‘tis very silly To gild refined gold, or paint the lily’.
I must confess that I’m a bit of a daylily bigot. I love the big bright flowers they’ve bred over the years, and can’t figure out why anyone would plant those anemic looking little ones. But that’s just my preference.
Technically, daylilies aren’t even true lilies. They all share the common “ditch lily” as a common ancestor, but have been bred over the years to a multitude of colors and sizes. some blooming early and some late. They all share the characteristic that each bloom opens in the morning, and fades that night. Most varieties send enough buds and blooms to keep blooming for 2 – 4 weeks, some varieties blooming early and others later.
It’s just a lucky quirk that many of the summer lilies bloom now too, creating a spectacular show of yellows and oranges and reds.
Daylilies and summer lilies can both be divided and propagated, but the process and timing is different. Daylilies are quite hardy and can technically be divided nearly any time. However, I like to divide either quiet early in the spring or just after they bloom. To divide, gently dig the root ball, and separate the plant into small clumps, each one with a bundle of little tubers supporting it. Depending on the variety, a big clump can produce anywhere from a handful to dozens of little transplants. Before planting, use a set of shears to cut back the tops of the plant to about 4” tall. Then plant and water. As with any transplanting or dividing, it’s best to do this in the afternoon in the shade, and keep well watered for the first few weeks.
Summer lilies are much different, and are quite picky about when you should transplant. You can transplant them early in the spring when they first come up – be sure and replant at the same depth as you dug them, and don’t cut the tops back. Or, you can wait until late in the summer – when the tops are dying back. If you divide and move them late in the year, the tops aren’t really important anymore – they’ve done their work of feeding the root during the summer.