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Growing Guide Collaboration: Planting and Growing Daffodils and Daylilies

Our Daffodils & Daylilies Collaboration combines Daffodils (Narcissus) and Daylilies (Hemerocallis) in close quarters to create a garden with two seasons of bloom—the first in spring, the second in summer. In full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil, these long-lived perennials require little care. You can count on years of enjoyment.

Planting. Prepare the planting area by loosening the soil with a shovel, spade, or tiller. Check the soil’s drainage and correct if necessary. (To improve drainage in heavy soil, dig in organic matter such as compost, aged manure, leafmold, peat moss, or [in the South] shredded pine park. If you garden in very heavy clay, consider constructing raised beds to provide well-drained conditions.) Then set the Daylilies on top of the soil, allowing 18–24in of space between each plant. For a full, natural look, arrange the plants in staggered rows. When you’re satisfied with their placement, dig a hole wide enough to accommodate the spread of the Daylilies’ roots and deep enough to allow you to set the crown (the point where the stems of the Daylilies meet the roots) 1in below soil level. Arrange the roots like the spokes of a wheel and cover them with soil, firming the soil to make sure there are no air pockets.

Next, put the Daffodil bulbs on top of the soil. Distribute them evenly among the Daylilies, allowing about 6in between the bulbs and the Daylilies. Then plant the Daffodils with a trowel or a bulb planter, setting the tops of the Daffodil bulbs 5–7in deep. Water the Daffodils and Daylilies thoroughly once the planting is finished.

In Zone 6 (-10°F) and colder, Daylilies may require winter protection (see below) to prevent the roots from being heaved out of the ground during their first winter. Next spring (late April here in Litchfield), the Daffodils will bloom while the Daylilies are still awakening from dormancy. The emerging Daylily foliage will help hide Daffodil foliage as it yellows and withers in late spring. Then, the Daylilies mount their summer show. This succession of bloom will repeat itself year after year.

Caring for the plants. We recommend applying a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, just as new foliage begins to push through the soil each spring. For the sake of tidiness, cut away Daffodil foliage after it yellows and withers (not before) and remove the spent blooms of Daylilies. After hard frost in fall, cut off Daylily leaves close to the ground.

Winter protection. In cold-winter climates (Zone 6 [−10°F] and colder), alternate thawing and freezing of the soil in winter can heave the crowns of newly planted perennials and small shrubs right out of the ground, leaving their roots vulnerable to drying winds and freezing cold. To protect plants from heaving during their first winter, put a 4–6in layer of loose organic material such as straw, oak leaves, or evergreen boughs (cut into 1–2ft lengths) over the crowns after the ground freezes (generally in December here in Litchfield, Connecticut). Take care to avoid covering the evergreen foliage of plants such as Digitalis and Dianthus.

Remove this winter cover gradually in spring when frosts become infrequent. For most perennials, this is done at about the time Daffodils and Forsythias are in bloom. However, Hemerocallis are early to emerge, and you don't want to damage the Daffodils by removing evergreen boughs while they are in bloom, so we suggest checking frequently in late winter, and removing the covering in stages, so the Daffodils won't get too tangled.

Please note: A layer of mulch will not, by itself, prevent winter damage. If applied too heavly or too close to the crowns of your plants in fall, mulch can actually increase the chances of winterkill from crown rot. We recommend that you provide winter protection in fall as outlined above and that you wait to mulch until spring.

The value of mulch. You can reduce both your watering and weeding chores drastically if, next spring, you cover the soil surrounding your plants with a 2–3in blanket of mulch. Mulch is any loose material spread over the soil to conserve moisture, inhibit weed-seed germination, and moderate soil temperature. We recommend an organic mulch (chipped or shredded bark, shredded leaves, or pine needles) because it breaks down and enriches the soil. Keep mulch an inch or so away from the crowns of plants to discourage disease. Replenish the mulch as necessary every year.

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