It’s Time to Divide Iris

by Sandy Swegel

Bearded Iris meet many of my criteria for a flower garden.  Their flowers are big and colorful.  They are sturdy and withstand hail. Here in Colorado they are virtually disease free.

One of the best and the worst things about iris is that they reproduce like crazy.  Especially in rainy years like we’ve had the last couple of years.  You can ignore the massive clump of green blades, but if you want more flowers, you have to divide the iris every few years.

A few facts:

July to September is iris dividing season. After bloom but give the roots some time to reestablish.

The roots of iris are called rhizomes…big clunky and ginger-like.  Photosynthesis occurs in the rhizome.  If the rhizome doesn’t get some light, the plant rarely blooms.

The fan (the leaves) that bloomed this year will never bloom again. So you can cut it off and throw it away.  Two buds on either side of this fan will send up their own leaves and bloom next year.   Those are what you’ll be replanting.

Giving away iris is like giving away zucchini in August. Some gardeners are thrilled but others run when they see you coming.

The two most important things to remember when replanting iris:

Good drainage.  Iris will handle drought and bad soil, but standing water rots them.

The rhizome needs to be slightly above soil level.

Now iris come in many colors and there are definitely fads.  This year no one can give away purple iris.  They’ve somehow become commonplace.  But I  brought a huge clump of white iris to a garden meeting and grown women were fighting over single rhizomes.  Go figure.  Fortunately, before digging from the mixed iris bed, we had used a permanent marker to write on the leaves the color of the flower.

It’s a bit of work but there is one awesome secret about iris that means you have to grow them.  They smell just like their color.  Purple iris smell like grape snowballs.  Yellow iris smell exactly as you’d think yellow should smell.  Apricot iris have a delicate sweet aroma. What a delight to plant a walkway with irises.

 

Photo credit txmg.org/elpaso/event/farmers-market-series-2014-07-26/

Art by Nancy Baker www.hear2heal.com/bearded-ladies-limited-edition-fine-art-iris-garden-nancy-baker-p-756.html

1 reply
  1. Nancy Beckham
    Nancy Beckham says:

    My grandmothers and my mother grew iris and I’ve grown iris since 1988 and we always divided our iris in November. We all live(d) in Alabama and that may have something to do with it. I think it’s too hot here to move iris in the summer. The temperature here will be in the upper nineties today and I believe that puts too much stress on the plants, not to mention the gardener. In early November it will be much cooler. The big question is, “What will I do with the extra iris from the last separation?” I didn’t have enough room in the iris bed for all of them, so I stuck them in pots. In two summers they have sent roots through the bottoms of the pots and into the ground and have tripled the sizes of the rhizomes. Anyone want some iris?

    Reply

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