod separates, the seeds are ready. Mature seeds are shiny and black. Immature seeds are white. Judge maturity more by the pod characteristics rather than the color of the seeds to be sure. If you are going to be away, and the pod might open during that time, you can tie a piece of panty hose
or something similar around the pod, and secure it with a twisty tie.
---Daylily Seed Pods Maturing---
Pods 40 days old, photo taken 2013

The pod in the bottom right-hand
corner is beginning to crack open.
I will harvest it tomorrow.

Drying Daylily Seeds

I take the seeds, along with their label, into an air-conditioned 
room, usually the kitchen, and lay them on the counter top to
dry for a couple of days. Large seeds may require three plus days.

After the drying period, the seeds are ready to prep for cold storage 
in the fridge's bottom crisper drawer at 39-40 degrees. The seeds 
stay in the fridge for 2 weeks before planting, or longer if planting 
is delayed for some reason. Seeds may be viable for a year or longer
when kept in cold storage.
I have planted seeds directly without cold storage, but have found
the seeds do have a higher germination rate if stratified. 

Daylily Seeds Drying 2015

Purchased these little cups for drying seeds.
Works great!
---Daylily Seeds Drying---
Photo 2013

Prepping Daylily Seeds for Cold Storage

Mix a 10 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide and distilled or boiled 
water in a cup. Tear a paper towel into 4 inch squares, then fold again
until the squares measure about an inch. Moisten, not dripping wet, 
the square of paper towel with the hydrogen peroxide solution.

Daylily seedlings--A closer look, 2012

Place the seeds into the tiny plastic bags that are approximately 2x3 inches
long. Put the moistened piece of paper towel near the top of the plastic bag
so it does not directly touch the seeds. I don't want the seeds suspended in
liquid, just in a higher humidity environment inside the bag. When 
removing seeds from the bag to check for softness, always clean your 
hands and any tools you use to avoid introducing bacteria. I use diluted 
bleach. Wearing gloves helps save sensitive skin. I attach the ID labels 
to the plastic bag with a small paper clip that you pinch to open.

Another group of seedlings. Seeds this year matured
about a month earlier than usual. Since it appears that spring 
may not be so forthcoming, I hope the seedlings can remain 
inside the house until conditions are suitable for planting outside
in the seedlings beds. Photo 2012.

The 2x3 in. plastic bags are then placed into a larger plastic bag and dated. 
This is mostly to organize the seedlings, and gives me an idea of when 
germination is likely to take place. The seeds will begin to germinate in 
7-10 days usually. If you wish to delay planting, seeds can be placed in 
the plastic bags dry, as the dry method will delay sprouting.

---Daylily Seeds Ready for Refrigeration---
Photo 2013

Prepping the Pots and Soil 

When one seed in the bag germinates, I plant all the seeds from 
that bag. 24-oz. cottage cheese container makes a good pot for 
seedlings, but anything  tall enough for the roots to grow to a good 
length will suffice. Put several holes in the bottom of the pots for 
good drainage, and also put a hole in the rim or just beneath the 
rim of the pot to tie on the label. Always keep the label with the 
seeds as they move through the process to avoid a mix up. I add
the date to the label when the first seed germinates as well as the
number of seeds added to the pot. This makes it easier to quickly 
know the percentage of germination you get from your crosses
if that is an important factor. Also, make sure everything is
as clean as can be. Oh, and use a Painter's Pen for labeling. It
will last as long as you need for the seedling process. I also use
it on the permanent ID tags in the garden.

Fill the pots with potting soil, dampened, and place in the 
microwave until the soil steams. This kills the fungus gnats, other 
critters, and bacteria. The cottage cheese containers do not slightly 
melt like the plastic cups, although I use and reuse both depending 
on whether I run out of the preferred container and have to resort 
to the plastic cups. Another thing I like about the cottage cheese 
containers is that they do not tip over easily as do other types.
We can reuse the cottage cheese cups for 2 to 3 years before
they begin to deteriorate. Of course, the cups are washed in
soapy water, rinsed, and then placed in a bleach bath before reuse.  

Since microwaves have different settings and wattage, you will 
have to judge the time accordingly. When I see the soil steaming 
on the first pot, I note the time that has elapsed, and use that as a 
baseline for the rest. I microwave one pot at a time.  Remove the 
pot from the microwave and run cold water through the soil until 
the soil is warm. The seeds will sprout faster and grow faster in a
warm medium.

We generally use a type of moisture-control-potting soil in 
the 3 cu. ft. bags. Sometimes we choose other types depending
on the look and feel of the soil. Preference is for soil that does not
have large pieces, yet drains well. Sometimes the potting soil
contains fertilizer, but this is not a necessity. I prefer to choose
when to add fertilizer when the plants show a need for it. This
can be judged by the color of the seedling. The plants should be
grass green, not pale green.

Planting the Daylily Seeds

Plant the seeds about 1/4 inch beneath the top of the soil. Don't plant 
too deeply. Gently water the planted seeds to remove air spaces. Then 
I place a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the cup. A rubber band 
holds the plastic wrap in place. They are then ready to go to a south 
facing window or double door where they will stay for the winter. I 
don't use grow lights because the double doors are sufficient lighting
for growth. I don't have to be concerned if the seeds are getting 
enough water with the plastic wrap covering, but when the tiny plants 
emerge from the soil, I take off the covering, and water as necessary 
with warm water. 

Fertilizing Daylily Seedlings

When the seedlings are 2-3 inches tall, I fertilize them with a diluted 
solution of 24-8-16 fertilizer. Some potting soils do not have 
much in the way of nutrients in them. I don't fertilize on a schedule.

Seedlings planted on 9-22-2012

As you can see from this photo, the pots that 
have been uncovered have seeds that
have germinated and the green shoots
have emerged. Water will be added as 
needed. Also, you can see from this
photo, the planting has just
begun. With more germinating plants,
a make-shift frame had to be
constructed to hold more. See
the first photo above for photo
of the frame. The plants are
loving it.

So there you have it. Now it is a matter of watching the plants grow, and adding water and
fertilize as needed. The plants will let me know when either 
is required. I have tried various methods in the past, but this method works for me. The best
trays for holding the pots for
drainage are the boot trays
from Lowes. Just perfect. 
In a pinch, I have cut the scapes with pods attached, and brought them inside, and placed them in a vase of water. They will mature this way as well as long as they 
not too immature to begin with.
Or if a pod falls off, the pod can be
brought inside unopened and left to mature. I have done this and
when planted, the seeds 
sprouted, but the pod was almost
And the shelving frame just keeps getting 

Update: I used the dry method for the
seeds gathered in 2014. All the above 
steps were the same except for placing
the seeds in baggies without moisture
added. After the refrigeration period,
seeds were planted, and germination 
was excellent. The seedlings are currently
growing very well. This change reduced
the time required to prepare seeds.

However, we did lose a few plants due to 
mold. Perhaps the humidity in the room was
too high, or some other reason or maybe 
 due to this change in procedure.

Update: Mixing a 10% bleach/water
solution in a spray bottle and spraying
the top of the potting soil eliminated the
mold problem.       
Also, more fertilize was used on the 
seedlings to see how the foliage and
roots would respond. The foliage is 
healthy, and when the seedlings are
removed from the pots to plant in the 
garden, we can evaluate the 
root systems. 

Of course, if we do not see an improvement with additional fertilizing, 
then it is back to letting the plants let us know when to fertilize
Sometimes with these plants, experimentation is a worthwhile  
component of the agenda.        

Update:   When we divided the seedlings out of the pots for planting 
in the garden, the root systems showed no distinguishing characteristics
from the use of additional fertilize used during the winter inside. So, we
can refrain from using more fertilize thus saving the added time and 
However, adding fertilize a few days after planting the seedlings in the 
garden is promoting more rapid growth as the plants acclimate to their 
new environment.  

Update:   For 2017, we placed the potting soil in the pots, and poured in
boiling water to sterilize the soil. We continued with more pots as the 
earlier ones cooled. This was far less time consuming than previous
procedures. Once cooled, the seeds were planted. Germination occurred
within 3 days to a week. The plants are growing very well with no 
problems so far. No fungus gnats, no spider mites, and only a few
pots with mold which is eliminated with a spray of 1 part bleach to 10 
parts water. If all goes well for the rest of the winter, this is the method
we will continue to use in the future, until I begin to experiment with
something else, that is.

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