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CULT: Storing Irises over Winter

From: HIPSource@aol.com

In a message dated 11/20/99 10:03:35 AM Eastern Standard Time, 
imlibby@ns.nque.com writes:

<<  I live in zone 5a and the ground isn't completely frozen yet. I will move 
into my new house on Jan  15th. What can I do to make sure my iris come 
through the winter? I can't plant them in January at the new house and really 
need some advice on how to  store them for several months until I can get 
them into the ground in May? >>

Hi. I'm assuming you are talking bearded iris here. If it turns out to be 
something else, I'll let someone else tell you what to do.

First, I'd hate to tell you to pot them up and drag the pots around all 
through the moving process,although if you just have a few or are planning to 
take just a few of each kind with you that is a possibility and will work. 
Keep the pots outside as much a possible and bring them in only when the 
weather is really severe and cold. They need some cold to be healthy.

If you are moving more than just a few you can do this: Dig them at the last 
possible moment.  Break them apart. I'd break them into double rhizomes 
rather than single where possible, by which I mean that I'd leave the mother 
attatched to the two increases in a Y shape. Cut the roots back to six inches 
and the tops back to eight, wash them off well and shake them dry, let them 
dry in a well ventilated place, when completely dry store them in a cool, 
dark, dry location in single layers in boxes or lattice bottomed nursery 
flats. Do not let them freeze, but keep cool like potatoes. As soon as you 
can work the ground at your new house get the beds ready. If you can work on 
that now it would be good to do so so it can melllow over the winter and so 
you can move quickly when the time comes. When the world is beginning to wake 
up for spring and the beds are ready and the soil is no longer frozen,  plant 
the rhizomes, discarding any that have gone nasty on you. Don't worry about a 
little mold if the rhizome looks fine otherwise. You'll probably want to 
remove the dried up roots for ease of planting and to avoid air pockets. Just 
cut it off with your garden scissors. Expect the rhizomes to be light in 
weight after storage and expect the foliage to have dried down, possibly to 
nothing but a nub, but plant them anyway and water them in well and keep them 
watered but not sodden. They will plump up quickly and when the sun hits them 
they will know it. You will loose a few, probably, but enough will make it 

A final word: Don't shortchange the bed preparation in your haste to get 
things done, especially if the earth has been torn up or compacted by 
construction. Add a little 5-10-10, but no manure unless you can position it 
low in the bed so it will not touch the rhizomes. No manure at unless it is 
well rotted. No chicken manure. No fertilizer with the nitrogen number over 
6--that is the first one in the formula. Check that drainage. You'll need 
superior drainage and no less than half a day of strong sun on the bed. While 
you are preparing the bed put a good deal of alfalfa pellets in there, the 
kind they sell for horse food. An inch layer tilled in is not too much. 
Alfalfa meal is fine, too. This adds organic matter and contains a growth 
stimulator which irises enjoy. Make sure you get the pure alfalfa, and in 
particular don't get any feed product containing corn, which contains 
compound that inhibit growth, or salt. 

Hope this is helpful.

Anner Whitehead

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