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How to Plant Iris and Do it Right

How to Plant Iris flowers correctly is really very simple.  This is an easy step by step on how to plant Irises for the best flowering, healthy plants, and years of enjoyment.

Start with healthy Iris rhizomes. Iris prefer well draining soil and to be planted shallowly. Give them plenty of sunlight and enjoy their beautiful blooms. Today you will learn when best to plant iris, where they like growing, how to prep the soil, how to plant them and what to expect.

I have shared plenty of the iris in my garden and I thought to share how I plant bearded iris for those that are beginners in gardening or with Iris flowers.  Sometimes I forget that not everyone knows the ins and out of planting and caring for different plants.  

I am reminded when I give some to a friend and they end up killing them because they really did not know the right way to plant Iris bulbs and I failed to tell them.

So here you go, How to plant iris correctly yet easily!

Bearded Iris in rusty red and orange colors

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When is the Best Time to Plant Irises

Iris are usually shipped from growers in August and September for a reason. 

This gives most gardeners the chance to get the in the ground in time for the rhizomes to settle in and start rooting. 

This is also the time that you would dig up and divide the Iris currently growing in your garden.

After you have either dug up and divided your rhizomes or you have just received some from an iris farm you need to plant them correctly to get the most from them.

iris rhizomes in metal tub, How to Plant Iris, Flower Patch Farmhouse

Where do Irises Grow Best

Pick a spot in the garden that gets a good 6 hours of sun each day and has good drainage.

Iris can withstand drought but not soggy feet.

Note: You can plant them with other plants that like more water by planting them in small hill of soil so they are elevated.  They can drain off easily while the other plants get all that water. 

This is my favorite tool for digging and planting Iris.

Prepare the Soil

I have sprinkled some bulb fertilizer on top of the soil. This is optional, it is said to help the Iris get off to a strong start but it can attract critters.

Soil prepared for planting Iris, how to plant iris, flower patch farmhouse

Stir the fertilizer into the soil, mixing it in lightly. I mix the fertilizer in to the soil rather than just placing in the hole. Rainfall or watering will deliver the fertilizer where it needs to go.

NOTE: If you struggle with varmints digging up things in your garden then skip adding any fertilizer. Many times it contains bone meal and that attracts them to dig. Most of the time the fertilizer is unnecessary anyways and you will have success without it, I know I did. Healthy rhizomes should have stored plenty of energy to the coming bloom.

Some claim an Iris or Bulb fertilizer can give your plants a head start.  This is my favorite. See note above.

soil with Iris fertilizer mixed in, How to Plant Iris, Flower Patch Farmhouse

How to Plant Iris Rhizomes

Plant your Iris rhizomes in the soil making sure to keep them close to the surface.

Note: I have been battling voles this year.  They have been eating my plants including the Iris rhizomes, to deter them eating my newly planted Iris I put some of this under and around the rhizome

This is important enough to repeat….Do not bury deep your Iris rhizomes too deep.

This is the mistake many make. Iris like to be close to the surface.  I leave a bit of the tops showing when I plant, that way I know they are not too deep.

Iris love the sun on their backs, the top part of the rhizome.  If you live in a very hot area you can cover the backs of the rhizomes lightly with soil.

In cold, cold climates do mulch a bit before hard cold starts but be sure and rake it back as soon as warmer weather begins.

How Far Apart do you Plant Irises

A good rule of thumb for planting Iris in groups is 6 to 12 inches apart. I leave at least 12 inches so they new Iris can grow and increase. Increasing means make new rhizomes you can divide out later for more Iris.

Replanting Iris after dividing

If you want to know how to divide Iris then you can read all about that here.

When replanting a particular Iris that I have divided I like to plant three rhizomes together.  That gives me a spectacular mass of blooms in Spring.

Plant them with the pointy nose of the rhizomes facing each other in a circle.  Spacing is not critical but I like to place mine about 6 to 12 inches apart for the reasons stated above.

I firm them in with my foot, you can see my footprints in this photo.

Planting them this close together means you will get a good show of blooms next Spring but you will also need to divide them sooner than if you planted the further apart.  

Iris planted in a triangle, How to Plant Iris, Flower Patch Farmhouse

Above the soil is moist but if you are doing this during a drier part of the year water them in and keep watered through the summer but not soggy.


If you are planting a newly acquired rhizome you will most likely only have one, and that is fine. Plant it the same way just not in a grouping.  

In a few years you will have enough to divide and replant.

Camera Ready Iris, How to Plant Iris, Flower Patch Farmhouse

Next Spring you will have some lovely Iris to enjoy.  

If it is Spring and you didn’t get to divide your Iris in Fall you can still do it, read about how here.

Most reputable Iris farms and gardens send out good sized rhizomes that will bloom the first year.  

When dividing your Iris you may have some smaller sized ones attached to the larger rhizomes.  

The smaller ones will many times take another season to grow in size before blooming.  So don’t get discouraged if yours don’t bloom the first season.

I hope this helps all those out there that were skittish about growing Iris. 

Growing Iris is truly very simple and so rewarding.

Happy Iris Planting!

Beautiful orange iris with text overlay, step by step how to plant iris for masses of bloom, flower patch farmhouse

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My favorite Iris Sources
Superstition Iris
Schreiners Iris Gardens

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