The iris is truly one of the most beautiful of all springtime flowers. There are hundreds of varieties, and come in virtually every color of the rainbow. It is also one of the simplest flowers to grow.
Preparing the garden for Iris is as easy as finding a sunny spot with good drainage. I mixed about 1/3 each of sand, compost, and soil for my iris garden. Place the rhizomes flat on the soil, and space them a few inches apart. Lightly sprinkle about 1/4 inch of soil on top. From there, let nature take over. You will be rewarded with gorgeous blooms each spring.
The blooms last a long time, in many varieties more than a month from start to finish. Although, like most flowers, the weather has much to do with that. If you experience heavy rain or high heat while the iris is in flower, it may shorten the bloom time. My tip on that is to check the news, and if these are in the forecast, treat yourself to a beautiful bouquet to cut and enjoy indoors!
You will need to check every few years for overcrowding. When that happens, just dig out every other rhizome. Check for soft spots, and if you find any simply cut them out and discard. Irises make one of the most desired gifts to other gardeners, so be sure to share your spares! I have three varieties in my yard, all originally given to me by gardening neighbors. My yellow flag iris was originally from one neighbor’s grandmother, who received it back in the 1800′s.
The picture at the top of this post is one from my former neighborhood. This homeowner has devoted his entire front yard to iris. When they are blooming, there is a steady stream of people walking and driving by to gaze. He started collecting them decades ago, and now has more than 100 varieties.
When the blooms are done for the season, the foliage is striking all on its own. I like to trim out the entire stem from the flower, instead of just dead heading. Different varieties vary in their shades of green and the height and width of their leaves. So, it’s easy to choose a variety that suits your exact needs. The best time to divide them is in July through August, if they have become overcrowded. This is also when some varieties may have foliage die back. I trim mine with a sharp knife, to about 2 inches, and they will regenerate new foliage which will look beautiful up until frost.
So whether your favorite is Siberian, Flag, Bearded, Japanese, or one of the many other varieties that grace our lovely planet, I hope you will plant some and enjoy them for years to come!