How to Start and Grow a Successful Albuquerque Iris Garden

How to Start and Grow a Successful Albuquerque Iris Garden by R & S Landscaping 505-271-8419

The iris is a tall, elegant flower named after the Greek goddess who rode rainbows and comes in various beautiful colors. While it may have sprung from heavenly places, this June flower is hardy, dependable, and relatively simple to grow. Learn all you need to know about planting, cultivating, and caring for iris flowers.

About Irises

The genus Iris has over 300 different species. The tall bearded irises (Iris germanica), which can grow to be 2 to 3 feet in height, are the most well-known of the iris species.

These six-petalled blooms are unique because they have three outer petals that hang down (called “falls”) and three inside petals that stand upright (called “standards”).

Irises are available in two varieties: bearded and crested (sometimes known as “beardless”). Bearded iris is so named because it has soft hairs throughout the center of the falls, which gives it that appearance. Instead of forming a comb or ridge, the hairs of the crested iris create a comb or ridge.

The majority of iris species bloom in the early summer. Some plants, primarily bearded hybrids, are remnants, which means that they blossom again later in the summer season.

Irises are a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds, making beautiful cut flowers. Roses, peonies, and lilies are all good choices for iris partners in the yard.


When Is the Best Time to Plant Irises?

Plant irises in the late summer to early October when nighttime temperatures remain between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or higher, ideally. This provides them plenty of time to establish

themselves before the upcoming winter season. Because they go dormant in early to mid-summer, it is better to sow tall bearded iris varieties in the fall rather than spring.

If you received bare rhizomes or irises in a container earlier in the year, you should plant them as soon as it is convenient for you, unless the weather is extreme. If you plant them now, rather than waiting until the perfect moment, you will have a greater chance of success.

Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site

Irises bloom at their best when they are exposed to direct sunlight. However, they can endure just a half-day’s worth of sunlight, which is not optimal. They will not blossom if there is insufficient light. Other plants must not shadow out bearded irises, and many of them perform best in a dedicated bed all to themselves.

They like soil that is rich and neutral to slightly acidic in pH. Learn more about preparing the soil for planting and how to use organic soil additives in your garden.

It is critical to have good drainage all year; irises enjoy “wet feet, but dry knees,” as the saying goes. In the winter, they will not tolerate moist soil conditions.

Till or garden fork the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then add a 2-to 4-inch layer of compost to the top of the soil to hold it together.

How to Plant Irises

When planting bare-root irises, place the rhizome horizontally with the top of the rhizome visible. Plant the rhizome slightly below the soil surface if you live in a hot environment with long summers. Depending on their size, rhizomes should be planted individually or in groups of three, 1 to 2 feet apart.

A shallow hole of 10 inches in diameter and 4 inches in depth should be dug first. Create a ridge of soil in the middle of the bed and set the rhizome on top of the ridge, allowing the roots to extend down both sides. Fill the hole with dirt and gently press it down, leaving some of the rhizome and some of the leaves exposed.

It’s quite simple to make the error of planting irises too deeply in the ground. In warmer areas, the rhizomes of these plants should be partially exposed to the weather, or they should be covered with a thin layer of soil. Those who are too deeply buried will not fare well in the long run.

It’s not a good idea to put mulch around the rhizome because this could cause it to rot.


Irises: How to Grow Them

Feed your plants with an all-purpose fertilizer in the early spring, scratched into the soil surrounding the plants. Reduce the likelihood of rhizome rot by avoiding the application of high-nitrogen fertilizers to the soil surface and the negligent mulching of organic waste. It is optimal for the performance of reblooming irises to fertilize them again after the first wave of flowering has concluded.

Overwatering irises can cause the rhizomes (roots) to rot, so make sure to keep the soil wet at all times. Consistently and deeply water your plants, especially during the summer drought.

Keep the rhizomes exposed at all times. Iris rhizomes require a little sunlight and air instead of bulbs, which flourish deep below. They also require a little water. They will decay if they are covered with dirt or crowded with other plants. In the spring, irises may benefit from a little layer of mulch around the base of the plant.

Taller irises may require staking to prevent them from toppling over. Keep an eye out for iris borers in the foliage (dark vertical lines that may appear light show up in the leaves). See the section below for insect prevention advice.

Bearded irises will flower consecutively on buds separated throughout the stems if you deadhead (remove wasted blooms).

After the blooming period has ended, cut the flower stalks at the base of the plant. However, do not trim the iris leaves after the blooming

period. The photosynthesis of the leaves continues, generating energy for the development of the plant the next year. Remove any brown tips, then cut the flowering stalk all the way down to the rhizome to prevent rot.

Fall foliage should be pruned back firmly, and any foliage that seems spotty or yellowed should be removed. All waste should be discarded in the garbage after a harsh frost has occurred.

If the iris foliage has been severely damaged by frost, it should be removed and destroyed to prevent borer eggs from hatching. Check your local frost dates to make sure you’re not missing anything. To preserve the rhizomes over the winter, cover them with an inch or two of sand and a light coating of evergreen boughs, which should be placed after the ground freezes and removed when the Forsythias bloom the following spring.

During the first few weeks of spring, remove any winter mulch and any old leaves to allow for new, healthy growth and keep Iris borers at bay.

Dividing Irises

It is not uncommon for iris plantings to become overloaded over time, resulting in the rhizomes losing their vitality and the plants ceasing to bloom. When this occurs (which occurs approximately every 2 to 5 years), it is necessary to divide and transplant healthy rhizomes into the new soil.

When is it OK to divide? After the flowering has finished, perform this process and clip the leaves back to six inches.

Carefully pull up the cluster of irises shortly after they have finished flowering (in the middle of summer). When you look at the original rhizome that you planted, you’ll see that it has grown a lot of branch rhizomes. This is called the “mother.”

Separate the rhizomes from the mother using a sharp knife, then trash the mother because it will no longer produce flowers after being separated.

Observe the rhizomes for any rotting tissue or other signs of illness, then remove and throw away any infected parts or whole sick rhizomes that you find.

Remove all but 3 to 5 inches of iris leaves from the plants’ crowns to concentrate on creating new roots.

You may start from scratch in a new bed or transplant them back to where they came from (after adding new soil). You can even give them away to friends and spread the joy of irises!


Despite being deer resistant, iris plants are also drought tolerant. They are, however, subject to the dreadful iris borer, which overwinters as eggs in the decaying leaves of the plant. If you notice vertical stripes in the leaves, check for these pests and get rid of them immediately! Find and remove any parts of the rhizome that show signs of rot or decay.

Verbena bud moth, whiteflies, iris weevil, thrips, slugs and snails, aphids, and nematodes are some of the pests that can cause problems for your plants.