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Best Time to Get out of the Ground?

(Zone 5a)

One of my children picked this out at a plant sale in 2012 or 2013. I didn't keep a gardening journal then, so cannot say for sure when. It was one bulb with some growth, but since that time it exploded beyond what I will tolerate in my native to US patch. He is fine with me digging these up. Finally. When I asked him earlier, it was a different story.

Instead of throwing the bulbs into the burn pile, I'll pass them on to friends who like iris. I've already asked around to see if they will have homes. To ensure the bulbs will come back up next year, when is the best time to dig them up? Also, how difficult are bulbs to get out of the ground with this amount of growth? Am I going to need a backhoe? Just kidding... :) I have some invasive curly dock that is terrible to get out of the ground.

Thank you for any help.

Thumbnail by Chillybean Thumbnail by Chillybean
Iowa City, IA(Zone 5a)

Since the rhizomes are mostly above ground, they shouldn't be too difficult to separate. I usually use a hand trowel, buut you could use a garden spade or fork to break up a larger clump more quickly. You can start by chopping through and then lifting. Shake the soil off, and discard any chunks that are hollow, shriveled or soft. You want the firm nodules with live roots. Some will have little buds on the sides where future bloom stalks will grow.

Once you have them broken up, trim off all but a few inches of the leaves, soak them in bleach water for 20-30 minutes, rinse and air dry in a shaded spot.

It's fine to dig irises any time during the growing season. Your recipients will want to plant them at least a month before frost is likely so they will have time to root well before winter dormancy. Make sure they know that the rhizome should be mostly above the soil, and after a couple days of watering in, left alone. Good luck!

(Zone 5a)

Thanks you so much, this was very helpful. :) What is the reason for the bleach? And what ratio, so I don't overdo it. Recently, I learned I didn't need to put so much in the water for cleaning purposes.

Cocoa Beach, FL(Zone 10a)

one cup bleach to 9 cups water. Soak 10 minutes, then rinse well.

Iowa City, IA(Zone 5a)

The reason for bleaching is to kill off potential pests or soil microbes that may be in the soil or rhizome. No need to share those along with the plants!

(Zone 5a)

Thank you for explaining that iowhen. :) The plan is to get them out of the ground today while waiting for my order of natives to arrive.

I am learning natives can do well being planted almost any time of year. I prefer early spring to see if there is growth, but last year's summer and fall plantings did much better than I expected... except for the spider milkweed. Oh, that was one I really wanted.

Saginaw, MI

Thanks for your link to this post Chillybean, When you get around to digging/dividing the iris you want to get rid of , I would be willing to send you reasonable postage for some if you have any left over. And thanks again for all your help on trying to locate the specific iris I am looking for !!

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