This magnificent, towering perennial flower is a gardener’s favorite! The beautiful billowing flower was named after the Greek goddess Iris, who rode rainbows, which is a perfect comparison to this delightful flower because there are a rainbow of different colors this flower can be found in. Gardeners alike plant this flower because it’s hardy, reliable and easy to grow. There are 300+ species in the genus Iris. The most common being the Iris germanica or the bearded iris. Six petals make up this unique flower, three inner, upright petals called “standards” three larger outer petals called “falls”. The majority of the iris flowers bloom in the early summer with some flowering again in the late summer.
Rules to Planting the Iris:
When planting your irises keep in mind that they need at least half a day of sun and well-drained soil. Inadequate sunlight will lead to the flowers inability to bloom. The iris prefers fertile, neutral to slightly acidic soil. If you find yourself with only highly acidic soil to work with, sweeten it with lime. If you’ve chosen the more popular bearded iris, plant the flowers where they will not be shaded by other plants, consider planting them in a flower bed on their own. Soil drainage is very important. Ensure the soil is loosened with a tiller or garden fork to the depth of 12 to 15 inches, mix in a 2 to 4 inch layer of compost. Plant your irises in the mid to late summer, leaving the rhizomes (fleshy roots) partially exposed. Plant the rhizomes singly or in groups of three with fans outermost, 1 to 2 feet apart depending on the size. Begin by digging a shallow home, 10 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep. Make a ridge of soil down the middle and place the rhizome on the ridge, spreading down the roots on both sides. Fill the hole with soil and gently press until the soil becomes firm. Water the newly planted irises thoroughly, following with a low-nitrogen fertilizer.
How to Care for the Iris:
Now that you’ve expertly planted your iris, it’s important to continue to care for your plants appropriately. Avoid applying high-nitrogen fertilizers to the surface, doing so may encourage rhizome rot. Keep rhizomes exposed as they need a bit of of sun and air to dry them out. The leaves of the iris carry on photosynthesis for the next year’s growth so it’s ok to trim off the brown tips on the leaves but don’t cut the leaves off. After 2 to 5 years of growth, clumps will become congested or lose vitality and stop blooming, that means it’s time to divide and replant the healthy rhizomes into fresh soil. The best time to replant irises is soon after they bloom.
Pests and Diseases:
Irises are deer resistant and drought tolerant which are wonderful characteristics, however they are susceptible to borers. Be diligent in checking the rhizomes yearly for holes and cutting of and discarding the infested ones. Other pests to watch out for are verbena bud moth, white flies, iris weevil, slugs, snails, aphids and nematodes.