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CULT: Planting in pots, for Gloria

In a message dated 8/11/00 10:39:43 AM Eastern Daylight Time, 
Josiecairn@aol.com writes:

<<  I might have asked this question before, but I do not recall receiving an 
 answer.  I was wondering if I can plant some IB Rhizones in pots etc.
 I believe that I was told that they could be planted in pots, my big 
 is that I live in Zone 6 and it does get cold and freeze. Can I leave the 
 IRIS in the pots, do I have to take them in.  Can I put them in the cellar?  
 Can I leave them outside next to the house on the south side covered over 
 with leaves and straw?  Pls advise.>>

Gloria, I saw your question and hesitated to answer since I am in Zone 7 and 
I think that may matter here. I'll tell you what I know. 

Yes, you can plant irises in pots. The bigger the pot the happier they will 
be and the longer they can stay. Your pots must drain well, and not crowd the 
iris above the soil line or below. Irises have long roots. I have things that 
have lived for a couple of years in pots, although that is not the best 
situation for them. If someone gives me two rhizomes of something rare one 
goes in the ground, another in a pot as insurance. 

Irises need some cold to make flowers, so you don't want to protect them too 
much. I don't know how much cold they can take in pots without suffering, and 
I imagine that would vary a lot due to genetic heritage of the rhizome, its 
health going into winter, and so forth, but in my garden I have never lost a 
potted rhizome, although I have lost some in the ground.

Here is what I do. Now, bear in mind I'm in Virginia and we are talking about 
an urban back yard. In late October or early November, when the first good 
frosts start, I take all my potted irises and I stick them under the 
magnolia. That is, I position them in the liriope under my very large 
broadleaf evergreen tree. The tree is a warm and protective thing. You can 
see how warm it is when there is a light snow. The first area to melt will be 
in the root zone.  I cover the pots with a loosely draped double layer of 
reemay fabric--that is that light white nonwoven stuff they sell for row 
covers and such--which will break the force of rain dripping off the tree. 
After Christmas I pile on a few Christmas tree boughs. Remember light is the 
operative word since most of the irises will keep some foliage through the 
winter and you don't want to weigh them down. When things start to come alive 
in the garden, here it is late March, I fish out the pots and put them in the 

Now, I personally would not put them in a cellar. You might try an unheated 
garage if it is a bit warmer in there than the outside air. I think leaving 
them outside next to the house might work well. I would not use the south 
side since you may stimulate too early growth if you get a lot of sun and 
reflected warmth there. I'd pick another side, and I'd nestle them in, making 
sure they were not getting dripped on under the eaves. I don't like the idea 
of straw since I think it could go nasty although I think a lot of folks do 
use it. Beware of leaves as well. If you could snag some oak leaves or pine 
tags that might be very good. If you can find some reemay I'd use it over the 
pots first. You could also get a pile of mulch, pine bark nuggets say, and 
heap that around the pots, filling in the interstices. People will tell you 
that if the whole pot freezes you will loose the irises, but that has not 
been my experience. Whatever you do, remember that they will want excellent 
drainage and good ventilation in the winter just as they do in summer.

Hope this helps.

Anner, in Virginia

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