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Tall Iris Flowers Fall Over Every Year

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

I'm new to gardening so please forgive this if there is an obvious answer.
I didn't find a simple answer with Google or searching here.

I notice every year shoots and then blooms from what I've finally identified
as Irises along our side bed. They sure do look messy and overgrown now
and I was pleased to find that they can be divided and spread out, we will
do this. The flowers are quite beautiful!

There are 3 tall stalks now with several blooms on each one, I'd say they are
very dark maroon in color and nearly black before they open, with nice yellow
accents. Not sure of the type but they are 30" to slightly over 36" tall and they
fall over every year with a kink in the stalk. I'm fairly sure that the previous
owner used steel wire to pull them up by just attaching the wire to the house
or stakes. I'm using green stakes now and while they are working they do not
look very nice. These were probably planted when the house was built in 1989
or perhaps in the early 90s I'd guess.

What is the best or best looking way to support them? They are not deeply
rooted so I'd be surprised if there was a way to have them stand on their own.

Thank you in advance, Pete

This message was edited Jun 5, 2013 4:20 PM

Concord, NC

Hi Pete!
I like to use the same green stakes you are using for real tall floppy Iris in a smaller healthy clump, but it sound like you have many many clumps of this variety that probably have not been separated since they were planted probably over twenty years ago. Iris actually like to be up near the surface where the rhizomes form nuckles up near this surface of the dirt to attempt to aeriate themselves, if they are planted to deep they can rot, as can they get sick and sometimes get floppy if they are over crowded and dont have anymore room in the bed to keep multipliying or if they are watered to much, all of which can weaken then and make them sickly and lead to rot and things and falling over like yours are as 36" isnt so tall that they should flop over like this. You wont be able to tell until next years bloom if youve solved the problem, but take a small section this year like say about a fourth of the row of these and pull them up with a shovel and break off and cull out some of the baby rhizomes off the old main mother rhizome, if they havent been seperated in 20 years many of the main center mother rhizomes of the clumps will proabably be like12-14 inches long with multiple notches of each year theyve not been separated when it made new babies, you can break those in half or even in four sections on the indentations between each section of these long rhizomes. their is a soft mushy small part at the very back part of the mother rhizome usually after you do this, that part is dead you can chuck that out. basically what im saying is thin some of these irises out in atleast one fourth of the leghth or even half of the leghth of the whole iris garden. the reason im saying dont divide and thin out all of them is because I want you to compare how the ones you separated and thined out do, with flopping over, compared to the section you left like it was. Also some time you can shock them when you do this to late in the summer or fall or if you make the divisions too small getting carried away, and some or all you divide might not bloom next year; but as they all just recently bloomed a few weeks ago I think its early enough they should all recover for next year afer you divide them this early. see if this helps with the flopping and dont over water over fertilize or plant to deep.

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

Thank you very much, I guess I'll just keep using the stakes. I did find that they had very shallow roots or bulbs since some Virginia creeper had grown in there and when I pulled it out the roots pulled out some of the Irises and I hoped that I could just replant them. Everything was planted too close to the house and the Irises have drifted right up against the foundation so I want to move those, and also thin out the others. The blooms are a surprise every year since I do nothing to them, lol, and they keep on living and blooming.
These are my kind of plant, lol!

One end of the bed is very close to a gutter down spout and I've noticed that many of our plants that do the best are close to the down spouts. Natural watering, the easy way.

Even nicer that they propagate.

And thanks again for all the tips!

This message was edited Jun 5, 2013 8:26 PM

Concord, NC

ack!, they have virginia creeper in Connecticut now! we had never seen that stuff till we came to NC from New York State, I am not allergic to poison oak or poison ivy, im pretty tough, but that stuff im highly allergic too and so is my son. we have pulled it out of beds here and off trees using two pairs of rubber gloves and long sleeve shirt and a few days later our wrists and arms still broke out from that virulent toxic plant. You could maybe use gardening string or nylon to stake up a row of plants, that would not be as visable as the plastic or wooden green garden stakes

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

It is native to Eastern North America as I understand it. There is a youtube video that says it is completely harmless but my son and I keep getting poison ivy like rashs not knowing that Virginia Creeper is also an issue. Wikipedia does say that some people have a rash type reaction to it so we'll have to be more careful. I found white coated metal rings with spikes in the garage that would probably hold them up but they are only about 16" long and if 6" goes in the ground that it not much to help them, a 24" version would probably work fine. I always wondered what they were for and I now just put 2 and 2 together.

Oh, and we also have poison ivy but we've mostly got that under control, Oriental bittersweet that I think they planted but has spread like crazy, wild grape vines, and a thorny bush like a rose bush but without flowers that also grows and spreads like crazy. I've killed most of these especially in the areas where we work but we still have one long side bed where I've cut the vines but they need to be pulled out. I've read that most of these are invasive plants.

This message was edited Jun 6, 2013 2:56 PM

Wyoming, MN

Believe it or not, I have seen Virginia creeper for sale at some garden centers. It was a very bright yellow leaved cultivar. It grows wild here too.


Concord, NC

yeah ive seen it for sale, but the kind they sell is not he wild toxic kind which is Parthenocissus Quinquefolia that has the calcium oxalate crystals in the powder that drops off the leaves thats toxic and causes this reaction in alot of us people, I think its a defense mechanism of the plant. The kind they sell is Parthenocissus Vitacea called False Virginia Creeper (Thicket Creeper, Woodbine, or Grape Woodbine) it also turns red in the fall I think but it doesn't have the calcium oxalate irritant. I wouldnt even want it, as its a reminder of the nasty toxic kind. The toxic kind is particularly bad in iris and dayliliy beds and the coating of large oak trees here in the south as it readily climbs up the already invasive kudzu vines and its not cold enough in the winter here to kill it back enough like in the northern zones to weaken its toxicity and potency.

This message was edited Jun 6, 2013 9:20 AM

Lyndon, IL(Zone 5a)

how much sun do these iris get ? Less than full sun will start to cause weak stems, and the less sun the plant gets, the taller and weaker the stems become, with smaller flowers, also. At 1/2 day ,or a little less, bloom becomes erratic,( may not bloom every year), and usually stops completely, for most cultivars.Also, I would suggest a soil tet. Low potasium levels also cause weak stems.....Arlyn

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

They are on the side of the house and they do only get about 4 to 6 hours of direct sun.
We do plan to move about half of them to a spot with more sun.

It is odd that the blooms seem to face toward the house and not out where they can be seen.

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

These are like the rings that I found from the previous owner, but ours are white and not as tall:,default,pd.html#pdpTab1

This message was edited Jun 6, 2013 3:07 PM

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

I went out to weed another bed and figured while I was at it to weed this one also. Then the rows of Irises were in the way close to the house to I pulled them to make it easier to weed. Then I just got carried away and removed most of them except for the ones with blooms. It started raining and I'm going to have to store them for a while I used some 3 gal containers with about 4in of soil and just put them on top and added a bit more soil, is this good enough until we're ready to plant them?

If each sort of knuckle is a bulb most of them had about 4-5 with the one that had foliage (is that the mother rhizome?) having roots, the others mostly did not have roots. They were mostly 5 to 6" long and there were a few little ones that seemed to be independent. Odd that the soil was very different than in all the other beds, it was redish brown rather than nearly black like the others and very loose. I found what were probably pine or cedar chips in there but I might have added those 8 years ago or so when we were keeping up more.

I put several back as I finished weeding and spaced them out away from the foundation and with about a foot between them, then topped with a cedar mulch. Is pine better to use with Irises? There is a fairly nice fine pine chip that I get and like.

Is there any chance of any more of the replanted ones blooming this year?

This message was edited Jun 6, 2013 7:19 PM

Concord, NC

Pete, it sounds like you did a really good job, if their are baby iris that are so small that they arent much bigger than a fifty cent piece so that they really didnt have any root system yet, then you may not want to beak them off just break up off the bigger fans that do have some roots that will keep you from having to store so many too. I personally think it would be better to find another place in the yard for the extras but potting them in atleast a few inches of soil should be ok, you could plant them in a huge pot of soil that goes down to china if you wanted too just dont plant them more than a couple inches deep in it. Thats interesting about the soil too. soil should be consistent. we have really bad red clay here in NC thats like cement but the soil in CT should be ok, I would discouage the use of much mulch of anykind too thick on top of the iris, as its harder for them to come up, the mulch bleeds into them, harder to fertilize etc our daylilies do ok in it though not so much the irises so use it sparingly. we put bone meal down on our irises in early spring and then again in the fall, which is an excellent source of phosphorus that iris love, makes them nice and silvery and healthy, along with a large bag of epsoma bulb tone with the beneficial bacteria and minerals thats like 8-12-10. technically they say your supposed to use I belive 4-10-10 in the Spring and 10-10-4 in the Fall i think. Also, if all iris have bloomed for you by now and their are no new stalks, or buds, unless they are rebloomers, that bloom again in the fall ,they are done blooming untill next year.

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

Thank you again for all the tips!
I put the mulch down to try to keep the weeds down. I'll just pull it away from the base of the plants. I've been getting into gardening just last year to start so I do have some bone meal and I'll put some down.

Only 3 plants produced stalks and blooms which is about what we get every year. I'm sure they'll do better with some fertilizer as you mention.

I'd say that I have at least 20 Irises that I pulled out, maybe closer to 40, and most of them can probably be cut in at least half. I don't think I'll need more than 10 or 20 for another bed where I want to plant them. Seeing all the whites and blues on here I'm not really liking this very dark maroon so much perhaps I can trade some of the extras. I'll look for the trading forum.

Concord, NC

Id wait a week or two before you fertilize them Pete, unless you just sprinkle lightly a tiny bit of bonemeal on top. Also I forgot to mention that alot of people cut the tops into a fan after they divide them, I personally do not like to do that unless atleast a week or two later if the plants get real yellowed out for the season from the transplanting or sickly, then I might; the more sunlight the leaves get during the summer and early fall, the more sun they store up to make blooms next year, thats why i dont like to cut mine into fans unless i ship them or they get sickly more than a week out from transplant.

This message was edited Jun 6, 2013 9:40 PM

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

Thanks again, very much!

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

A few weeks after blooming, I always cut the fans down to 6 ". It has never bothered them and it looks neater. I also remove the flower stems unless I have pods growing from crossing.

When I transplant I also cut down the fans for the reason that it will balance the root system with the leaves. If a plant have too much leaves to support, it stresses them when they also try to grow new roots. That goes for any plant that is transplanted.

Irises should be fertilized lightly with a low nitrogen food such as 6-10-10 in the early spring, then again a month after they bloomed.

July is the time to divide/transplant bearded irises to give them time to settle in before winter.

Dallas, TX

There are some excellent articles on DG written by Jill M. Nicolaus (critterologist). Lot of basic info and easy reads. Check 'em out.

South Hamilton, MA

Iris should have at least half day sun. They should not be planted too deep. Remember the rhizome is a food storage stem, not a bulb.

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

Thanks again for all the tips, I finally learned that the knuckles connected to the one with leaves are old and I think dead. So when you say that the rhizome is a food storage stem I take it you mean the current one not the old knuckles, is that correct? I assume I can cut off all but the one with leaves when dividing them. I assume that I discard the old ones since they serve no purpose?

Thanks eveyone!

They look good this year and blooms are starting maybe 6 to 10 this year.

This message was edited May 22, 2015 9:54 AM

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

Getting even more blooms this year!
They moved from where I replanted them so they are not as neat looking and I need
to weed this bed.

Thumbnail by PeteB7 Thumbnail by PeteB7 Thumbnail by PeteB7
South Hamilton, MA

Yes, the old rhizome just allows new ones to form along side. It is no good any more. I am glad that yours bloomed well.

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

Thanks, It seems that most of them are the very dark burgundy color but some are a light purple. Is there a reason, are they unhealthy or another variety?

This message was edited Jun 10, 2015 9:56 PM

Dallas, TX

Another variety is what it sounds like. Is this what you mean by dark vs light? (Not necessarily the same exact colors that you have. Just as an example.) I didn't have any of mine labeled so I got a mix in the first bed this year.

Thumbnail by tx_flower_child Thumbnail by tx_flower_child
South Hamilton, MA

Irises came in different colors & patterns.

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

Yes tx_flower very similar to that, but it just seems very faded but similar to the other.
I was just curious if something effects the depth of the color.

South Hamilton, MA

Multiple genes, nothing which you have done.

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

Ah sure, makes sense, thanks!

Cocoa Beach, FL(Zone 10a)

Here's a photo reference for what I sent besides the white heirloom iris.
#1 Jesse's Song clump
#2 Jesse's Song single stem
#3 Diamond Bracelet for your mom
#4 Dawn of Change, all three of these are easy growers, and good dividers.
#5 Blue Eyed Grass, a perennial, Sisyrinchium angustifolium 'Devon Skies'

Thumbnail by mittsy Thumbnail by mittsy Thumbnail by mittsy Thumbnail by mittsy Thumbnail by mittsy
Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

Thanks so much Mittsy, they all look lovely!

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