Planting Guide for Iris Bulbs

Iris bulbs are actually rhizomes: fleshy tubers that are produced from the roots of an iris. Irises come in over 200 varieties and got their name from the Greek word for rainbow.

Preparing For Your Iris Bulbs
Before you plant iris rhizomes, you'll need to locate and prepare your planting bed. These guidelines will help you get your irises off to a healthy start:

  • Let there be light! Irises are full sun plants. Your iris plants will flourish in a sunny location, but they will tolerate partial shade. Look for a spot that gets at least six hours of sun per day.
  • Well drained is well begun. Iris rhizomes are susceptible to rotting if they are forced to grow in damp conditions. Prepare your soil by adding lots of organic material. If you are gardening in clay soil, consider raised beds or rows to provide some drainage for your iris bulbs.
  • Keeps things neutral. Your iris plants will grow best in neutral pH soil (6.5 to 6.8). Add about a quarter ounce of bone meal or other low nitrogen fertilizer to the soil before planting.

Planting Iris Bulbs
Correctly planting iris bulbs will create plants with healthy root systems. A healthy iris will produce many blooms for years. Here's how to plant your iris bulbs:

  • When to plant. Your iris bulbs should be put in the ground after the heat of summer is over but before frost and freezing set in. September is prime time in warmer climates; plan for earlier planting in cold climates.
  • Spacing is important. Plan to place your iris plants one to one-and-a-half feet apart. Planting in groups of three will create a nice arrangement. Irises will generate new growth from the fan (leaf producing) end of the rhizome, so make sure to plant the fan ends facing away from each other.
  • Don't get disoriented. When you plant iris rhizomes, make sure they are positioned correctly. Iris rhizomes will have roots growing down and leaf buds growing up.
  • Not too deep! Iris plants like to grow near the surface, so plant your iris bulbs 3 to 4 inches deep. Dig a hole that is about twice the size of the bulb.
  • Don't leave air pockets. Voids or air pockets around your iris bulbs are an invitation to bulb rot. To avoid this, form a mound with some dirt at the bottom of the hole-a bit less than a handful will do. Next, position the iris bulb so that the roots drape down over the mound and the tuber rest on the top of the mound. Press the bulb down into the mound to insure good contact with the soil. Finally, fill in the rest of the hole, covering the iris bulb with a thin layer of soil. Water the area thoroughly to compact the soil and remove any left over air pockets.
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