The Garden Goddess: Welcome to Hybridizing Class 101

By Mary Lee Harrington

Hello fellow gardeners,

I’d like to thank my husband, Jim, for allowing me to have a little space on his website to share photos of the many daylilies I have been collecting since 2009. Also, planting tips and gardening ideas.

Above photo: Daylily shown with one pistil and six stamens.

Most of my daylily collection has been acquired from local growers as well as purchases made online. To date, I have 450. My very first purchase was “Moses Fire”, which totally hooked me. It was years later, that it had a very special spot when I designed my Biblical and Spiritual Garden. There are 62 other daylilies to keep Moses company, all have Spiritual or Biblical names. The garden is adorned with many statues, other perennials, and shrubs. Lovely space to spend some peaceful moments after a busy day of working in the garden beds. I now have 22 to weed, water and fertilize! Jim has been very generous, giving up his precious lawn space to add another bed, but I think I am finally done.

It was in 2014 that I found my new hobby, becoming a “backyard hybridizer.” First a little background on what it means to hybridize. You are simply creating a brand-new cultivar, as in the above photo.

Above photo: Fertilized bloom the following day after making the 1.5 inch cut and numbered tag.



Hybridizing is simply the process of taking the pollen from one daylily and fertilizing another daylily. Of course, there are a few rules to follow. The most important rule is to know the ploidy (refers to the number of chromosomes) of the two daylilies you wish to cross. There are tetraploids and diploids, better known as tets and dips. You need to know this for your cross to take. You can only cross tets with tets and dips with dips. So therefore, you need to know the name of your daylilies and then you can search the daylily database online for the ploidy. I love keeping databases in Excel, so all the information I need is at my fingertips.

A daylily has six stamens which carry pollen and one pistil. It is very easy to take the stamens from one daylily over to another one and rub the pollen on the tip of the pistil. Just a very small amount from one stamen is enough. The daylily that takes the pollen on the pistil, I call the mother and the pollen came from the father. You should place a numbered tag on the pod parent (the mother), to keep track of your crosses. I then record the tag number with the name of the “father” and the name of the “mother”.

The Creation: On July 31, 2017, Mary Lee Harrington hybridized Beaded Light to Nubble Light resulting in a beautiful mellow yellow daylily.

Daylilies are both male and female, so they can all produce a seed pod, which means if you cross two daylilies, just reverse the process, and cross the other way. You choose which one is to produce the seed pod. Some are better pod producers than others.

There is a science to this crossing, but I didn’t start out that way, I just had fun. Now I really think about what I want to accomplish, so I am very selective with my crosses. Plus, I have run out of room to plant them all. To date, I have crossed 395 through 2022 and I am working on no more than 20 for 2023. So far this year, I have made 116 crosses and only 16 have taken. Also, some of those that first took could fall off later.

The fertilization usually takes place within 24 hours, but you won’t know that until about three days later. Since the daylily bloom that you have fertilized only lasts for one day, on the following day, you should cut the faded bloom off leaving about 1.5 inches to reduce the weight. The numbered tag should be secured around that stem of that cut bloom. Maybe on the third or fourth day, you can slip off the dried remainder of the one inch and if fertilization took place, a tiny seed pod would be there. It is about the size of a small caper. It will continue to grow for 45-60 days and be ready for harvesting when it is the size of a small walnut, having turned brown and cracked open. Inside will be shiny black seeds. In my next post, I will explain what you do with those black seeds. Until then, have fun.

Any questions, please feel free to email me at:


The Garden Goddess