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Re: SPU:culture

  • Subject: Re: [iris-photos] SPU:culture
  • From: "Robert Dickow" dickow@uidaho.edu
  • Date: Thu, 19 Jun 2003 13:35:53 -0700

My spuria do very well here in USDA zone 5 in north Idaho. We have a fairly
moist spring season followed by a hotter dry summer. Many people let them go
totally dry at that time, but mine are mixed in with my perennials so I just
treat them like everthing else. This way, they tend not to brown off in
summer, and this is fine by me. It has little effect on their performance.
Spurias can go down to zone 4, and maybe even 3. They are very hardy. I
would say that the hybrids are not finicky at all, though Iris orientalis
(the old white spuria also aliased as ochroleuca) is particularly unkillable
under any treatment. Very few people have discovered spurias in our town,
though I notice the old white orientalis is poking up in odd spots in many
yards. People don't know what they are, and sometimes report never having
planted them. They were probably planted by some former property owner back
in the 1930's!! Spurias can go virtually forever with no division.

I've read that spurias do not fair well in humid eastern states, and
has been mentioned as an example. (Oh well, I can't grow Louisianas here
at all) The spurias are popular in the midwest, the southwest, and in
California, where they do quite well. They do very very well for me up here

Soil here is volcanic clay-based 'loess' whatever that is. It is not too
heavy, but holds moisture very well (hence the no-irrigation pea, lentil,
and wheat farming that is massively successful in our 'Palouse' region of
the famous 'Inland Empire'.) If grown in sandy or lighter soil, they
recommend planting a little deeper, maybe 3 or more inches. I put mine about
2 inches down, but I notice that after a time many roots are actually just
under the surface anyway, so they seem to find their own level. The rhizomes
should be covered, however, even though they resemble tall bearded 'roots'.

It is usually recommended that the roots and rhizomes not be allowed to get
dry during the lifting/moving/planting stage. Typically you will recieve an
order wrapped in wet newspaper or rafia. However, last year I got a whole
order of dried and dormant roots. This year every single one of them
bloomed, but on plants only about 1/2 height. Typically spurias will not
bloom the first year after planting (though I get 1/10 to bloom.) I think I
would rather get bigger richer plants the first year and forego the blooms,
however, instead of getting dried roots. The first blooms on these new 'dry'
stock plantings are a little smaller than usual too. (Wildwood Gardens was
the source of these...very nice varieties, but a smaller selection than some

I feed mine a bit more heavily than my general garden stuff. The books say
this can result in more blooms, and perhaps this is true. It does seem to
promote taller, more robust growth.

Large clumps of 3 feet or more across become quite impressive. You can chop
out new plant material from the edges of these, in the fall, or in the
spring. Spring shipment is virtually nonexistent, but you can move them in
early spring when the growths are just beginning to grow again, and still
get some bloom.

Watch for virus. I suspect a clump or two of having some TMV. The leaves get
chlorotic streaks and yellow zones every year and show little or no bloom. I
am digging these out and destroying them soon. I think they came this way,
as I tend to treat my spurias as I do my orchids... cutting with tools
dipped in chlorox. However, in the garden, insects may spread viruses too.

Bob Dickow

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Patricia Wenham" <h.schinkep@verizon.net>

> Your spuria iris are beautiful and look very healthy.  Could you tell us
> more about their culture, please?  I ordered some this year and really
> need more information on them as I have only grown one spuria in the
> past.  It loved the sandy loam and arid climate with cold, windy winters
> in USDA zone 5 where it grew on a bank which got very little water and

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