Photo by Melody

The Story of Iris Part 9 – What to Feed Your Bearded Iris

By Mitch Fitzgerald (MitchFMarch 12, 2008

So, we are going to look at bearded for only one article. The big thing is what to feed them and how to take care of them. I am going to show you four of our gardeners here on Dave’s Garden who have different feeding methods and talk to you a little about each one.

Gardening picture



Alfalfa Tea – Basically, this is natural and in my garden one of the best ways to get the biggest show from my bearded iris. The mixture is a hand full of alfalfa pellets or dehydrated alfalfa meal into a five gallon buck of water and let sit covered in the sun for a few days. The brew that develops, with some gentle stirring from you will be some of the strongest power boosters for iris you can make at home. Just add to your sprayer and let this foliar feed soak into all those bright green leaves. The biggest draw back for me is that the smell will, at times, be strong but the rewards in the garden are charming.




5-50-5 with lime for acidic soils and Preen - The 5-50-5 triple phosphate fertilizer is what many gardeners use on their roses. This is a real “stand up and grab life” type of approach. The real secret to this mixture is adding lime and Preen to the soil. The lime will help make the soil more acidic and, while the focus here is bearded iris, I wanted to add this knowledge for those trying to grow other types of iris in their garden. Preen is a wonderful tool in the garden if use the right way. This product will stop the growth of weeds via seeds. The one issue is that if you plant seeds in the areas you use Preen they will not come up. I tend to be careful  when I plant in areas near the Preen due to the chance of run off killing my flower seeds there too. If you are dealing with plants in an established bed that will not have other plants growing from seeds there, then this is the product for you.




10-10-10 or 15-15-15 – 10-10-10 is the basic garden fertilizer used by most gardeners in America today. This goes to show you that iris do not need special catering to in the garden; they love to be fed even basic food and will reward you with many blooms.  So when you are out there spreading your fertilizer in the other gardens, just throw a hand full here and there in the iris bed too.




I will let her simple and well planned way speak for itself. “At planting, compost, bone meal, micronutrients, alfalfa pellets.
Spring -- Bloombooster ( high phosphate, water soluble fertilizer)
After bloom -- ( balanced, slow release fertilizer), compost, though not as a mulch.
Late summer -- bone meal and compost scratched into the soil.”


No matter how you choose to take care of and feed your bearded iris, they will reward you with bigger leaves, more increases, and bigger and better blooms. Feed them and let them grow!


I want to thank Pajaritomt, Jackieshar, Avmoran, Irisloverdee, Happygarden, and Doss for answering my many research questions for this article. Thank you to mgh for the images for this article.

  About Mitch Fitzgerald  
Mitch FitzgeraldI am a pentecostal preacher, gardener,husband, and a father. I love natives, daylilies, iris, and roses. I love teaching others, be they children or adults, about the garden and plants.

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