You know it’s time to divide and thin your iris when the clumps are crowded and the blooms are declining in numbers. There are many opinions on the best time of year for tackling this task and this mostly depends on where you live. As long as there are a good 4 weeks before the first freeze and you are able to provide adequate moisture, the iris will thank you with prolific blooms next spring. So go ahead and get started.
1. Lift the iris out of the ground. I prefer to use a garden fork, lift the whole clump, shake of the soil, and transfer the clumps to a wheelbarrow, one variety at a time.
2. Sort and trim. Toss all ‘mothers’ and tiny rhizomes. Keep only healthy looking plants and cut back foliage and roots.
3. Replant. If desired or needed, amend the soil for good drainage, then plant and water the iris in well. I recommend planting with the rhizome set into the ground and covered. If you live in a hot and wet climate, you may want to plant them a bit more shallow for better drainage.
Maybe you tried your hand at pollinating some of your iris or maybe the bees went to work. Either way, your iris flowers have faded away and there’s seedpods in the making. Like a proud parent, you’re admiring the pods and imagining growing the seeds into beautiful new plants.
Oh no! You see a broken off stalk. Compost. Goodbye dreams of spectacular flowers. Worry not, here’s what you can do to save the day and let the pods continue on to maturity.
Trim the bottom off the stalk and insert firmly about 2-3 inches deep into the soil. You’re done! Really! Watch the pods mature and collect the seeds once the pods have ripened.
Developing Iris Seedpod
The first thing you should know about dividing iris is that iris are tough. Most iris can withstand an amazing amount of neglect and rough handling. This is not to say you should abuse your iris, but you also don’t need to worry too much when you are working with them.
Most planting guides recommend that you divide iris about 3-4 weeks after they have finished blooming. There’s a high likelihood that they will not bloom the year after you divide and transplant them. They are just settling into their new home; you didn’t kill them!
Iris grow from rhizomes (the solid part between the leaves and the roots) . Each iris rhizome will bloom only once – and this rhizome is largest right after the flowers are done blooming. When your iris are getting crowded, you can often see the rhizomes, sticking out of the ground a little. The fact the rhizomes are so shallow makes them really easy to dig up. The easiest way is to use a fork — simply insert the fork near the edge of the rhizome and wiggle it around a little and it will pop up easily.
Brush the dirt off so you can see the rhizome and have an idea of what you are working with. Some guides suggest that you’ll need to get out the hose and thoroughly clean the rhizome. There’s no harm in doing that, but it won’t make a bit of difference if you skip this step.
Trim back the leaves to about 3 inches. You can cut them into any shape you want, straight across or fans, even zigzag! Then trim all the roots to about an inch long below the rhizome and
Cut or break off your baby iris rhizomes from the center ‘mother’. If there are no new babies on the mother yet, plant the mother.
Most likely there will be many more iris then you have space in the old location, either plant them in a new spot or share the extras with your friends and neighbors.
To plant, insert your rhizomes up to its neck into the ground and water them in. You should not be able to see any part of the rhizome sticking up.
I know you’ve heard that the rhizomes should be above the ground and ‘be kissed by the sun’. If you plant them too high, they are much more likely to #1 fall over and uprooted on the new roots they are developing and #2 dry out and die. Pretty much all iris nurseries and hybridizers from Canada to Australia plant their iris ‘to the neck’.
Newly planted iris
If you look underneath your big plant and see all the volunteer babies, you’d think it would be quite easy to collect the seeds and plant them in a container or a new location and end up with lots of new plants shortly. It’s not quite that simple but it’s also not as difficult to get the seeds to sprout as some people will have you believe.
The challenge lies in giving the seeds just the ‘right’ environment as they require stratification. There’s lots of info about so many weeks of warm, moist and so long in cold, moist to induce germination. You can get as scientific about the process as you like. But I like EASY. So here’s my EASY method for sprouting hellebore seeds.
You will need one brick for every 15 to 20 seeds. Collect the seeds when they are ripe and fresh, usually sometime in May for most locations. Plant your seeds as es soon as possible after purchasing or collecting, you’ll want them in the ground by the end of June at the latest. Select your new planting spot. Just rough up the soil a little and sprinkle your seeds. Top them with the flat side of your brick. You’re done!
The brick will hold the seeds in place, provide just the proper environment both moisture and temperature wise to allow your seeds to do their thing. In warmer climates without snow cover, lift-off the brick in mid-January of the year following planting. You may have tiny little seedlings that are flat like pancakes, don’t worry, they’ll straighten right up. In colder areas with snow cover, whenever your snow has melted, lift the brick once a week and check for seedlings. As soon as you see babies, remove the brick.
It will take about 3-4 years before your new babies will be large enough to bloom and each baby will be a new plant that may or may not resemble its parent. Here’s a picture of one of my seedlings that I really like a lot:
My burgundy rim helleborus seedling
I like a good app. I like a good app even better when it’s free!
I love to knit, from socks to sweaters and everything in between. I use paper and pencil, highlighters and sometimes even buttons to keep track of written patterns and charts.
Then I found knitCompanion (free version) for iPhone. It does all that in a simple and easy to use interface. The big hurdle is ‘how in the world do I import my pattern?‘
Once you open the app, there’s a big ‘projects’ and another big ‘pdf’ button. Neither of them will take you to a place where you’ll be able to add your own pattern. Well, phoooeyyyyy! This app stinks! Not quite. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to import your pattern.
- open your pdf on your device (i use dropbox)
- select forward (image1) and then open in… (image 2) knitCompanion (image 3)
- select ‘new project (image 4)
- select all pages (image 5)
- give your project a name and tell knitCompanion to ‘create project (image 6)
Voila – you’re done! Now you can enjoy all the tools from row counters to highlighting sections of text and marking locations (image 7). The free version of knitCompanion even opens charts!