There are many varieties of perennials that should be planted in the fall. One of my favorite is the iris. I remember the iris growing along the edge of my grandmother’s garden, old now heirloom varieties that she had cultivated from her mother’s garden.
As an adult I use to collect iris, each fall scouring garden centers and nurseries in search of a new variety or a certain color. At the peak of my collecting I had accumulated over fifty different varieties of iris.
Iris are loved not only for their beauty but because they bloom between the spring flowering bulbs and the summer flowering perennials like delphiniums and peonies.
Iris’ are hardy, long lived and easy to grow. They multiply quickly ad produce extras to trade or share with family and friends.
Irises come in varieties labeled bearded, beardless, crested and bulb. Irises can be found in purple, blue, white, yellow, pink, reddish and bicolor. Every season growers introduce new varieties of iris much to the delight of iris lovers.
There are iris society in many states and a national organization for iris aficionados with members all around the world. The American Iris Society was established in Philadelphia in 1927. Check out their web site at www.irises.org .
Irises look best when planted in clumps, borders or in beds alone or with other flowers. They need full sun and plenty of air circulation to prevent disease.
Bearded and crested irises like lime and good drainage so it is important to prepare the bed with organic material or peat moss and if needed add a little lime before planting.
Beardless varieties prefer soil that is slightly acid and their roots need a little moisture.
Prepare the beds in advance of planting the iris. Mix in compost or manure with a 5-10-5 fertilizer using about a ½ cup of fertilizer for every 6-7 rhizomes. Mix the fertilizer into the soil well so no fertilizer comes in direct contact with the roots.
To plant iris rhizomes make a shallow hole in the garden or bed where they are to grow. Form a mound in the center of the hole where the rhizome will be placed. If the soil is well drained and light build a low mound so the top of the rhizome is two inches below the surface. If the soil is slower draining form a higher mound so the rhizome is just below the surface. In heavy soil build the mound to the top and plant the rhizome even with the ground.
Place the rhizome on top of the mound and spread the roots out. Fill around the roots with soil and water immediately. Plant early enough in the fall to allow the plant to get settled before the first frost, usually two to three weeks.
Iris are easy to grow and last for years, bringing beauty to the garden and as a cut flower inside the home.