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Can iris rhizomes be cut?

Chehalis Village, WA

Hi everyone, I had to dig up my Mom's iris garden in favor of trees being taken out. Knowing that this is not the optimum time of year to dig up irises, I still wanted to put them in pots to save them and divide up between my sister and myself. Secondary problem is that most of the pots I have are too small to allow many of the rhizomes and roots to fit properly/comfortably. Can I hack off enough of the rhizome to fit in a pot, or will that kill the rhizomes or allow rot to set in?

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

I think as long as there's an eye left on each part, you could divide the individual rhizomes but I've never done it on purpose. Sometimes they snap apart while handling them though, which hasn't resulted in any problems that I noticed.

You could use plastic bags as temporary pots, just make sure there's a hole to drain out. That's how I moved a lot of plants from OH to AL.

Since they shouldn't actually be covered with dirt, whether in a pot or in the ground, why not just set them in a convenient spot on the ground (in a bed, not like the lawn or driveway) until your sisters are ready to retrieve them? Not sure why you wouldn't plant yours now, but I'm sure there's a reason you just didn't say.

Chehalis Village, WA

The reason I'm not planting right away is because the irises are going to other properties and the final garden beds are no where near ready, which is why I figured putting things in pots would be the way to go until they're ready to be transplanted. They haven't bloomed yet, so am sure that they won't for another season, right? I am moving some of Mom's plants, roses, tigerlillies, irises, poppies, etc., after her passing. From other sites, I have also read that iris rhizomes should always be covered in dirt and a few other little things, including dividing, but so far have not come across actually cutting the rhizome to fit into small containers. What is considered the 'eye' of the rhizome?

This message was edited Aug 9, 2012 8:05 AM

This message was edited Aug 9, 2012 9:18 AM

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Found somebody's excellent picture to borrow but can't seem to get it to show up here:

You can see where the rhizomes make new sections, usually at right angles, there's a thin spot where they connect. This is the point where I've snapped them apart in the past. Eye may not be the correct term when referring to Iris rhizomes, but that would be where the leaves emerge.

Not usually a fan of but this tutorial is very good, with a pic of how they should look after replanting on the last page, with the tops exposed:

Putting the whole rhizome under the surface can allow rot, which in turn can allow borers.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

If you can't or don't wish to replant the Iris Rhysomes right away then I would suggest you plant them in boxes or wide tubs /trays, the boxes or trays don't need to be deap as Iris's dont like to be burried deaply but the rhysome should be JUST under the soil with the roots spread out, the rhysome like to be baked in sunshine to get the best flowers.
Make sure when you put them in trays / boxes you use a good quality compost and it should be kept just damp (not wet, or rot will set in)
When you split up the Rhysomes and you remove bits that have a root attached, you should then cut off the green foliage to leave about 4-5 inches, this is to prevent the transplants from loosing too much moisture and also prevent the disturbance by wind blowing the foliage about, do remember the rhysomes are still in their growing season just now so this type of care will help them survive for several months till they can be replanted.
Good luck, Hope this helps. WeeNel.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Also, it is a good idea, if you are planting freshly cut rhizomes, to dust the cuts with a fungicide to help prevent rot. A cheap and readily available "home product" is cinnamon. It seems to do quite well as a fungicide.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Good advice from themoonhowl, I don't really use Fungicides on the Iris's when I split them up as I am replanting them out doors as I cut them so they dont particularly require this treatment here but it is always best to be on the safer side especially if the tubers or bulb's etc are really dear to you or someone special passed them on.
I do use a Fungicide on all the Dahlia's, any Peony's and the such and what I like to use is called Flower's of Sulphur and the only place I can get it is from the pharmacist where you pick up your Prescription drugs, it is sold here in a small sachet and I pop a couple of those into a Paper bag, drop the tuber or bulb ONE at a time into this bag and gently tumble the tuber about so it gets a coating of the powdered Fungicide.
This is an Autumn job as I store the Dahlias over winter IF I cant mulch them to protect from frost or if the Bulbs / tubers are of a tender nature.
Hope this helps you save some of your tubers etc.
Good luck, WeeNel.

Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

It's definately not too late on Iris being transplanted. Just break the rhizhome from the mother as it won't rebloom again...but, after you break off the side shoots(rhizhome), new rhizhomes will form on mama (so in fact they can be replanted to form new plants)....I have even seen mamas cut down the middle and replanted with one side shoot. Also realize if they are not divided every few years they will cease to bloom..... And it's NOT too late for transplanting or dividing Iris..... I have been doing so since May....recieving many in trades since May (in fact I recieved two boxes today with Iris in them, 1 as a trade here at Dave's and the other is from an Iris seller on e-bay (normal cut off time for most of the sellers is September. I also have been sending Iris all over the country from my own garden, some shipped 3 days ago. If you want to pot them up, divide and place 1 fan per 1 gallon pot. Realize they are in the process of putting on new roots at this time of the year and those from earlier in the season are dying off and browning. Personally I keep them on the plant as they help to anchor in the pot til new roots develop. Iris are typically considered as drought tolerant plants once established, and can handle it on the rather dry side. Your in Washington state, rain Heaven, I'ld give'm good drainage as soggy conditions can cause rot, mixing in some sand also if necessary. If they aren't grown in full sun give'm atleast 6 hours of sun or you may find your Iris won't bloom. Aren't you just about to your rainy season? Like I say drainage is important. Personally I have 200 german Iris sitting in pots waiting to go in the ground...Once they are potted they could live in those 1 gallon pots til next spring easily, after that they might get a bit crowed, lol.....but can even bloom in those pots, not a problem.. I personally mix my own potting soil,(mix peatmoss and peralite if you decide to do the same or just buy premixed)....Don't be scared....Iris are very tough and forgiving plants and reward you with beauty and fragrance in spring. Just remember too crowed or too deep they won't bloom or may have diminished bloom. I have some from my sister's garden and am glad as she has passed and now every spring they are there to remind me of her and silently I am thankful I got some starts from her........By the way I have hundreds of iris, most got divided and replanted last fall. I have found it's one plant the deer have never bothered.....If you need more localized planting info. go to your phone book, govmnt pages---look for your county extention office, they are there to answer questions gladly to new gardeners in every county in this nation..their goal is teaching the public.
Pix 1 this is my Iris, an heirloom from my sister's garden, smells like grape pop and is wonderful, Iris palida. And don't fret if they don't bloom next season, tho many could, they definately will the following year. I will try to get some other pix tomorrow for you....Also if needing pots to put them in some nurseries recycle pots just ask if they have any used pots, I just picked up a hundred or so this afternoon, and have even gotten some used pots from the big box stores as people have returned them for recycling also...

I will dig a plant take pix of the process for you.....Later, Kathy..

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Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

Pix 1:Found a clump of Iris that needed work, was planted too close to a daylily, so out it came.
Pix 2: All dug
Pix 3: One of the rhizhomes with many fans
Pix 4: All larger rhiz. broken off and mother bulb still has two babies and is cut down the middle
Pix 5: Shows the cut

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Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

Pix 1: I ended up with 17 full sized fans, 11 mamas and 4 nubies (tiny babies)
Pix 2: Here are some Iris I received from a seller on e-bay, 2 were thrown in as extras
Pix 3: Is a trade I received yesterday also, this is a trade from here at Dave's
Pix 4: All Potted up, since they were a bit smaller they went into quart pots
Pix 5: These are Iris I have: divided, traded for or bought earlier in the season, and yes I have overwintered in gallon pots before, but hoping when it cools down I can begin planting....Should be easy, just have to rototil, rake, plop and water 'em in.....(new bed)...Hope this helps...Kathy

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Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Wow, you put a lot of work into that, great helping effort!

Staten Island, NY(Zone 6a)

I have grown Irises for years ,not knowing too much about them until last year a friend of mine told me that they do not like their "feet " covered. Guess I learned something new , I have Peach ,Yellow ,Blue and White .I gave cuttings to lots of friends and they did well too, they are planted in sunny beds except the White it planted in Morning sun area.Thanks for the Cinnamon idea

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