Teardrop Farm Daylily Patch
Teardrop Farm Daylily Patch

What is Hybridizing?

Hybridizing Daylilies is the art and science of cross pollinating two plants of the same species to produce a seed crop.


The Basics

Hybridizing Daylilies is the art and science of taking two plants of the same species and cross pollinating them to produce a seed crop. Hybridizing goes back about as far as recorded history. Hybrid Daylilies are produced in hopes of bringing forth a new and improved plant from the mixing of the gene pool. Huge strides are being made in producing bigger, more unusual, and more beautiful flowers-all on healthier and more adaptable plants. New looks come along as fast as new seasons of introductions do. These new introductions can cost from $100-$300 or even higher! That makes the price out of reach for the avid home gardener who loves flowers and all the joy that goes with gardening.

I'm one of those hybridizers out there who is buying and cultivating the latest and the greatest in daylilies. I also produce several thousand new seedlings every year. Those thousands have to be sorted through to just a few “pearls”. That means that hundreds of beautiful one of a kind plants must be destroyed every season. Rather than destroy hundreds of gorgeous, one-of-a-kind plants, I'd like to make them available and affordable to flower lovers (everywhere) through the Adopt-A-Daylily Program!

You can now add beautiful cutting edge exotic and classic daylilies to your garden at a fraction of the cost.


Source: Cheryl Postlewait

Source: Cheryl Postlewait

Parts of a Daylily

When you look at the drawing above you can see all the parts of a Daylily. The Flower is held above the foliage by the Scape. Look at the flower and you will see all the important parts. “The birds and bees” of the Daylily. The female parts in total are called the “Pistil” made up of the Stigma, Style and Ovary and the male parts in total are called the “Stamen” made up of the Anther and Filament.

To start the hybridizing process the hybridizer has to pick two flowers to cross. Every hybridizer has their own technique for choosing what they will cross. I personally have as a priority the health and the appearance of the plant first and then strive to put a pretty face on a sturdy well branched scape. As we all know, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Once the flowers are selected for crossing I remove the Anther along with a small piece of the Filament to use as a handle. The Anther is where the pollen is. The pollen contains the sperm cells used to fertilize a daylilies ova. At the tip of the Pistil, the female reproductive organs, is the Stigma where I gently rub the pollen. If the sperm cells travel down the Style in a few days you will see what I call a pregnant bump. In about 60 days a fruit will grow and ripen in a seed pod and when harvested will produce from one to about 15 seeds. Each seed is a unique mix of genetics from the two parents.

Here in Kansas it will take 18 months for a bloom from seedling and another couple years to evaluate the plant. 

Source: The New York Botanical Garden

Source: The New York Botanical Garden

The Father of Hybridizing - Arlow Stout

Arlow Burdette Stout (1876-1957)

Arlow was an American botanist and the pioneer breeder of the modern hybrid daylily. In 1911 he was appointed curator of the New York Botanical Gardens. While there he collected wild daylilies from around the world and began his investigation of seed reproduction in flowering plants. With selective breeding for more than three decade and over 50,000 cross pollination experiments he developed stunning hybrid flowers. Stout produced over one hundred viable daylily hybrids and revolutionized nursery breeding and moved forward modern interest and love of daylilies. In 1946 the American Hemerocallis Society was formed. The AHS is an international registry for daylilies. The Society presents annually the Stout Silver Medal award, voted on by AHS garden Judges, in honor of Dr. Arlow B. Stout

Moving Genetics Forward

Daylilies are very easy to hybridize. One does not need a horticulture degree or know the history going back to Arlo Stout and all the great things he did to move the daylily forward as a garden plant. All you need are a couple of Daylilies. There is one very important thing that does need to be understood that deals with genetics. There are basically two types of daylilies used in hybridizing, “Diploids” and “Tetraploids”.  These terms have to do with the number of chromosomes in the cell. A diploid will not cross with a tetraploid. If you are thinking about hybridizing whether the flower you are purchasing is a ‘dip’ or ‘tet’ is a must know. However, when crossing a dip to dip and tet to tet most daylilies set a pod easily.

Looking at the photo’s above you can see crosses I have made in my Breeding Program. Working with the flowers is a lesson in many aspects of everyday life. The first lesson is; you don’t always get what you want. However, the positive side to that is that nature, with the mixing of genetics, can give you more than you hoped for. More beauty, more colors, more patterns, more joy, and more directions to go than was ever in my mind. I really love the white petal with a patterned eye. As you can see the daylily gods gave me a real winner to work with. I will see my first seedlings bloom from seedling 1314MU this year.