When To Cut Back Daylilies

Wondering when to cut back daylilies? Fortunately, these beautiful flowering perennials are quite forgiving and easy to care for!

You can cut back daylilies in mid-late autumn, but it is not strictly necessary. You can just as easily leave the foliage standing through winter. The dead foliage is easy to brush off the crown of the plant in the springtime when the new growth begins. Just be sure not to damage any of the green spring shoots if you remove the dead foliage in the spring.

Read more about when to cut back daylilies below!

when to cut back daylilies

When To Cut Back Daylilies

Daylilies are best cut back in autumn, once the leaves have had a full growing season on the plant. While there are some evergreen types of daylilies, most are herbaceous, meaning that the leaves die back in the wintertime and sprout anew in the spring. Unless you’ve got one of the rarer evergreen types, its good to remove the dead foliage to keep the garden looking neat and discourage habitat for slugs and other pests.

How To Cut Back Daylilies

A common method of cutting back daylilies is to cut the leaves back to a few inches tall once they’ve been hit with the first fall frost. Then the area around the cut stalks is mulched with homemade compost to add fertility for next year’s blooms.

Cutting back daylily plants is easiest with a pair of handheld pruning shears. These are my favorite ones to use:

Alternatively, leave the whole plant standing until the snow melts in the spring or until new green shoots appear in the springtime. Then carefully remove the dead foliage from the crown of the plants. A fresh 1″ layer of homemade compost around the plant will help it look great and give nutrition to its roots to enhance blooms!

If you’re cutting daylilies back in the spring and then planning to mulch them, you can also take the opportunity to divide your daylilies. These perennial flowers will live for years without being divided, but dividing the roots is a great way to get more plants for free! Dig up the whole plant and carefully pull apart its tuber-like roots. Replant smaller amounts of the plant to have a whole garden full of daylily plants!

“A mulch of old manure, straw, compost or leaves keeps up fertility and reduces maintenance to near zero; it is not even necessary to cut away foliage in fall. During winter, let it lie where it falls (unless you are bothered by slugs), and new shoots will push through the tangle come spring.”

The Harrowsmith Perennial Garden: Flowers for Three Seasons, by Patrick Lima
Cutting back a daylily plant in the fall

Why To Leave Foliage Standing Until Autumn

While you can cut daylilies back in the fall or in the spring, its important to let the leaves stay on the plant through the summer. The leaves of the plant are its essential equipment for creating energy. Let all healthy leaves remain on the plant throughout the growing season so they can produce energy that will be stored in the roots over winter.

Without leaves in the sunlight during the summer, a daylily plant will have a hard time surviving winter and then putting on blooms next summer. Remove any leaves that are damaged or diseased, but try to leave the healthy ones attached until they’re killed by freezing weather (or there is at least freezing weather in the weather forecast!).

“Evergreen daylilies (cultivars that maintain foliage year-round) tend to be the best choices for hot-climate gardens. Dormant daylilies have foliage that dies down in fall prior to winter dormancy and usually are the best choices for cold-climate regions”

Essential Perennials: The Complete Reference to 2700 Perennials for the Home Garden, by Ruth Rogers Clausen and Thomas Christopher

Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane is a home gardener who loves creating healthy, welcoming spaces (indoors and out!) - About Mary Jane (https://www.homefortheharvest.com/authors/about-mary-jane-duford/)

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