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RE: CULT: when to move bearded iris?

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: RE: CULT: when to move bearded iris?
  • From: "J. Michael, Celia or Ben Storey" <storey@aristotle.net>
  • Date: Mon, 18 May 1998 21:00:02 -0600 (MDT)

Suzanne asks:

>This is good to know since someone just gave me a sack of rhizomes.  My
>question now is, when should I cut the iris back.  It looks like they
>have finished blooming.  Does that mean it is time to cut them back or
>do they start to die back first?  This is my first experience with iris.

Hi, Suzanne! I noted UALR in your email address. By any chance is that UALR
in Little Rock? If so, then here is the advice dispensed by your local iris

You don't say whether these TB rhizomes are currently in the ground. If
they are not, you should trim the fans to about 6 inches before planting
the rhizomes, which you can do at any time. Trimming the fans makes the
rootstock easier to handle while you're planting, and it also may help
compensate for the roots lost when the plants were dug.

Assuming the plants are already in the ground and have bloomed there:
There's no compelling reason to trim back iris fans in Arkansas either
after the flowers bloom or in preparation for winter. In some other states,
trimming foliage is a precaution against insect depredation and wind
damage, but not here. We only lop off the fans if they are diseased, for
instance, if they have leaf spot, which many people's irises do have here.

What you DO want to do after the plants bloom -- this goes for both
dry-culture and water-loving irises -- is cut off the spent bloomstalks and
gently pull away any fans that are yellowed, brittle-tan or soggy. Never
rip off fans that aren't easily removed. Spent leaves will be the oldest
leaves, the ones on the outsides of the fan. When the rhizome is ready to
give up a leaf, it will come right off with a gentle yank.
Sometimes bloomstalks can be removed by snapping the stem as you might snap
off an asparagus stalk, but for some reason I haven't been able to do that
much this year. All my bloomstalks have been a little too flexible for easy
snapping. So I get a sharp knife and cut them off. Everyone does this his
or her own way, but I take TBs off about 4 inches from the ground. Some
people like to leave the leaves on the stem stumps; I don't, because they
die back rather quickly anyway, and because they make little cups that trap
water. So I take off the bloomstalk leaves.

For LAs, I snip the stalk below the lowest bud socket, leaving as much
foliage as looks healthy. Those leaves don't seem to die the way TB
bloomstalk leaves will -- just my experience; I could be wrong!

If you have leaf spot, use scissors to trim affected leaves a little bit
below the lowest spots. Spot is contagious. Try not to touch healthy leaves
after you've handled sick ones. Also, Janet Carson recommends dipping your
scissors into dilute bleach solution between each cut. Don't compost those
trimmings unless your pile stays very hot.

Tom Dillard has written a teeny booklet, "Growing Irises in Arkansas,"
which you might find useful. The Central Arkansas Iris Society gives these
little booklets away to new members. Membership costs $3. We meet every
third Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Garden Clubs Center of Little Rock at
Kavanaugh and Lee. We have yummy snacks at every meeting.

If your UALR is a UALR someplace other than Little Rock, disregard all of
the above and ask the list for advice specific to your climate.

All the best!

Little Rock, Arkansas, USDA Zone 7b
257 feet above sea level,
average rainfall about 50 inches (more than 60" in '97)
average relative humidity (at 6 a.m.) 84%.
moderate winters, hot summers ... but lots of seesaw action in all seasons

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