Bearded Iris: The Most Popular Flower With the Most Colors
Every serious gardener has a corner reserved for bearded Irises. It is an elegantly ornate flower that stands heads and shoulders above your other plants. As a hardy perennial anyone can grow them if they are placed in the proper environment. The variety of colors is unbelievable, so much so that it is easily tailored to match any color scheme you might have going in your garden. The bearded Iris is the most popular flower with the most colors, without a doubt.
Rhizomes should be planted between July-September. Place the rhizomes just under the surface and the tops just above. The only exceptions to this rule are in hot climates and light soil, in which cases you must cover the rhizomes with about an inch of soil. Tamp the soil and water well. Just do not plant your irises too deep.
Your Irises should be no closer than 12-24 inches apart or you will have to separate them in only 2-3 years. Close planting will yield quick results, including deep colors, but the plants will clump together. Also, close planting can produce a higher rate of disease among your irises; be careful.
- Make a 10-inch hole 4 inches deep for planting and build a small mound in the center.
- Place the rhizomes on the top of the mound, fanning their roots out over the mound, like hair.
- Tamp the soil down lightly around the roots.
- Water them thoroughly.
If you are not in a hot climate, you will want to give your irises full sunlight. They love 6-8 hours daily. You can grow them in dark shade, but they probably will never flower.
Give your Irises plenty of drainage. Two good ideas are to plant them on a slope or in a raised bed. If you cannot do these, at least add organic material, such as humus or compost to improve drainage. Irises do not tolerate standing water, nor stale air. Make sure there is adequate circulation.
If you happen to have clay soil you can modify it by adding gypsum. While Irises can withstand variations in pH, they prefer an acidic soil of 6.8. If your soil is too alkaline just put some sulfur in it, but even before that you should have the soil tested to know exactly which corrections are appropriate for your garden. Try not to use nitrogen containing fertilizers, since they encourage disease prone growth.
When you do fertilize your Irises, do so lightly in the Spring and then again once they bloom. Apply it near the rhizomes, but not directly on them. Avoid feed and weed solutions. One of the best types of fertilizers are solid alfalfa without salt. It is greatly beneficial to the soil.
All perennials, such as Irises, take time to grow. You will observe a new central leaf after about 2-3 weeks. If the rhizomes are too immature or you are on the edge of a temperate zone, your Irises may not produce any blossoms the first Spring.
When you first plant your new Irises, the rhizomes will require moisture in their roots. So watch the top three inches of soil and water your plants when this soil dries out. Never water your irises too much. If you must err then you would do better watering them too infrequently. Keep providing moisture to the roots until the first rain. If there is not enough rain again then water as needed. It is better to provide a few deep waterings rather than many shallow ones.
General Care Tips
Bearded Irises are really not so hard to care for. The rhizomes require sunlight and the best way to ensure this is to clean your bed of weeds and debris. Break off blossom stalks right after the season in order to avoid accidental crossing of species. If the bees are allowed to cross pollinate then seedpods will result and fall to the soil. The plants that grow from these pods will certainly be less attractive than your original plants.
Since July and August are the warmest months and plants tend to be dormant, for Northern Temperate climates, this is the best time to divide crowded Irises and replant them separately. You typically will not have to deal with overcrowding for 3-4 years after planting new specimens. Watch for a decline in the bloom. Take all clumps out of the soil and plant in fresh soil. Make sure to remove all excess soil and to throw out the old centers before replanting. Choose some of the larger rhizomes for best results. Make sure the roots of the moved plants and any new plants have taken hold well before the first hard freeze hits, at least 4-6 weeks prior.