Hooker Formula for Daylilies

PHILOSOPHY OF FERTILIZING by George Hooker

Long ago I gave up on the use of solid fertilizers and adding the individual ingredients to each plant. It is a tedious, time consuming method, and there is no way to get even distribution throughout the plants’ root systems. Finally, adding solid materials through a two inch mulch is a pain in the neck.

The dilute solution I use distributes itself nicely throughout the root area of the plant. An important point — no part of the root system is in contact with a strong fertilizer solution which can cause fertilizer burn. Although the fertilizer solution is available at once, the plant takes only what it needs and the bulk of the fertilizer material is absorbed by the soil particles, and stored for future use. This stored fertilizer will be leached out by subsequent rains or watering thus be available to the plant in solution form. Always remember that the roots of a plant can drink, but cannot eat.

For 15 years I have grown more than 500 plants, roses, and daylilies, and recently it has been more than 800 plants. Therefore, I need an efficient and orderly fertilizing system to keep the time and labor down to a reasonable figure, and at the same time, add the desired amounts of material to each plant.

Fertilizing Method

Make up 5 gallons of stock solution:

1-2lb. coffee can of Peter’s 15-30-15
1-2lb. coffee can fish emulsion
1-6oz. can Epsom Salts – Magnesium Sulfate
1-8oz. can Cygon – (Editor’s note: Cygon is no longer available)
1-oz. Sequestrene – Iron Chelate

These materials are all water soluble. Water is added to the 5 gallon mark while stirring. One 12 oz. can of stock solution contains the desired amount of each ingredient for 1 large rose bush or 1 daylily clump. For miniature roses or a small 1 – 2 fan daylily clump, I use a 6 oz. can of stock solution. The 5 gallons (640 liquid oz.) is enough for 53 plants (12 oz. can each) or 106 plants (6oz. can each).

Note: I do NOT, repeat, do NOT apply the stock solution to the plants.

The Actual Procedure

In practice, the job is best done by two persons – 1 easy job and 1 active job. A large garden cart (or wheelbarrow) near the bed, contains the 5 gallon can of stock solution, 3 or 4 ten quart pails, a 12 oz. can and a 6 oz. can.

Person #1 (easy job) holds a running water hose (fast enough to fill up a 10 quart pail in a minute or less) and also dips (rubber gloves) a can full of stock solution into each pail.

Person #2 (active job) lifts the full pails from the cart and pours the dilute solution into the soil at the base of each plant. By working hard, it is possible to fertilize 100 plants an hour, but 50-60 plants per hour is an easy pace and will take care of my 800 plants in two days. But in those two days the plants have (1) been watered and (2) have been fertilized for the next six weeks and (3) have been protected from sucking insects for a month to six weeks.

Of course, for the system to work, the soil should be loose and friable, as it should be anyway, so the solution will soak into the ground and not run off. Sometimes if the soil is hard, I cultivate around the base of the plants before starting to fertilize. Usually this is not a problem for I like to add cow manure in the fall or winter and also use ground corn cob mulch so the ground is receptive and the solution goes right through the mulch (no problem). Also I pour the dilute solution right into the center of a daylily clump with no harm to the foliage.

Purpose of the Components:

The 15-30-15 soluble fertilizer is a good growing compostion and the high phosphate corrects a general phosphate deficiency in the Pittsburgh area soils. Not only that, but the solution distributes the phosphate throughout the root area which solid phosphate fertilizers cannot do. If you think this is too much nitrogen, change to 9-45-15 plant starter for May 15 and July 1 application (41% less nitrogen).

The fish emulsion adds hormones, vitamins and promotes vigorous growth. The epsom salts supplies magnesium, in soluble form, required in photosynthesis. Iron also gives deeper and richer colors, desirable in most cases, notably lavenders, purples, and pinks. Too much iron, however, does not improve bright scarlet roses and daylilies. The resultant deeper red is not nearly so bright. The Cygon protects roses and daylilies against sucking insects like aphids (deadly) and thrip. Roses are protected against rose midge. Cane borers often start to drill a rose cane protected with Cygon and quit after about 1/4 inch without laying eggs. Maybe they do not like the taste of the Cygon.

Sometimes I add a growth hormone, or a soluble seaweed to the brew. You can add your own magic components.


===========All Below is NOT by Mr. Hooker ===============

Daylily Fertilizer Schedule

Feed daylilies in March and July with Slow Release Lawn Food (16-4-8) or Espoma Plant Tone or Flower Tone. Follow up 6 weeks later with amended Hooker Formula or when you need to treat for insects and/or diseases

Amended Hooker Formula

Add the following to 1 gallon of water and spray the plant foliage: 1 Tablespoon Miracle Gro (15-30-15), 1 Tablespoon Epsom Salt, 3/4 Tablespoon Iron Chelate (liquid iron), and 1 Tablespoon Fish Emulsion
From http://www.tidewaterdaylilysociety.org/growing-daylilies.html


Hooker’s Formula for a 5 gallon bucket – Ready to Apply – Not the Stock Solution

1/3 cup Peters or Miracle Grow (Crystals)
1/3 cup Epsom salts
1/3 cup liquid iron
1/3 cup fish emulsion
5 gallons of water

Put the ingredients into the 5 gallon bucket, then add the water using a garden hose making sure the ingredients are well mixed and dissolved. As the mixture should not be stored, adjust the recipe to make only the amount you need. Apply 2-4 cups to each clump, more or less, depending on the size of the clump.


I saw an advertisement in a garden publication for a “Hyponex
Brass Siphon Mixer”; cost, less than $10.00. The mixer would add
16 times as much water to a solution in a 10 quart bucket. My
problem was solved! All I had to do was calculate how much to
dilute the basic stock solution and figure how long it would take to
put 10 quarts of solution on a clump. Now instead of carrying tons
of liquid I could spend the day walking up and down the rows of
daylilies with a hose in my hand, counting to 40 and enjoying a day
in the garden (My wife, Betty, keeps the concentrate bucket full).

  • Start 20 quarts of stock solution
  • Add 13 quarts of plain water
  • Result 33 quarts
  • At 16 to 1 we add 528 quarts plain water
  • Result 561 quarts diluted solution
  • At 10 quarts per clump, we have fed 56 clumps. The hand method by Hooker fed the same stock solution to 53 plants. In my large garden I usually make 2 batches at a time. It saves time this way and the strain on the human body is minimal.

Evaluation Of The “Diet” Hooker Formula
Nell Crandall, Houston, TX

As I mentioned in my article in the Region 6 Spring 1986
Newsletter, I sprayed my daylilies with a watered-down version of
the Hooker formula, using approximately 1/26th the amount that
Mr. Hooker used. I sprayed in March and again in April. The
spraying in May never got done. In the second spraying in April, I
used more Cygan than Mr. Hooker had in his recipe. I mixed up
the formula as Mr. Hooker did, leaving out the Cygan 2-E, and
then added 4 T. of Cygon 2-E for each 6-gallon sprayerful. The
small amount of Cygon in the Hooker formula is really not strong
enough for the bug population in Houston.

I was pleased with the results. I had more bloom than I have
ever had. The color was brighter, and I had more rebloom than I
have ever had. However, everyone in this area had more rebloom
than they have ever had. We had good rains in June, so the Hooker
formula may not have been a factor there. I think it takes more
than one bloom season to evaluate, because more first bloom could
also be attributed to the weather. I do believe the extra brightness
in the color is due to the Hooker formula.

My friend, Joan Oglesby, who used the spray formula also, and
used some of the formula full-strength, had much more bloom and branching than I did. She had much taller scapes. In fact, they were much too tall for her liking. She thought that she must have gotten an extra concentration of the Hooker formula on those plants that grew extra tall.


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