Daylilies for Dummies: Common Plants & How ANYONE Can Maintain Them Like a Pro, Part 1

If you drive down any suburban street in the Midwest you are bound to see these three common landscaper picks… at I mean, landscapers must get a ridiculous bulk rate on these things. They thrive on very little care, and are perfect no-nonsense selections for brown thumbs (Heh-heh-hem, YOU). The problem is, when the landscaper left, five minutes after they installed them, they didn’t exactly give a lesson on how to care for those plants… you paid them and breathed a deep sigh of homeowner relief that you.were.done.with.the.landscaping. Check. Another thing off the long list of homeowner responsibilities (not quiiiiiiite yet…). Fast forward to a few years later and you’re feeling like things are scraggly. What happened to your gorgeous thick mulch, crisp edging and plants that were right out of Better Homes & Gardens? How do they expect you to fix it?! Call in the landscaper again?

Okay. Don’t freak.

You’ve got this.

You may not have a green thumb, but you do have a brain between those ears, and this is way simpler than building an IKEA bookshelf, I promise.

Three Plants Everyone Has, and How to Take Care of Them:

  1. Daylilies
  2. Hostas
  3. Ornamental Grasses


For the weeks these sunny bursts of color are in bloom you have some serious street cred as a gardener in your neighborhood. Little do those dog walkers and passersby know that you haven’t the foggiest on how to give them the green thumb TLC treatment you’re absolutely positive that every other daylily owner is aware of.  Let’s break it down, because daylilies are simple plants with simple needs.

In the spring: It’s the perfect time to clean up anything leftover from last season, taking away any dead, brown leaves that are laying on the ground and any “sticks” (aka the previous year’s flower stems) that you might’ve left behind. They’re not coming back to life, and the plant will put up new foliage and fresh blooms when the time comes.  The best way to set a foundation for a healthy plant is to sprinkle some granular fertilizer in the spring.  A balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer should do the trick (you can find this at your local Ace Hardware, big boxes like Home Depot and Lowes, heck I’ve even see them at Target).

In the summer: Enjoy the fresh green foliage and the colorful blooms! If you’re feeling like a real go-getter, you can deadhead the blooms as they wither, and gently tug and toss any foliage that has turned all yellow or brown. Keeping your plant cleaned up like this can really improve the overall aesthetic – it is not necessary – but you definitely get bonus points for keeping your plant looking tidy and allowing the fresh blooms to be the focus, not the droopy dead blooms. After the bloom period ends, use your pruners to cut out those bloom scapes (aka the stick-like stems that held the flowers up!)… otherwise they will turn a very obvious tan/brown color and make your plant look a bit like a porcupine… or at least a very neglected plant. It should take 5 minutes to cut them out, and it’s worth it! If you’ve already waited and the stems are dead and brittle, you can simply tug on them gently and they’ll come loose on their own.  Toss them in the compost or yard waste bag and voila! The foliage will continue to fulfill it’s role in the garden until fall.

In the fall: As the weather is turning, your daylily foliage is probably looking a little rough too.  If it’s late in the season and the trees have dropped most of their leaves, it’s probably safe to cut back your daylilies now.  Just grab your clean pruners and cut them back to the ground.  An inch or three above ground level works. The roots will stay snuggled in their soil bed for the cold winter ahead, and be ready and waiting to start anew in the spring.

Occasional maintenance: Dividing.  Don’t run away terrified at the idea of “dividing”! It’s actually quite simple.  How do you know if your daylily NEEDS divided? Can’t you just ignore it? For now, I give you permission to ignore it. We’ll tackle dividing in another post as the weather warms up!