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Iris help!

Spring, TX

Hi, I was recently doing some research and realized that several plants I have in the front yard (just moved here 6 months ago) are irises. One of the plants has bloomed off and on during the summer, but none of the others (I have a total of 8) have bloomed.

I've read some things online about digging them up and dividing them, but they always say that it should be done late summer/fall. I live in Houston, TX, so it's warm here and right now is running 60's-70's during the day and high 30's at lowest at night. Should I go ahead and divide and see if that helps with the blooming this next summer? Or, should I just wait out another year and do it next Aug/Sept?

Also, is there anything else I should do to help maintain it? Should I trim the leaves down? Should I cut off the old bloom stalks? Should I be continuously removing the dead fibrous leaves? first time gardner, and still trying to learn!

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

You should post this in the Iris thread. There are plenty of "experts" over there that can advise you. :) Welcome to DG!

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi ryduj, is there any way you could send a picture of the Iris, there are several types and all are treated different from each other, but I will give you the lowdown. IF the Iris you have are tuberous roots, then you lift them out the ground, with a sharp bread knife or something like that, cut off all the outer bits of the tuber, these bits need to have a bit of green (even a tiny bit) AND a small root, once you have all the new healthy bits put to one side, get rid of the old tough wood bit left, that bit has tired itself out and will prob only give you leaves from now on, to replant the new bits, sit them in a bucket of water for about an hour to dehydrate them, SCRAPE away some soil where you want to replant the bits, lay the bits of tubers into the soil so that the top of the tuber is JUST barely under the soil, the tubers need the sun to bake it for the Iris to flower, too deep and you get just leaves at the expense of flowers, water well and add a feed to the soil where you first scraped it away, do water often till the tubers get down roots, at the time of trimming/cutting the new bits of tuber away from the parent, you can cut all the foliage by half just to stop them being rocked about by wind, animals etc, they will soon send out new foliage. discard any brow or diseased leaves or bits of tuber, so that's it for tuber rooted Iris.
For, bulbs, dig them up, break up any clumps that are too close or over crowded, and replant, all bulbs should be planted as deep as, 3 times the size of the bulb from root end to the growing tip, so if the bulb was say, 1 inch size, then you plant them 3 inches under the soil, in your zone, bulbs may need to be mulched to stop moisture loss, they will also need the foliage removed as for the tuberous root Iris, but the difference is the tubers need to be set only just below the soil and the bulbs need deeper. feed, watering etc are the same for both. for tuber rooted Iris, I always split mine up every 4 years or the middle of the tuber produces no flowering shoots as it gets tough and dead.
Hope this helps a bit and you can relax and enjoy the garden you have become the proud owner of, gardening is meant to be enjoyed and a happy place to be, so take your time, go look at the neighbours plants and layout, go to the library for some books on landscaping and growing plants, you will be surprised at how mush you know just by reading and watching what grows around you. best wishes. WeeNel.

Spring, TX

Here's a picture of the whole plant followed by a picture of the stalk that the flower used to be on (last time I saw one was probably 2 months ago), and the top of the flower stalk where the seed (?) is?

Thumbnail by ryduj
Spring, TX

can't figure out how to post more than 1 pic at a time...

Thumbnail by ryduj
Spring, TX

last pic

Thumbnail by ryduj
Marquette, MI(Zone 5a)

Your last photo is a seed pod. I usually snap them off.

I don't think these are bearded iris, which grow from a rhizome. Bearded iris are best divided after they finish blooming which is July or so in my climate.

Do the leaves have a rib in the middle?

We cannot post more than one photo at a time.

Spring, TX

If you mean a barely raised area down the middle, there is one like that in the middle of the leaves. On first glance, I thought that there wasn't, but when I actually run my finger along the leaf, I can feel a raised area that runs down near the middle of each leaf. Sorry...I'm not really sure what a bearded iris is, though...

Marquette, MI(Zone 5a)

This may not be the quickest answer to your ?'s, but it is important to know, in that different kind of irises require different growing conditions.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi Ryduj, your Iris are definitely the tuber type, you can tell by the way the foliage is growing, in like a fan. If you look close at the foliage, you will see that one leaf grows out from the center of the next one like a fan, in your picture, the bare bits of soil between the foliage and plants are a typical sign that the tuber is getting old and weak in the middle and sending out new growth from the outer edges of the tuber, so when you do eventually lift the whole plant, look for the bits that are leafless and that is the bit you discard as old, the other bits should have foliage AND some roots attached, these are the smaller bits of tuber you will replant for next years flowers, also, I am not too sure if you get real heavy frosts in your zone, if you do, leave your deep mulch around the roots, IF you dont, then remove it as these type of Iris like their tubers planted JUST below the soil so the sun and heat can bake them for flowers to be produced, too deep and all you will get is nice strong foliage NO flowers, to tidy up the Iris, remove all the flowers that have passed, the seed-heads are not needed as the best way to increase this Iris is by division of the tubers, being able or allowed to make seeds uses up energy for the plants. IF you do divide the tubers, you dont have to cut the foliage, I do this, but then I live in a windy area by the sea and by cutting the foliage down a bit, it helps to prevent the tubers being blown out the ground by wind or frost till the new bits get roots down into the soil. A bearded Iris is also from of this plant, it is the flowers that are slightly different in as much as, on petal of the flowers bends right down and as it does, little tiny nodules the size of hairs form on that one petal only, lovely colourings and markings also on this one petal, but because of the shape, hairs etc on it, they are called bearded Iris, that is the simpletons way of describing that iris, others may be able to give you the more scientific answer, but they are grown for there beauty more than the science of it all. Good luck. Weenel.

Spring, TX

Thanks so much for the information! You are definitely a pro by my standards to know so much from a layman's description and a few pictures!

If I could add another my area, we are mostly warm...our winters, we have maybe 1 full month's worth (Dec-Jan) of weather that intermittently goes into the 30's...(MAYBE a few times into the upper 20's). No snow usually. Occasionally rain that freezes. So, with that...should I go ahead and try to divide the tubers now? Should I do it after the worry of any freezing weather? Or should I really wait until the end of next summer?

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi Rydduj, wish I had your delima, ha, ha, ha, If there is the slightest chance that you would get HARD frost, by that I mean the soil is unworkable due to frost, then DONT lift any plants at all, this is because the growing roots are normally quite snug under ground and not getting frosted, but lifted to the surface, even for a short while can sent some plants into shock. Your Iris plant foliage is actually quite hardy, and it would need to be a real prolonged freeze before the foliage showed signs of frost damage. however, on saying all that, because your not too used to temps that plants will survive (that will come y the way as your confidence grows) leave the Irises where they are till end of Feb or real early March, that way you will have no worries about the weather cooling, but dont leave it much later as the plants will start into growth again, dont use the garden fork, it could go right into the tubers and damage them, but get the spade, dig down about 6 inches away from the tubers, then ease them up and out from the soil, lay them onto the soil and shake as mush soil off as you can, then you will see the size of the tuber you are going to split into new parts, I actually use an old bread knife for this as it gives a good clean cut, make sure the parts you need to replant have a bit of root (even a tiny bit will do) and also some foliage, at that time of year, you wont need to cut the foliage back unless you get strong winds that will rock the new transplanted bits about, at this time before I replant the cut off bits, I usually put them into a bucket of water for about an hour to rehydrate the tubers if the weather has been really dry. When you put the new parts into the soil, about 6/8 inches apart, just scrape away a little soil so that you can either spread out any thick rooted bits or just lay the smaller bits under the soil, just enough to cover the tuber, they dont like deep soil, the tubers like to be baked by the sun for flowering to be good, the roots will soon get down without the tuber being deeply dug in, I would add some plant food to the new soil, something like Blood/fish and bone meal you can by in a packet from garden center already mixed for you, add about a small handful to each planting hole, if you dont want to use that (it is a natural feed and is the best in my mind) you can always but a multipurpose plant food from the same store, something like grow more etc that is a balanced feed, wash your hands after handling plant feeds.
after all that good care and attention, you should have a wonderful show of flowers for summer, mine are late summer flowering, but then, I am in a cooler region than you. good luck, dont worry as the Iris is a real tough plant and will recover well. best wishes. Weenel.

Irvine, CA

hi ryduj

I think that I recognize your iris by the pod. Do you think it is an African/ butterfly iris?

I don't know about your question, but i thought an ID might help.

Spring, TX

WeeNel...your detailed advice puts an amateur first time gardener at ease! Makes me feel like I'll be pretty confident when I get around to doing this. I think I'll plan for Feb...really, here in Houston, after Jan, I don't think there's much chance of freezing weather. By March, we can usually go to the beach!

marzissa...I think you might be right! I haven't seen a bloom on these plants for the several months, but I think the white version that I see when I google african/butterly iris looks like what I remember! Thanks!

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

The leaves are too thin for bearded iris. They could be the African Iris, which looks very much like what we called Fortnight Lily in CA. They could also be Dutch Iris or Japanese Iris. If you have a photo of the one that bloomed, it could probably be narrowed down.


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