Hybridizing at Trenton Daylilies


After growing daylilies for many years and making crosses since 1983, I got serious about organized hybridizing with Tets in 2001.

I took the less expensive approach of obtaining good parents by really concentrating on the parentage and plant characteristics shown under the pretty pictures in Petit and Peat’s  ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DAYLILIES which had just  come out.  By 2003 I had come around to the fact that I did not want to keep reinventing the same daylilies.  So the next step was to buy some of the new, beautiful, and expensive plants.  At that time Stamile gave the most information about plant traits but I bought from several different hybridizers in order to keep hybrid vigor and get different traits.  I still buy plants from multiple growers to use in crosses with my own daylilies.

My goal is to produce a beautiful or interesting face above the foliage with good garden vigor and the following characteristics:

The face has to have clear colors, an interesting decoration or pattern, and good substance.

I prefer big flowers with  fancy edges but they should not hang-up.  A notch at the end of the petals or a slight pre-opening the night before seems to alleviate the problem.

I love UFs and I love patterned eyes.  But we can get so fancy that the only way to really appreciate the patterns is to see them  up close.  Bright colors and near whites are what really accent or show up in the garden from any distance.

The scape has to be sturdy and replete with good branching and budcount.

The plant should be reblooming, have  early morning opening, and be fertile.

Foliage should be graceful and with good color – no spiky foliage. Scape and foliage should be in proportion. Any obviously disease -prone foliage is rejected.

Vigor includes fan increase , early maturity, and ability to withstand our erratic KY weather. We are in Zone 6B. The fluctuations between warm and very cold with no snow cover really put plants to the test. I do not find a big difference with dormant, semi -evergreens, and evergreens as far as hardiness is concerned.  I believe it is an individual plant characteristic. Evergreens that get “Goo caps” from freezing are ugly but the plants seem to grow out of them.

I now do most of my crosses in the greenhouse from March through May.  I can obtain pod to flower in a year and do my first evaluations – mostly culling – there.  Some plants come up with good branching, bud count, and lovely flowers at first bloom.  You at least get an indication of what you want to plant outside for next evaluations. I do several thousand seeds each year and any bad colors, bad scapes, etc. are easy to eliminate without waiting two years. I have 3 categories of seedlings in the greenhouse – mulch, sell, or plant out for further watching.   The controlled climate – temperature, water and shade - makes setting pods easier in greenhouse than outside.  The greenhouse also helps to keep the bugs and bees from beating you to the cross.  

I use multicolor plastic wires for marking crosses.  Paper and plastic “bread tags” tend to fade and blow away or get eaten by grasshoppers.

When evaluating that first bloom season I mark the scapes with a slash mark.  If a plant does not get more than one slash, it is mulch.  With two slashes , it goes to the seedling sales area.  Three or more slashes it goes to further evaluation beds.  Sometimes I get really excited and they get stars on the scapes and go to special evaluation beds at the home site. In any event they have to be tested outside for hardiness and vigor.  None of these beds have shade cloth  and seldom get any mulch.

I collect the seeds and  put them in the refrigerator in a zip lock bag with a plastic label ready for planting.  Three weeks or so before planting, I pour a peroxide/water solution in each bag.  I use roughly 1 oz peroxide to a quart of distilled water. Some seeds stay there much longer but outside of beginning to sprout, they do ok.  The peroxide may have some effect on breaking seed dormancy.  At least it has a disinfectant attribute.  I have tried seeds with and without the peroxide water.  I find it does make a difference in how fast the seeds sprout. Germination is much more uniform. Don’t forget to squeeze the seeds to make sure they are firm before planting.

I plant seeds into Oasis Root cubes and then plant up into 2 gallon pots with a bark media.  Each seedling is assigned its own number.   I do 1 seedling per pot to prevent mixing plants and make it easier to plant outside later.  Whatever kind of media you use for your seeds, it should be sterile – not garden dirt. The Oasis cubes fit a 10x20” flat and have prepunched holes .  They don’t even require covering the seeds although I do push them down into the cube with the end of a pen or pencil.  The Oasis drains well which helps prevent damping off and fungus gnats.  I do soak the cubes in a Banrot solution before planting.

I use centrifuge tubes inside of zip lock bags for freezing pollen.

I recommend studying flower genetics as much as is possible. Some geneticists think plant characteristics may be more influenced by the pod parent than the pollen parent.  Tall seems to be dominant as do eyes.  Fertility seems to be a recessive trait.

I recommend scouring the web for hybridizing information.

The Cascade Bulb and Seed site.  This is by Dr.  Joseph C. Halinar in Oregon, a plant genetics expert who has written numerous articles for AHS .This is very complex material and requires concentration. It is very helpful and very interesting.  www.cascadebulbandseed.com/articles

Dave’s Garden


Petit and Peat have 2 editions of their ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DAYLILIES now.  It is useful.