Iris are such a fun plant and so rewarding. Have you planted some and now they have started to not produce as many blooms as in past years? Iris usually need to be divided once every 3 years or so. That is not a hard and fast rule but a generalized observation for most. In this post I share how I separate my iris. (also known as dividing your iris)
I live in the Sierra Nevada mountains of N. California at the 4500 foot level.
We get plenty of winter snow and cold, then some mighty fine summer weather averaging in the 80’s to low 90’s.
We are considered a Zone 7 (we have now been upgraded to Zone 8).
I have gardened with Iris for 35 years now.
Here and in the San Joaquin valley.
It is best to wait 6 to 8 weeks after bloom to divide, it gives them time to store up some energy, but I also have had success digging up and replanting right as they are done blooming. I do better in remembering what color is where, I always say I am going to mark them while blooming and somehow never get around to it.
Someone asked me how I deadhead my Iris.
Briefly, to deadhead I just snip off the bloom,
then the stem and let them fall to the ground, I snip every inch or two.
I do this with the majority of my plants, the bits that fall to the ground compost in place and gives the worms something to eat.
(not my roses but most every other plant in my garden gets composted in place like this)
… I will keep snipping until I reach the juncture of the leaves.
And that is it for deadheading them, I keep the leaves whole as they feed the rhizome and get it ready for next years blooming.
I do not cut the leaves off until they have died back naturally.
Typically when separating my Iris I do not dead head beforehand,
I just get to digging but if you want you can dead head before you start.
If I am going to store or cure the rhizomes to give away I prepare a container with a bit of straw to lay them in.
The straw lets air circulate around them helping to discourage rot.
But that is optional, I also just lay them out on the deck in a shady place to dry out.
We have little to no humidity where we live so this is sufficient, if you live in a very humid environment you may need to do some other things to avoid fungus.
I start a good 5 to 6 inches back from the base of the clump of iris and dig my fork in, I also have used a good shovel to do this job so if you don’t have a digging fork, no worries, almost everyone has a shovel.
Iris are not planted deep, in fact I have some I tossed in an area and did not bury at all and they came up and are blooming like crazy right now.
Even though they are not deep, push your fork down about 5 inches and lift up under the clump,
if it is a large clump you will have to work your way around, loosening the dirt and roots.
Once pulled out of the ground I shake off the dirt. I don’t wash them, even though they still have a bit of dirt on them it is easy to see if there is any rot or fungus.
These have some healthy roots, I trim the roots back to about 3 inches, a good way to measure is to grab the roots at the base of the rhizome in your fist and cut what hangs below your fist. I trim back the leaves to about 5 or 6 inches.
As I work with them parts of the clump fall off, meaning rhizomes separate from each other at a joint, of their own volition.
It is highly recommended to thoroughly sanitize your cutting tool between cuts so you do not spread disease.
I have read denatured alcohol or bleach water is the best sanitizing solution.
I have had no trouble with disease (just fortunate I suppose) so I don’t bother with the cleaning step and cannot recommend one solution over another.
Usually I am dividing my Iris because they have become crowded and I give away the extras, but if you are moving some to another part of your garden go ahead and plop them in their new spot.
I will print a photo of this iris in bloom and place it with the rhizomes so I know which color it is and whomever I gift them to will also be able to see the color.
Next post I will show how I replant.
To view my replanting the Iris post click here
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