How to Divide Iris in Spring

How to divide Iris in Spring…Because I know things can get away from us and we miss the optimum times to do certain garden chores. It works very well and you can still get blooms.

I love bearded Iris. Even though many shrug them off as they only bloom a few short weeks in Spring I still love them in my garden. I have gardened with Iris for 30 plus years and am constantly adding more.

Today I am going to share with you how to Divide Iris in Spring. It is a simple yet effective way to separate those Iris you missed last Summer and Fall. 

I can see so many garden enthusiasts shaking their heads already saying, “You don’t divide Iris in Spring!”

Bearded iris in bloom

Yes, I do know that the proper time to divide Iris is six to eight weeks after they have bloomed but so many times I don’t get to all of them then come Springtime I have some overcrowded clumps that could use a bit of thinning.

I know I am not the only one so I want you to know you CAN divide them Iris in Spring and still get beautiful blooms, plain and simple.

Make sure to view the video at the end of this post!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Don’t worry, I still get blooms. Rest assured I have used this method for years with 100% success.

If you wish to get access to the free downloadable cheat sheet for dividing Iris in Spring fill out form below, further down in this post.

Supply List:

Garden Knife
Small Shovel
Handy Garden Tools
(the smaller shovel is easier to get in to small spaces plus it is just easier on my old lady back)

Find Dividing Point 

Here is my clump of Iris that needs to be divided.  The center is obvious and you have rhizomes fanning outward from it.

This Iris is actually already loaded with buds.

How to Divide Iris in Spring 2, FlowerPatchFarmhouse.com.com (6 of 21)

Decide which rhizome you want to remove and follow it back to the center.  With your garden knife cut the rhizome off where it attaches to the mother rhizome.

How to Divide Iris in Spring, knife, FlowerPatchFarmhouse.com.com

Divide Iris rhizome from mother

You may need to dig around the connecting area to get a good view of it, then slice as close to the mother rhizome as you can. Take your shovel and dig up the rhizomes freed from the mother.

Leave the rest of the rhizomes undisturbed in the ground.

You can see them to the left of the shovel in the next photos. Those left in the ground will go ahead and bloom because you have not done anything to them.

How to Divide Iris in Spring 4, FlowerPatchFarmhouse.com (8 of 21)

Dig Out Iris Rhizomes

Dig down deep to get underneath the roots of the rhizomes, this way you preserve any blooms that may be already forming on them and it may go ahead and bloom.

You can see I left a nice sized hole where I dug it up from.
The rest of the plant is undisturbed, it will bloom just as if nothing has happened. (just to the left of the tip of the arrow)

Replant Iris division

Find a nice spot where you want to place your dug up Iris, dig a shallow hole and mix in a bit of Bulb Fertilizer (this is the one I use) into the soil.

Note: if you get critters wanting to dig up things skip the fertilizer, usually it has bone meal which draws them like crazy.

I placed the freshly dug up Iris in my Secret Garden I am developing in my back yard. You can see it there next to a Foxglove I transplanted.  This coming Summer they should both give me lots of lovely flowers!

Press here for a video of the Iris in the Secret Garden in Spring!

How to Divide Iris in Spring replanted, FlowerPatchFarmhouse.com

If you newly planted division does not bloom this year (it might), don’t worry, it will next year. But you still get to enjoy the blooms from the section you left undisturbed.

Want to download a cheat sheet of how to divide Iris in Spring. Just fill out this form for access!

If you are already a subscriber the emails you receive have the password included.

Iris Garden Visit 2018

I have toured two Iris Farms the past couple of years and I shared all the beautiful blooms here IRIS FARM VISIT

A visit to Pleasants Valley Iris Farm, FlowerPatchFarmhouse.com

Just one more note, I credit my chickens and their leavings (doo) with a lot of my success in gardening, great soil builder. That being said if you would like to get into chicken keeping here is a great resource on it: Fresh Eggs Daily, Raising Happy Chickens Naturally.

garden page

For more great garden posts with out of the box tips and tricks see my Garden Page.

More Garden Posts You Will Enjoy
How to Divide Iris
How to Plant Iris for Tons of Blooms
Is Your Flower Garden Dangerous?

I wish you Happy Gardening and a Flowery Spring!

How to Divide Iris in Spring

Pink Iris in garden

Dividing Iris in Spring easily and successfully. Step by step instructions to divide your overcrowded Iris rhizomes in Spring even though it is considered the wrong time of year.

Materials

  • Overgrown Iris patch

Tools

  • Garden knife
  • Shovel

Instructions

  1. Find Dividing Point
    • Take a good look at your clump. Find the rhizome you wish to divide off from the rest, follow it to the point where it connects with the other rhizomes. You may need to clear away soil to have a clear view.
  2. Divide Iris rhizome from mother
    • With your garden knife cut the rhizome off where it attaches to the mother rhizome. Slice as close to the mother rhizome as you can.
  3. Dig Out
    • Take your shovel and dig up the rhizomes freed from the mother. (you can do more than one at the same time if you choose)
    • Dig down deep to get underneath the roots of the rhizomes, this way you preserve any blooms that may be already forming on them and it may go ahead and bloom.
    • The rest of the plant is undisturbed, it will bloom just as if nothing has happened.
  4. Replant
    • Find a nice spot where you want to place your dug up Iris. Remember when replanting that Iris likes to be planted shallowly and have good drainage. In my area, they prefer some of the back of the rhizome showing to capture the warmth of the sun but in hotter areas, they may scald. Adjust to your local conditions.
  5. Enjoy the blooms
    They may or may not bloom for you this season but if planted correctly they will be sure to bloom next. The ones left undisturbed will still bloom as if nothing has happened.

Notes

Building a little mound of soil to plant your Iris on is a good idea if you plant them among other annuals or perennials that like more water.

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45 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this information. I really need to bookmark this as I have some Irises that have taken up a huge part of my garden, and I’ll need to re-plant in other areas. . .I will sign up for your email!

    1. I figured there were plenty of folks out there that need to move Iris at times other than Fall. 🙂 So glad this is helpful!

      1. After watching your video and all the clear advice, I took the plunge and rescued a sentimental iris from the garden, which hasn’t been divided for far too many years and frankly was looking like it might die, fingers crossed they will pull through and will be magnificent again next year…thank you!

      2. My late brother in law gave me a shovel just like that and he called it a ‘lady shovel’. He said every lady should have her own shovel to garden with. I love it and it works great. Every time I use it I smile and think of him.

    2. I am selling my parents home and live in Oklahoma. I had to dig up Iris the end of January and need to know what to do. They have not been dividing in many years but I need to know if I shoujld put them back in the ground or try to dry them out?

      1. I meant to write they have not been divided… but have multiplied like crazy.

  2. This is great information. I always forget about my flowers in the fall because I am spending lots of time preserving the vegetables from my garden. Spring is a way better time for me to think flowers. Pinned!

  3. Moving to a home with huge under developed back yard. Mostly oak trees,so lots of shade. Cannot remove trees per regulations in area but would like some color and ground cover. Live in drought area, and water conservation is a big deal. I’ve been thinking raised beds in groupings . Any other ideas?

    1. #1 I would see if I could prune back some of the oaks to allow more light. This could be thinning branches (for the trees health, of course) and trimming back others. Dry shade is a tough customer to plant in but you can find things that will thrive in it. Large trees tend to suck up any moisture in the ground so your idea of raised beds is perfect. Planting in containers that can be moved from one area to another is good too. Here is a link to a nice site that has a great list of plants for dry shade.
      Bluestone Perennials is a reliable mail order company for many plants.

      I hope this gives you some help. I have very little shade so I don’t have much experience in growing in those circumstances myself.

  4. Thanks for this posting! Can we do this with other bulbs?

  5. Good to know! Thanks! I have always loved iris and have enjoyed having them in my garden. They have to be one of the easist flowers to grow. When everything else has died, they sit there blooming and reproducing!

  6. I too have transplanted irises in the spring. Honestly, I don’t think you can kill irises. Case in point – at the end of last summer, we downsized and moved into a fixer upper. I brought along tons of my perennials, including irises. I got so tired of trying to get all my irises in the ground, that I just left some in a pot with no soil and intended to pitch them. I just noticed that they survived the winter and are sending out new shoots.

    1. I didn’t get to replant all of my Iris either and they are sprouting where I left them on the deck. I do have a friend who managed to kill every Iris I gave her but she was planting them too deep. 😀

  7. My sister just gave me a bag of iris she dug up a few weeks ago. Using some of your companion planting ideas for my new beds. Thank you for always great information.

  8. Just curious: when you say Spring do you mean BEFORE the iris have bloomed?

    1. Yes, I do Monica. The photos show the actual plant I divided and it has yet to bloom. The transplanted part may not bloom but the mother plant should bloom. Sometimes when they have become overcrowded the Iris would not have bloomed at all even before dividing it so you really don’t have much to lose by going ahead and dividing it now. Just try not to disturb the mother plant too much as you take out the division.

      1. Thank you for the clarification. I only have a small patch of iris, but I’d like to add them in other spots of my garden. This is the first year in a long time that they are actually blooming because we finally got enough rain this year. The California drought really took its toll on our plants! Thank you again. I’ll have to try this next spring, or I could do it in a couple months, after they finish blooming like traditionalists do.

  9. Mine are blooming right now and I need to divide today. (Giving to out of town friend). Will we have luck??

    1. Iris are tough. The blooms that you dig up may not last long or may wilt and fade right away but the plant will (rhizome) will live on to bloom next year. Just do not cut back to foliage, it will serve to feed the rhizome for next years bloom.

  10. My irises do not bloom well — the leaves look fine but often i just get 1 stalk of flowers out of a bunch, sometimes (like this year) almost none. There is plenty of room and we’ve had lots of rain so i’m at a loss as to what to try. Should i be fertilizing them? with what??

    Thank you!

    1. There are many variables that can affect bloom. How much sun do they get? You can fertilize them with this: Bulb Fertilizer
      Another thing that can be a problem is they can get too bunched up, too many attached to the mother rhizome. I am not certain what you meant by there is plenty of room. Even if you have a large bed if they are too close together or too many attached to the main one they will not bloom well.
      See this post on how I divide and replant Iris for more info.

  11. G’day, an Aussie gardener here. I was a bit late to divide my irises this year, so I am happy to read your post that I could still do it before our spring in a few weeks time, I just subbed to your channel and I thoroughly enjoyed your garden tours,

  12. Hello,
    My friend just dug or pulled up Iris. She wanted to get rid of them. I have plants with bulbs attached. Should I plant now or wait until late summer?
    Thanks
    Bonnie

  13. We are selling my dads old house and my aunt who lived there previously had many many iris’s, lilies, and some huge bulb that I do not know what it is. I can’t let them go so I HAD TO go get them this weekend! (April 20). Some were about to bloom and they bloomed in the box I put them in to bring them to my house. I was relieved to see your page and your video. I am so afraid I’m going to kill them. I hope they bloom this summer but more than anything I hope they bloom for the years to come!

  14. Hello, Pam. Just checking in to see if you had added anymore to your very informative iris planting/dividing posts. I love irises, my favourite spring flowers. I have a wonderful garden helper who asked me to make up a spring garden chore list for her. So I am asking if I ask her to transplant my irises this next spring, will they bloom that spring for me? Or is it better that we move them in the early fall to be sure of blooms the following spring? Thank you in advance for your help, Pamela. Wishing you and your family an early wonderful Thanksgiving.

  15. Thank you so much, Pamela. i am going right out now and divide some Irises!

  16. My husband’s uncle passed and the land is being demolished. There were many irises, some blooming now. We are in Virginia. We have to get them if we want them this week or they will be gone. I just started digging them up. I don’t care if they bloom this year. I just want to save them for my yard. I watched your video. These plants are much larger. Do you think they will survive?

    1. Yes, they will be just fine. The glory of Iris is they are one tough customer and will survive a lot!

  17. I just watched your video on transplanting irises and enjoyed it. I am embarrassed to admit that I dug up a bunch of irises over a year ago; they were in what seemed like a good spot but hardly bloomed. After watching your video, I think they were just too crowded. They are still in the bucket where I put them. I finally have an area that is cleared and looks like a good place to plant. Is it too late? And I noticed that when you planted, you put them into compost — is that the best way to pl;ant them? No dirt?

  18. I was just given a box full of iris rhizomes but all of the leaves were cut off prior to giving them to me! They were cut down before they bloomed this spring. I have a good spot in my back yard, plenty of room to spread them out, but now I see the leaves shouldn’t have been cut off. Should I just add the fertilizer when planting and hope for the best or is there something else I can do?

  19. If I divide in spring, they will not bloom until following year, correct?

    1. The section you leave in the ground should go ahead and bloom unless it was so crowded it failed to make any buds. So in that case, yes, you won’t get any until next Spring.

  20. if dividing in spring do you leave the leaves intact, without cutting?

    1. Yes, I do. I take a large which may include several rhizomes and it needs its leaves to continue on. In Spring the leaves are not typically tall enough yet to create a problem of tipping over.

  21. Transplanting Irises in the Spring?
    I’ll chance it! Thank you so much for encouragement to do so!
    Can’t wait to acquire the cheat sheet!

  22. Excited to dig up and replant my iris’. Thank you!

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