Region 13

Daylilies in Louisiana & Arkansas
American Hemerocallis Society

Hybridizing Ideas

Clarence J. Crochet
Prairieville, Louisiana

      First of all, if we grow a few daylilies and are tempted to “dab” pollen and do so, we have become hybridizers!  Like many other activities, hybridizing can and does bring much enjoyment, pleasure and if we are lucky, notable rewards.  Among the rewards that we might gain is the admiration of other hybridizers both locally and nationally and the recognition of our efforts by the American Hemerocallis Society through their Awards and Honors System.

     As everyone knows, hybridizing daylilies is a very simple activity and learning how and when is no problem. 

     There are a few procedures and conditions necessary for success, however.  They are as follows:

  1. We should have a goal in mind before we start hybridizing.  The goal might be that we want to work with miniatures, small flowers, spiders and unusual forms, large flowers, diploids or tetraploids.  Perhaps we will not have such a plan and that we would like to be a “pretty on pretty” type of hybridizer.  It goes without saying that there are many serious hybridizers out there who use nothing more than daily cross selections with no thought of labeling their crosses.  There are also hundreds of hybridizers who carefully label each cross primarily with the idea that a record of crosses must be made in order to succeed with their work.  In any case, we must decide which we will do.
  • At home, we have followed a path in hybridizing to obtain larger and larger blooms in our diploid seedlings.  This is done by hybridizing only the largest blooms on any given day to obtain seedlings that fit in the new A. H. S. class of large flowered daylilies.

  • One fault that we made early on was to make too many seeds – so many that we really had no hope of planting all of them!  Since then, we have reduced the numbers of seed made per year by careful selection.  We have also been able to keep seed production to a minimum while still getting good seedlings from our crosses.

  1. How do we begin?  Basic to good hybridizing results is that we begin with good modern cultivars or seedlings in order to obtain positive, acceptable results.  Why is this?  The answer is that if we use older types of daylilies we will be doing what surely has been done with using any particular cultivar.  Usually, older cultivars have been “tested out” to see if desirable seedling could come from them.  By using them we might be duplicating what has all ready been done.  It benefits us to purchase the best parent plants that we can afford and go from there by making seedlings from them and using these to upgrade our own collections.  Daylilies at the present time are “fast forward” as far as the beauty of the flower is concerned.  Each year produces improvements over what has already been done with them.  This is all part of the fun of hybridizing and it is a competitive and healthy condition.
  2. When we produce seedlings from new daylilies we are then confronted with the problem of recognizing distinction in them.  Ultimately we are faced with the following – the ability to know if the new seedling is really “top of the line”.  It usually takes two things: one is experience and the other is intuition.  There is no short cut for experience.  But experience can be and often is accelerated because of the times.  For instance, there is much to be gained by visiting other gardens and informally evaluating daylilies.  Becoming a garden judge for the A. H. S. is also a big help because it requires that we put into writing what we observe during our garden visits.  Another method of gaining experience is to ask the opinion of other daylily gardeners when we evaluate our own seedlings.  In selecting seedlings, intuition means the ability to see what is outstanding and distinctive about a particular seedling
  3. Do the plants I am using to hybridize have faults?  We should look for weaknesses before we “dab” pollen.  Among the weaknesses to consider could be leaning scapes, low bud count, lack of flower substance, “muddy” and unclear colors in the bloom, poor, weak plants, and above all, the lack of distinction.   What is distinction?  Webster’s Dictionary lists distinction as “the condition as being different” or the “recognition of differences”.  In daylilies, it is the quality of any bloom that sets it apart from others in that same or similar color.  Working in only one direction tends to produce seedlings, which are similar, especially with color.  If this occurs, we should use pollen from other colored sorts like rose, pink, reds, or other deeper colors.

     At best, hybridizing can be an “iffy” activity, but it can also make our day when we see a great seedling for the first time in the daylily garden.  Be sure to try your hand at hybridizing and often as not the outcome will be a positive one.  You might find that great seedling!

 (Originally printed in the 2006 Spring The Arkla Daylily.)