Here in North Dakota, fall is peaking thru the summers haze and reminding us that “winter is coming”. While I was enjoying the cooler temps walking in my yard, I remembered how my grandma used to teach me about gardening. One such lesson was on dividing Iris bulbs. Now I have to try and convey to you, her method of teaching. Yes, she went through the basics of how you can start a new flower bed with poor soil just by breaking it up and mixing in some “organic matter” such as old leaves, vegetables scraps or even old banana peels. It’s the other style of teaching that made the lessons have lasting impressions.
You see, grandma had a degree in art with a minor in chemistry and approached things differently. She required me to look up the flowers and learn about them before I could lay hands on them! Back then there was no internet so I had to go to the trusty encyclopedia or many numerous magazines like her favorite “Sunset Magazine”, which I actually enjoyed. Then, I had to draw my own illustrations of the entire plant, with labels, so I understood its structure and such. From their Rhizomes (bulb) with their nodules to the stem up to the beautiful flowers, I had to prove that I knew it then, we could go out to the garden for “hands-on” time. It really was a wonderful method of teaching.
Bearded Irises are some of the easiest and reliable flowering plants you can grow. Irises love sun and can grow in some pretty bad soil. They are one of those plants I start beds with because they become plentiful quickly, need little care and after a few years the soil improves, I can lift most of them easily then add plants that need more care and better soil. How easy are they? Many times I have dug some up late summer or fall and left them in a cardboard box. I place them in a dark shady spot, intending to plant them later and then promptly forget to plant them. Next spring they have planted themselves growing through the disintegrating box. Not all of them survived but enough did to move them to a better place.
I thought share these tips with you. You won’t have to do Grandma’s assignment.
dividing over grown irises
Used a rounded shovel or spading fork to dig around the irises and lift them out of the ground.
Knock the dirt off and break rhizome apart at the narrowing of the segments. Even if this part does not have leaves or blades it will grow.
preparing irises for planting
Cut leaves or blades off about 2/3 off on an angle. After transplanting the leaves will die back anyway cutting them down keep the plant from losing moisture out of them as the leaves die back.
The rhizome should not be buried very deep just cover it up very lightly. An 1/8 to ¼ inch of soil is enough to help it from drying out while it develops more roots. The top of the rhizome is often exposed when it is established and has no trouble growing.
Don’t forget to water the rhizome in well. Regularly watering will insure beautiful blooms.
They will grow into each other and the tighter they are the fewer weeds there will be. However after a while they get so tight that the blooms diminish and the center can die. When you start seeing that, it’s time to divide them again.
Late summer or early fall is the best time to divide irises. They are in a semi dormant state so more will survive being lifted out of the ground and may flower the next spring. However if company shows up at other times of the year and you want to share the plants go ahead and dig. They maybe a little slow to flower and take a few years but soon the recipient of your gift will be sharing plants too.
That’s it, easy peasy, you have more plants to enjoy and share. If you change your mind and want to plant something else in this spot, you can easily dig them up.
Enjoy the cooler temperatures, get out their and do something nutty!