My Adventures With Iris

— Written By Lauren Hill
en Español / em Português

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 I have always loved Iris and in the past have tried to grow them a few times with limited success. The plants either died over the winter or I would have foliage, but no flowers.

This last fall I decided to approach the Iris in a different way. I researched and found that I was:

1. Planting the rhizomes too deep so they would never produce flowers.

2. I did not ensure good drainage.

My first thought was to check the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Cabarrus County page to find out what I need to do to be successful with my next planting. My next thought was to buy plants or rhizomes from a reputable Iris breeder instead of a big box store or asking for plants from a neighbor.

Now it is time to plant. Well, not quite. I needed to send a soil sample to N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Soil Lab to check the pH of my soil. You can get a soil sample box at your local Extension office as well and instructions on how to get a sample and how to send it to the lab in Raleigh. This is important because Iris like slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.8. When you get your report back you can determine what you need to do to achieve this level.

Now it is time to plant. Well, not quite. Take some time to ensure you are planting your Iris in a place they will love. This means choosing a place that gets full sun or a little afternoon shade. After you have selected your spot, now is the time to ensure the plants will have good drainage. You can ensure this by creating a raised bed or amending the soil with compost so water will not stand around the roots.

Now is the time to plant. When you plant your Iris plant them 12 to 24 inches apart (they like air movement). In the center of our hole mound up a little soil and set the rhizomes on top so the roots flow down the sides of the mound. Be sure that you do not cover the entire rhizomes with soil. The top of the rhizomes must be showing on top of the soil. If you plant too deep, you will not get flowers.

A few more tips. Iris would rather be too dry than too wet. Label your plant because everyone will want to know the names when they see your awesome flowers. Before winter sets in, cut your Iris back so you have a few inches of fan left and put a protective layer of straw or pine needles over them for protection.

Iris are fairly easy to raise but there are a few things to look out for. Root rot, Iris borer, and leaf spot are the main things that could affect your plants. Talk to your extension agent or search the NC State Extension site for these conditions.

Happy planting.

iris floweriris floweriris flowerAnn Isenhour, Master Gardener℠ volunteer in Cabarrus County