Skip to Content

Early Spring Daylily Care – How To Clean Up, Split And Transplant Daylilies

Spring is just around the corner, and that means it’s time for some early spring daylily care!

Daylilies are one of the most popular perennials in the home landscape. And it’s certainly easy to see why. Not only are they drought and deer resistant, they also are extremely low maintenance when it comes to long term care.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t require a bit of care now and then to keep both their foliage and blooms in top shape. And it just so happens that early spring is the perfect time for giving them a little TLC.

Early Spring Daylily Care

Daylilies are one of the hardiest perennial plants around. And that makes them an ideal candidate for early season maintenance. In fact, as long as the soil around the plant’s roots has thawed, daylilies can be worked.

That includes clearing away spent foliage, digging up and dividing overgrown clumps. And, of course, replanting those divisions into your landscape to create more plants. All for free!

Spring daylily care
A little late winter / early spring care on your daylily plants can help them to a strong blooming season. In addition, it can also create additional plants to help fill your bed spaces for free.

Not only does it allow you to get a jump on spring landscaping chores, it also allows the daylilies enough time to re-establish in the soil to still bloom strong in the coming season.

With that in mind, here is a look at the simple steps for good spring daylily care:

The Secrets To Good Spring Daylily Care

#1) Clear Away Spent Foliage

For starters, begin by clearing away all of the spent foliage from the clumps. Daylilies die back completely to the soil line. Usually by late winter / early spring, the foliage will pull from the plant with ease.

If not, use a sharp pair of hedge shears to cut the entire mass of blades and stems back. Cut as close to the soil line as possible.

This will allow you a good look at the clump size, which is helpful in determining if splitting and dividing are necessary.

clearing foliage away
All of the foliage from the previous year’s growth should be removed in early spring. This allows for the new growth to develop quickly.

Removing this old foliage also helps greatly for the health and vitality of the plant. Although new growth will eventually overtake the plant, the old foliage can harbor pests and disease.

In addition, leaving the decaying mass in place will significantly stunt and delay the new growth emerging from below. Not only can it diminish blooms, but it also leaves beds looking quite unsightly for the duration of spring.

New Growth At The Surface – Spring Daylily Care

Depending how close to spring you are while tending to your plants, you may already see new green growth at the base of the plant after removing the old foliage.

This is quite common as the decaying foliage provides enough warmth and insulation to propel growth. Don’ be alarmed or concerned about the growth so early in the year.

early spring daylily care
When the old foliage is removed, you may see new growth already present at the base. This will not be harmed by early spring frosts or even a hard freeze. The plant will simply send new shoots up if the top shoots die back.

The small starts will surely die back again with any subsequent frost or freeze. But, rest assured, it will not harm or injure the plant. Daylilies are nearly kill-proof, and new growth will soon reappear from the base.

Dividing & Transplanting Overgrown Daylilies

Once the old foliage has been removed, it’s time to determine if your daylilies need to be split and divided.

For optimum plant health and blooms, you should divide your daylilies every 4 to 5 years. Although dividing can occur at any size, plants with bases larger that 18″ in circumference will greatly benefit from division.

When the plants become too thick and overgrown, they struggle from cramped roots. The foliage also tends to grow to dense, which all leads to fewer blooms.

dividing daylilies in the early spring
Daylilies are extremely hardy and can be split nearly any time the ground is workable. Dividing in early spring however allows them to establish and bloom in the same season.

By digging up and dividing, the roots can then easily absorb more nutrients from the soil with more room to spread out and grow.

Splitting Daylilies – Spring Daylily Care

To dig out, loosen the soil a few inches behind the outer edge of plant’s base. Next, drive your space down under the roots around the base, and lift up to pop the plant out of the soil.

For extremely large plants, remove in sections, slicing in half or quartering the plant to remove it from the ground. Slicing into a few roots at this point will not harm the plant.

As long as daylilies have a section of roots in-tact, they will easily regrow and establish into new starts.

Dividing The Daylilies – Spring Daylily Care

One the plant is out of the ground, flip it over so that the base of the roots are facing up. This makes it easy to see where to split and divide your new plant sections.

Using a sharp spade or garden knife (this is where we love our Hori-Hori Garden Knife!), simply cut away sections from the root ball. Each new section then becomes a new daylily start.

The size of the cuttings will determine the size of the new plant. Larger sections produce larger initial plants. Likewise, smaller create smaller plants.

A good rule of thumb is to keep root sections to about 3 to 4″ in diameter. This will create new starts that can stay in the ground 4 to 5 years without any additional care. (The video at the top of the post shows the process from start to finish)

Check Out Our Latest Garden Podcast:

Creating Free Potted Plants

If you have a few extra starts, it’s great idea is to place them in pots for the coming year. Daylilies make excellent potted plants, requiring little water or maintenance.

At the end of the growing season, simply plant them back into a flowerbed or your garden. They can then be used again next year for beautiful sustainable potted plants.

Here is to a little spring daylily care, and getting ready for big blooms and healthy plants this year! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.

Jim and Mary Competti have been writing gardening, DIY and recipe articles and books for over 15 years from their 46 acre Ohio farm. The two are frequent speakers on all things gardening and love to travel in their spare time.

As always, feel free to email us at with comments, questions, or to simply say hello! You can sign up for our free email list in the subscribe now box in the middle of this article. Follow us on Facebook here : OWG Facebook. This article may contain affiliate links.