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Growing irises

Posted: Monday 12 August 2013
by James Alexander-Sinclair

Cast your mind back to early June. You'll remember the magnificence of bearded Irises with their full-blown flowers as stately as galleons.


Irises

Cast your mind back to early June. You'll remember the magnificence of bearded Irises with their full-blown flowers as stately as galleons (apologies to Joyce Grenfell for stealing her metaphor) and sharp-edged, bluish leaves. If you don’t grow them, then you jolly well should: they need full sun and sharp drainage, and are one of those plants that work well in narrow borders against walls or fences.

By this time of year the flowers are but a distant memory, and all we have left are some ageing foliage and possibly the odd dead flower stem. Now is the time to do a bit of essential work to ensure a good display next year.

Irises need sorting out every few years, as they get congested and weeds get in among the rhizomes (the lumpy things from which the leaves and flowers spring). The only solution is to dig up and divide them. This is not nearly as strenuous a task as it sounds, because Irises are shallow rooted and pop out of the ground quite easily. In fact, I find this one of the most satisfying summer jobs.

Once the plant is dug up, you might notice that its centre has died off, while some strong side shoots remain. Break off these and throw away the older bits. Then cut off half the leaves (to prevent too much rocking by the wind) and replant at sensible spacing. It is very important that you don't plant them too deep, as they need lots of sun if they are to flower. Water them in.

The end result is gratifyingly neat, and you'll end up with a bucket full of extras that you can give to friends and neighbours. Spread the Iris love!





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robertj 20/08/2013 at 14:25

Hi James.

I currently don't have any Irises in my garden but have the right conditions for them and would like to plant some. One of the reasons for not having grown them before is that the flowers don't last very long. However I understand that the flowering period is actually quite long if one has a selection of different types. I was wondering whether you had some suggestions for a succession of Irises to provide such an extended flowering display?

Many thanks.

Robert.

Mandy Jones 30/08/2013 at 17:09

I have grown some irises from seed this Spring. They are looking good, healthy and happy. However, they have roots, no rhizomes. Is this because they are young?