Plant Irises for a Spring Garden Show

I think these irises are as beautiful as any orchid.

iris-blogIrises have been part of the landscape for so long it’s easy to take them for granted. Cultivated for hundreds of years, and a staple of grandma’s garden, the bearded iris is the perennial that keeps on giving.

These easy-to-grow plants are colorful, drought-friendly additions to any landscape. The plant’s upright leaves add vertical interest throughout the season and the flowers come in a dazzling array of colors, color combinations, shapes, sizes and bloom times. They also multiply each year.

Irises also serve many purposes in the landscape. Tall irises are traditionally planted along fences or in corners as specimen plants. But mixing heights and bloom times can add color to the garden throughout spring.

Irises can also fill in areas where it’s difficult to put other plants, like the edge of a sidewalk or along the driveway because they can take the heat.

Irises are planted in summer so plants can become well-rooted while the weather is still warm. The most common mistake is planting too deep, so barely cover the rhizome or leave it exposed.

Here are additional helpful planting hints:

  • Plant irises in full sun and in well-drained soil. For clay soils, plant in raised beds amended with organic matter.
  • Fertilize in moderation using a slow-release fertilizer.
  • Keep soil moist until established; avoid standing water.
  • Divide irises every 3 or 4 years by digging up large clumps with a spade or fork.
  • Cut the thick, underground stems (rhizomes) with a sharp knife where they are attached to one another.
  • Discard soft or mushy rhizomes.
  • Cut the leaves to 6-8 inches and replant rhizomes in a shallow hole with the rhizome slightly above soil level.
  • Give extra plants to friends and neighbors

    Want to learn more about irises? Check out the American Iris Society at


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