The Daylily King and How to Become a Millionaire Selling Daylilies
The Daylily King and How I Became Addicted to Daylilies
I am addicted to collecting daylilies. One year while traveling on vacation, I found a brochure at one of the rest areas on the way to our cottage. It had been placed there by Fred Sheill, better known as the Daylily King. The brochure advertised that you could become worth a million dollars in 10 years. My husband and I both were avid gardeners and this sounded like an interesting spot to stop. We thought we'd just pick out a few daylilies to add to our perennial garden beds.
The best part was meeting Fred. What is special about Fred? When we first visited him in 2002, he was already 94 years old and still going strong. We stopped after that every year for about three years. The last year he said it may be his last year. The next year his sign was down and I worried he had passed away, but no the next year his sign was back up and I received an ad in the mail that he was selling out the daylilies. I figured he had finally quit but then a couple of years later there was story about him and his daylily farm in the Detroit Free Press. I just now read an article about him being 102 and still selling daylilies.
I don’t know if Fred is still living or not because I haven’t been to Augres, Michigan for about six years. At the time the Free Press article came out, he was 102 years old and still selling daylilies! The daylily business may still be there. If you happen to pass there be sure to stop.
Fred also loved to tell the story about his Canadian geese which live right with the daylilies. An injured goose was brought to him to nurse. The goose would follow him everywhere and watch in the windows of the house at night. While in the field the geese would feed on the weeds, so they were a wonderful addition to the business. The geese were so tame that they would come right up to you. When we took our grandson with us, Fred let him feed the geese.
Fred wrote two books that he offered for sale. One was filled with stories about his Canadian geese. When he was younger he ran a nursery business selling trees which was hard work, but allowed him and his wife to do a lot of winter traveling. The man was filled with stories.
Fred had row after row of daylilies. If you aren’t familiar with daylilies, they bloom at different times and are available in a large variety of colors. You can get bi-colors and tri-colors. There are also doubled petal daylilies and spiders. I now have over 100 different varieties, but there are thousands available. Breeders are constantly coming out with new varieties that are ruffly, with edgings and more. Some of these are so beautiful they are hard to resist.
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Fred gave all the advice you needed to grow the daylilies and start you own business. Dayliiles are profitable to grow because if planted early they can double every year. The plant make fans and can be divided and each fan will make a new plant. So one hundred daylilies will multiply to 200 the second year, 400 the third, 800 the fourth, and 1600 the fifth. It’s easy to see how it can really add up. By the tenth year you would have 51,200 daylilies.
Fred had 200,000 plants on his 5 acres. If you buy several hundred daylilies you can see how the profit is made from these. Back in 2002, Fred was selling the fans for $3.00 each, but later charged $5.00 per plant, but I think he also sold doubled fan plants later on.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I needed more space if I was going to start a business. My yard was crammed with daylilies. From this small property, you can earn extra money. It is better if you have a small field to start out.
One of the perks of the business that Fred liked was the advertising. He’d travel in the winter dropping off brochures at rest areas and was able to write-off the expense from his income tax. Because he enjoyed traveling the country, he liked the opportunity. Also included in his brochure was a mail order form and that got a good share of his business. He wouldn’t get orders for just a couple daylilies, but large quantities since others wanted to start a business too.
One of these days, I hope I am able to go back and see if Fred’s daylily farm still exists. Since then I have found others that are growing daylilies due to his good advice. I wonder how many daylily farms he helped to start and I’ve always wondered if tending them kept him living so many years.
An Update on Fred
In 2013, The Daylily King turned 104. He now lives in a different state in an assisted living home. Being near his son is a joy for him.