Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris ( Iris germanica)

The tall sturdy flower stem can reach up to twenty eight inches or more. The flowers look like delicate crepe paper and velveteen surrounded by sword like blue green leaves. Its fragrance hints of lilac and candy. This poor man’ s orchid comes in a kaleidoscope colors which is why irises were named after the Greek goddess Iris goddess of the rainbow.  Today’s hybrids comprise of approximately two hundred species. They bloom longer and some cultivars bloom twice per season.

The flower is made up of three upright petals called the standards and three drooping petals called falls. The beard refers to the velvet strip inside the flower.

Plant the rhizomes in full sun  and well- drained fertile soil.  Avoid clay soil, a wet soil can lead to rot as well as invite other problems such as iris borer.

The best time to plant bearded iris in mid-July through September and in areas with hot summers and mild winters, September/ October. You can also plant them in the spring.  Place the rhizome tops even or 1/3 of the rhizome above the soil surface 12 to 24″ apart with the growing tips pointing outward of the circle or triangle .
Keep the beds clean and free of weeds.

Divide and transplant
Iris should be divided every 3-5 years right after bloom in July/Sept. A crowded bed will reduce bloom as well as invite diseases. When digging up and dividing, be carefull not to damage the rhizome and check for soft, soggy spots (bacterial soft rot).

How to divide
Dig under a clump of rhizomes and lift out the whole clump. Wash away the soil and inspect them for any pinholes or soft spots. Remove and discard any diseased rhizomes.  Cut each rhizome with a sharp knife making sure each division has at least a fan of leaves and roots (about 3-4). Before replanting, cut back the leaves to 1/3 of their full height and replant them the same way they were planted. Spread the roots facing downward into the soil and cover with soil , then press firmly in place making sure your rhizome is at soil level or slightly above. Water in thoroughly. Plant a least 3 rhizomes in a triangle or an alternating row pattern; pointing the fan of leaves away from each other. Plant 18-24 inches apart. Closer planting (10-12) will fill in quicker but will have to be divided more often. Give or exchange the extra bulbs with your friends or neighbors to enjoy.

After transplanting,  bearded iris need time to establish a root system before freezing weather sets in. Make sure they get enough moisture and after the soil freezes add 3-4 inches of mulch (straw, pine needles, evergreens) to protect the roots from heaving and freezing temperatures. Mulching is also recommended for newly planted rhizomes. Remove the mulch in early Spring.