Iris can only be planted in Fall

katefisher(Z7_NorthernCA)July 31, 2009

Okay so I have to ask. About a month and a half ago I dug up a bunch of iris that I have way too many of and gave them to a friend who said her husband really likes to garden. She says he is very knowledgeable. I saw the husband last night on the street and asked him if he replanted the iris plants. He tersely informed that could ONLY be done during the fall. I got the feeling he thought I was very confused indeed for giving them to him at all.

Now I have transplanted (or planted)iris in my yard throughout the course of the growing season. I don't expect blooms until the next year but I can get them started in my experience during spring, summer or early fall. Am I the only one?:) That has been bugging me all day.

Thank you.


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No, you aren't the only one. He must have been eating wild mushrooms. Iris can be planted at any time. Like you said they won't bloom now but if you don't plant them now it will just prolong the bloom even more. ;-) Peonies on the other hand are only supposed to be dug and moved in the fall. Maybe he's mixed up.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 10:46PM
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Thanks Nancy for your thoughts and for the smile. He was so icky about it I wondered if I might be the one eating mushrooms. He acted like I was purely nuts and a complete simpleton.

I really appreciate your feedback.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 10:51PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Yes, and he is the one who is "knowledgeable", huh?
Don't feel bad. You were more knowledgeable than he is.
I plant and transplant Iris anytime of the year whenever I want.. And they bloom fine the next spring.

By the way, I have transplanted Peony any time of the year too with not problem at all. They usually take at least a season to settle before blooming.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 11:27PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

He's nuts - they can be planted anytime.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 12:06AM
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Thanks guys. I feel much better now.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 7:31AM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

Not only can they be planted earlier - if you can enlist the help of the neighbor's dog, you can plant and replant the same iris at least five times over the course of three weeks. Of course, you may not know which one is which after retrieving the dug out tubers from all around the yard.

Ask me how I know, LOL!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 9:43AM
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The ideal time to transplant or divide bearded irises is in late summer -- mid July to mid August -- as this is when they are dormant. However, bearded iris tend to be very tough plants and as many here have stated, you will likely have just as much success transplanting or dividing them at any other time of year. I have had bearded iris rhizomes hanging out unplanted for several months and they still survived the transition and eventually took off like gangbusters once re-established!

But.....bearded iris are only one of many types of iris and some do have different requirements. Pacific coast hybrids and many of the species these originate from - plants that would be very common in Kate's location - are fussier and far more delicate with regards to root treatment and transplanting. Fall IS the recommended time for dividing or transplanting these (during their dormant period) and to do so at other times of year risks transplant shock damage and even death to the plant. Maybe your friend's husband was working under this information and applied it to ALL iris?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 10:44AM
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Your friend has been reading too many books. As stated before, the optimal time would be August but that does mean they can't be planted anytime. We moved and took our extensive gardens with us. Had to move everything whenever!
Moved almost 300 hosta, 300 daylilies & several hundred other perennials. Plants stood on the driveway in pots, large ones in bags, looked like a messy nursery on concrete. Shade as much as possible but many in sun when they shouldn't have been. This went on for months while we built beds in between never-ending rains last year & I threw in a nasty fall with a broken wrist for good measure. Everything survived and is looking fabulous this year. Plants are tough. Think sometimes we have a tendency to baby them too much.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 12:14PM
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"Not only can they be planted earlier - if you can enlist the help of the neighbor's dog, you can plant and replant the same iris at least five times over the course of three weeks..."

Really funny!

I think that would be the last garden gift he got from me :)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 5:36PM
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You're very welcome, nice to make someone laugh!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 6:37PM
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Well, I'm no iris expert but I ordered some and got them a couple weeks ago so planted them almost immediately soas not to get behind. Dinky things but think they'll take off eventually.

This thread inspired me to do something I've been procrastinating about. I stuck a Princess Caroline in the front, and it's never bloomed (tend to plant too deep). So out I go with my fork and proceed to dig it up, had divided into two (lost one early on), huge leaves. Lots of roots, tough digging even though we had a shower.

So I bring it in, divide it into the two, trimmed the foliage to make a inverted V's, trimmed off just a few of the longest roots, and replanted them in the back with some other iris. I try not to cover the rhizome too deep now, hope I didn't chop it up wrong and didn't want to sacrifice it blooming next year which I think it might finally if I had left it alone in front.

Anyway, I read this and that, and just dug a hole deeper to get the roots down a little further, set them in spaced apart, had a bucket of dirt which I filled back in. Then I gently pull them up to soil level to try to expose a little of the rhizome and push the loose soil down in well around the roots, tamped a bit with my foot (air pockets), and watered (don't water iris too much, but do when newly planted).

Do you think it will survive my tampering with it?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 6:57PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

They'll do fine. Don't worry.
Gardening is an experiment after all.

Have fun and don't worry too much.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 8:29PM
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I dig and divide mine here in July. Go for it!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 8:47PM
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pitimpinai & tommyr, thanks for the encouragement. I know iris can take a beating but I've not seen Princess Caroline offered lately and would rather not lose them. I think they will be ok plus I think they'll be happier with more room to spread a little.

When I was a kid, I was enthralled by a greenhouse on my way home from school (long gone), subdivided. One of those kind with the glazed glass panels. But I digress.

A couple blocks after was a bridge crossing railroad tracks. Someone, maybe not the greenhouse people, had dumped a bunch of yellow (my favorite color) iris down the weedy, treacherous hill leading down to the tracks. Well, to this day, I feel bad for those iris. Somehow they took hold and bloomed there, a large clump of them. I would see them on my way home from school in the spring.

Wish I'd tried to save them like I might now. They're history, too. Even the toughest plants can only take so much.

Now I need to tackle my yellow iris, they are packed so tight and spilling over onto the sidewalk, think I started with ONE three years ago and now they are jam packed into about a 2' X 3' spot. Not looking forward to that and will have to make someplace to plant them which means breaking some sod which I hate . . .I'm always doing stupid things, ordering plants and starting seeds when I don't know where on earth I'm going to put them all. Think I'm not the only one who does that.

NOBODY TOLD me that I'd spend half my gardening life moving plants around lol.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 9:14PM
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Again thanks everyone. My friends husbands strange attitude ending up creating a good learning experience with this thread. And all of your thoughtful responses. I'm glad I vented now as not only was it cathartic but I learned a couple of things.


    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 9:14AM
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Where is zenken when someone needs him? Joking, but I think he needs a copy of zenken's free verse on relaxing in the garden.


    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 9:39AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Don't you just love people who persist in telling you all the things you can't do? I have spent my whole life doing those things I was told would not work. Gardening is a wonderful place to try anything, and learn from it. Al

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 9:54AM
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Sometimes our ineptness can be a learning experience. Last year I was really pooped by the fall and had a bonus rebloomer sitting on the front porch, no idea where to plant it, supposed to repeat, champagne & white IIRC, wasn't thrilled about the colors.

I couldn't stand the thought of just letting it die, so I potted it up in a gallon pot and kept near a south sunroom window over the winter, watered now and then, maybe a little too much. In the pot it quickly became two.

This spring I took them out, found a spot for them, planted, one rhizome was a little squishy which I should have dealt with. Anyway there they are growing happily enough now. If the one was bad, maybe they will multiply and fill in, hope they bloom next year.

That yellow I bought at a spring plant sale, didn't feel like dealing with it so covered it with a little soil and kept a bit moist, again in the sunroom for a few weeks. Finally I get around to planting the thing and look what I've got now lol.

So they are tough, and sometimes you have to just follow your own instincts according to the exigencies of your life at that particular time.

Normally this would be posted to the iris forum, but it came up here. What I've been pondering is they say don't cover the top of the rhizome ad infinitum. But what I've noticed is when they multiply of themselves, the rhizome is covered, and they seem to bloom very happily and prolifically enough. I've not gotten a satisfactory answer as to the why of that. So I'll follow the rule when I originally plant from now on, leaving a bit exposed, and just let them do their thing from then on except a little water if no rain in 3 weeks and thinning out when necessary.

I moved some others right after spring blooming, trimmed back the leaves, seem to be perfectly happy now.

So my conclusion is the optimum may be for my zone Jul-Aug, but any time during the growing season in time to settle in before the first hard frost seems to be fine. I rest my case.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 11:37AM
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Oh, yeah, speaking of people telling you things you can't do:

This is not a big "gardening" neighborhood. People tend to hire people to do what little gardening gets done, and I almost think some of them tend to look down their noses on those who do it themselves. Seriously. Like that is something only "commoners" would do. LOL Anyway...

One of the nose-looker-downers was walking by last year as I was doing a new mailbox bed. In August. :) I will give you that's not the ideal time to create a new bed, but I was planting mini crape myrtles so I figured I could get away with it (and I did - they look awesome this year).

Anyway, nose-looker-downer made some remark about the "pretty flowers" (didn't seem to even recognize that they were shrubs, not flowers). Smirking, she went on to say that she sure hoped for my sake we would get some rain soon.

I just sort of blinked and didn't say anything, but I thought later that I should have told her about this fabulous new invention they've come out with called a hose, that actually allows you to apply water wherever you need it, and it works at any time of the year! :D

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 2:28PM
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That's funny, story about nosy neighbors butting in on the OGR forum. Generally mine have been supportive, at least they keep to themselves any criticism so far, compliment me on my flowers, have no clue what a struggle it's been for me or stuff they can't see that needs attention.

I keep to myself but try to be friendly when spoken to. I'm not pals with any neighbors was with some before. I've been turned in to the city umpteen times for having my grass too long and weeds. Finally hired somebody to do it because I can't any more. It wasn't like I had rats and garbage or old cars strewn all over. I'm kind of bitter about some of it getting turned in anonymously like that. It would have to be pretty darn bad before I'd do that to anybody, and if it was that egregious except certain ultra-sensitive matters, would approach them to their face first.

I know how neighbors can be. The ones next door everybody was always criticizing them for not keeping up their property and grass, would turn them in, too, then their kids hopped to it and helped out. He was a WWII vet who got one lung shot out during the war, and well they had their problems but never really bothered anyone. I got so mad when the doctor across the street told me she hoped they'd miss the payments on their contract so they'd lose their house and have to move. I thought that was mean-spirited and tried to help them a little when I came into a little money.

The irony is that they ran their own little vacuum repair shop, and their clientele were mostly the well-to-do around here. When the husband died, their kids found piles of invoices for people not paying money that was owed to them. And he would deliver repaired vacuums right to them.

They're both dead now, he got a lung shot out in WWII, and she wasn't well for years but never ocmplained about any of it.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 3:27PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

"...I thought that was mean-spirited and tried to help them a little when I came into a little money..."

That's very kind and generous of you, aliska.


    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 4:23PM
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Hi Dee, I shouldn't have told that, will lose my brownie points if any are due lol. Another neighbor whom I like and respect, live way the heck a block away, good standing in the community, complained about about them to me, too, for the life of me don't know what they did that was so horrible, so their little dog barked sometimes but never late at night, etc. How could I stand to live next door to them?

Well, it was pretty easy, occasional friction over the kids, ignored it or soon got over it, and know they would never do anything to make my life harder like others did for no good reason other than to kick me when I was down. People are like that, and you don't forget once you get back on your feet. And I do not forget the very few that were kind to me during those awful years, once found some beautiful peonies in my mailbox, think it was the man across the street but never knew for sure, a really kind gesture, like their way of saying they cared.

I haven't forgotten I owe ya one, my sis and another friend so between running out to check for beetles and other stuff, what do I do?

Surf the web mindlessly, play a few games of Free Cell, pet the cat, piddle outside, repeat and rinse ;-). I'll get to it, have been kind of lethargic the last week or so.

Love your GW moniker.


    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 7:41PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

I love this thread. It's been instructive, entertaining (who'd a thunk that a dog could design gardens?), and heartwarming too.

Since we're shooting down "rules", I would point out that in extremely hot climates, it's okay to mulch around bearded iris as long as you don't cover up the rhizomes. True, they love a summer baking, but in our summers every drop of moisture counts, even for them.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 10:11PM
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katefisher, that's the thanks you get for being kind and sharing plants?? Sheesh. Last year, a neighbor of mine gave me a rhizome from her yard, I planted it in July or August and it came up and bloomed just fine this year.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 1:05PM
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I know what you're saying. That was kind of my perspective on the situation initially. But really not only did his attitude spawn my mini rant (and hence the great feedback in this thread) but it was a lesson to me. A reminder to remember that it is important to be gracious whenever you can. His lack thereof reminded me how NOT to behave.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 4:58PM
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kate, kinda brings the true meaning to the adage "no good deed goes unpunished", eh? ;)

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 6:33PM
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Perhaps so. But I did what I would appreciate other gardeners doing for me. And I feel good about that. His rather odd response doesn't negate that.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 10:12PM
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Can't agree with the husband's snotty attitude, but I would have planted them in the fall as well. It sure isn't the only time to plant irises in NoCal, but it is the best time.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 11:33PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

Hang in there with that mature attitude, Kate. In the end, the irises are not the big issue here. Human relationships are far more important. You will never ever go wrong taking the high road.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 12:51PM
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Thanks. Mom would be proud:)


    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 1:10PM
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