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Irises are beautiful, rhizome rooted perennials (or “tubers”) that bloom in early summer and are dormant during the winter. Irises come in a multitude of colors, named after the Goddess, Iris, who rode rainbows. Even though there are 300 (plus) species in the genus Iris, the most common and recognizable iris is the bearded iris, Iris Germanica. The flowers themselves seem delicate, but Irises are rugged and easy to grow. If you’re planning on adding Irises to your garden, here are a few tips to help you get started in planting and caring for irises.

how to grow irises

Planting You Irises

  • Just like most other tubers or bulbs, fall is the best time to plant. This is especially true if you have hot summers. If you live in a cooler climate, you may be able to plant them in early spring as well.
  • Don’t plant tubers too deep. Showing a little of they “backbone” when planting is just fine. However, if it’s too hot in your zone, cover them completely with soil or mulch. Just use enough soil to cover them, they need to be planted near the surface.
  • Irises love full sun. Plant these guys in a warm spot with plenty of sunshine. They will bloom each summer for you. If they don’t have enough sun, the irises won’t bloom.
  • These guys love slightly acidic soil. Plant them with a small amount of peat moss and they will be happy.
  • Make sure that your soil has great drainage. They like to be watered frequently, but sitting in water will drown them. They are not able to tolerate wet soil during the winter.

Caring For Your Irises

  • Water frequently, getting the roots really wet during the summer. Make sure that they have proper drainage as irises like the tops of their tubers to be dry, but the bottom of their tubers to be wet.
  • Fertilize with an all-purpose fertilizer or high-nutrient compost in the spring as the irises are waking up. Do not use too much mulch or compost above the tubers as this will encourage rot.
  • Irises bloom in summer. Once they are finished blooming, leave the foliage (leaves) as long as you can after they have bloomed. This gives the plants nutrients for the following spring.
  • Once blooming is done, cut the flower stalks down. These are not necessary and honestly not all that nice to look at.
  • If your irises aren’t blooming as beautiful as they did years prior, or they are sparsely blooming, it’s time to separate them. The plants are becoming too crowded and they are no longer getting the nutrients they need.
  • After the first hard frost in the fall (or if you live in a warmer climate, once the weather starts feeling cooler), cut back all the foliage to the base of the plant. Remove of all foliage to prevent any encouragement of borer eggs.
  • Cover the tubers with a light mulch to protect them during the winter. Make sure that it can easily be removed during the spring.

Irises are a wonderful addition to any garden. Not only are they beautiful, they also attract pollinators. Since they are so easy to grow, (they are as easy to grow as marigolds) it makes sense to add them to any garden, encouraging bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Some iris species can be hardy up to zone 4, which makes them a great addition to hard to grow gardens. Planting and caring for irises can be easy and fun!

beginner's guide to planting irises