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Old 10/18/08, 09:10 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: South Central WI
Posts: 849
How To Prepare Iris For Winter?

We bought a new (old) farmhouse with a beautiful bed of irises in the front yard. I believe they are bearded, they are many beautiful colors. In the last few weeks, a few have even re-bloomed.

How do I treat them for winter? I think I've seen some people cut the leaves back? Should I leave them alone? Mulch/no mulch? I'm in zone 4.

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Old 10/18/08, 09:53 PM
flowergurl's Avatar  
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: KS
Posts: 2,320
I love iris and have over 60 colors myself.

One of the most important things you can do before winter is give your iris bed a very good cleaning. Remove any old iris leaves or other things laying on the soil in the iris bed. This will prevent bugs or eggs from having a hiding place to over winter in your flowerbed.
While I am cleaning the bed I remove any old discolored or damaged leaves from my iris plants. You can trim the leaves back some to make them look tidy, or you can just leave them alone.
If you do decide to trim the leaves do it in early winter or very late fall. The rhizome (bulb) uses the leaves to make food, so leave them as long as possible.
Once I am finished with my bed, i let the leaves from the nearby trees cover my bed for the winter to act as a mulch.
In early spring I remove the leaves and add them to the compost pile.
Hope this helps some.
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Old 10/18/08, 10:02 PM
Callieslamb's Avatar  
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: SW Michigan
Posts: 16,427
I believe they are actually fairly winter hardy. But...the freezing and thawing will heave them out of the ground. When I lived in Iowa, I always covered them with a layer of straw or mulch of some kind.
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Old 10/21/08, 07:06 AM
Custom Crochet Queen
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Susquehanna, PA
Posts: 2,786
Can irises be moved if I do it now? My dog discovered an Iris bed on our new property and ate several of the bulbs. I need to relocate the garden, as I cannot relocate her run. (yard is too small for that.) There are tons of rhizomes out there, and we just had a good hard frost. Can I still move them? Should I dig them up and store them over the winter in the basement? HELP!! I love irises and want to get them properly prepared for the winter.
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Old 10/21/08, 09:12 AM
Phantomfyre's Avatar
Black Cat Farm
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: N. Illinois
Posts: 1,357
Ninn, irises should really be moved no later than 6 weeks prior to your first frost to give them time to grow roots so they don't heave out of the ground.

I'd avoid bringing them in over the winter. Some of them would survive as long as they didn't totally dry out, but you'd likely lose at least some, and the survivors will take longer to recover and settle in once they're replanted. (That said, I gave my mom some irises one year and she didn't get them planted and put them in a paper bag in her (not terribly dry) basement and forgot about them for over a year! Be darned if some of them didn't take right off and grow!)

Maybe you can put a pallet or something over them to keep the dog away until you can move them next spring?

Another thought: irises don't taste good, which is why deer and rabbits and such don't bother them... Did your dog really eat them, or did she just use them as a chew toy? I can't imagine she'd keep it up if she was getting a taste of them. But maybe she sees them as fun things to dig up and gnaw on?

If you really must move them, your best bet would be to dig them up in large clumps, keeping as much soil on the roots as possible, and just plop them into holes in their new location.

Hope this helps!
"So folks out there - plant your victory gardens... this time, the war is against inflation." --highplains (from here at HT)

My random, hopefully-entertaining and educational blog: Black Cat Farm
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Old 10/21/08, 09:25 AM
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Missouri
Posts: 366
this reminds me I need to do something with my irises too, thanks for the tips! I didn't do anything the last 2 winters and thankfully nothing bad has happened to them, but I wonder if I actually take CARE of them will make next years bloom faster/longer etc.
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Old 10/21/08, 12:11 PM
In Remembrance
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 3,656
lots of good tips im going to try. i usually just put the boughs of the Christmass tree over them.
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Old 10/21/08, 12:38 PM
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Black Cat Farm
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: N. Illinois
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hiswife, your irises will certainly appreciate a little TLC, but irises are generally pretty tough critters! The top reasons people start to see diminished bloom on their irises are overcrowding and too much shade. When the clump gets crowded and the rhizomes start crawling all over each other competing for light and nutrients, it's time to divide them. And full sun is necessary for *good* bloom - a minimum of 6 hours of full sun a day.

There are a couple of tricks to getting a longer season from your irises. First, you can move some of your existing irises into microclimates around your yard. If you stick some on the south side of your house, for example, they'll likely bloom before the ones in an average exposure, and if you have a cool spot, they'll bloom later. I have one variety in two places; the ones in the regular garden were all done blooming by the time the ones in a cooler spot started!

Another thing is to expand the types of irises you grow. Getting a range of types can expand your bloom season by weeks and possibly months. Bearded irises come in all sizes, from tiny dwarf plants that bloom on stalks only a couple of inches tall to the tall beardeds that most folks think of when they think of irises, blooming at heights of 27.5" to over 4 feet. The smallest, the minature dwarfs (MDBs, under 8") bloom here in mid-April or so. Then the standard dwarfs (SDBs, 8-16") come in, followed by the intermediate beardeds (IBs, 16-27.5"), and lastly, the border beardeds (BBs, also 16-27.5", but later blooming), miniature tall beardeds (MTBs, same height as the IBs and BBs, but with dainty, smaller flowers, sometimes also called "table irises") and the large tall beardeds (TBs, over 27.5") wrap up the show, generally finishing in mid-June. That's 2 months of irises! AND, within each category, there are early, mid and late-season bloomers.

Not enough? Add some beardless irises: Siberian irises, Louisiana irises, Spuria irises, and/or Japanese irises. The Siberians start up right as the late bearded irises are finishing. Then the Louisianas and spurias start. Then the Japanese. The Japanese bloom here peaks around the beginning of July. Again, early to late blooming varieties within each group. In general, the beardless classes like more water and can be mulched without worry of rot.

But wait! There's more! I've got bearded irises blooming RIGHT NOW! Look for reblooming bearded irises and add some to your garden. They'll start in late summer or early fall, going until frost shuts them down. Note that some rebloomers will only bloom sporadically, or in certain zones. In southern CA, some folks have bearded irises in bloom 12 months a year. In MO, you'll still have a range of good ones to choose from. Here's a link to one year's partial bloom report from the Reblooming Iris Society to give you some varieties to try. I've had 3 different ones bloom so far this fall, with stalks coming on another 3. Last year, I had over a dozen different ones rebloom. Pretty neat to have irises as Halloween - or even Thanksgiving - decor. And it really messes with the neighbors. "Are those... IRISES?!?!" "Yep!" "What's wrong with them?" "Not a thing."

Yes, I'm an iris junkie. I'm currently growing almost 400 named varieties, plus another 60 or so unknowns/lost tags/passalongs/rescues/seedlings. But there are something like 80,000 varieties registered with the American Iris Society, so I have only just begun... Mwa-ha-ha-ha-haaa!
"So folks out there - plant your victory gardens... this time, the war is against inflation." --highplains (from here at HT)

My random, hopefully-entertaining and educational blog: Black Cat Farm
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Old 10/21/08, 01:23 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Missouri
Posts: 366
wow this makes me want to leave work early and go start moving iris! Thank you for the inspiring information!
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