Gardening information, hints and tips on how to grow irises in your garden including choosing, supporting, propagating and general care advice.

Irises Hints and Tips

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Jan

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May

Remove dead flower stems from dwarf irises. Intermediate irises will be flowering now - remember to remove dead flowers from these. Browse your gardening catalogues and order bearded irises for planting in the Autumn; those in flower now can be cut and used in floral arrangements. Water irises occasionally if dry.

Buy bulbs and plants from Thompson and Morgan.

June

Provide support for tall stems of bearded irises. Cut flowers will benefit from being cut either first thing in the morning or in the evening. Remove dead flowers to encourage others to follow. When flowering has finished, cut back the stems and apply a top dressing.

Leaves of the grassy irises, I. stylosa should be trimmed with shears. This allows the sun to get to the rhizomes which will encourage flowering next winter. Apply a fertiliser dressing to all irises and beds which are being prepared for planting next month.

July

Early in July it is time to dig up and divide dwarf and intermediate varieties of irises if they have not been disturbed for three years. Full sized irises can wait until the end of the month. It is possible to divide irises every year but better to wait for three years and get bigger, stronger rhizomes. The newly divided rhizomes should be planted in rich, well fertilized soil so that the roots are well buried but the top of the rhizome and leaves are above ground. It may be wise to trim some of the foliage if the position is at all exposed to minimise the roots being disturbed if the plant rocks in the wind. Water well and keep the soil moist until the new plants are established.

August

If you have iris bulbs in storage awaiting replanting in September examine them for any fungal infections – black spots for instance – and dispose of the infected bulbs – preferably by burning them so that there is no chance of cross infection later on.

Buy bulbs and plants from Thompson and Morgan.

September

Cut off and burn any diseased leaves. Plant irises now for flowering next May to July. Choose a sunny, well-draining spot and add lots of organic matter. If you are looking for early flowers to cut, plant the bulbs so that you can later add a cloche for protection. If planting in pots, use a compost mixture of loam, silver sand and leaf mould in 5in. pots. Plant 5 bulbs 2-3in. deep. Place the pots in a cold frame and only water once growth is showing.

October

All that is required now is to give the iris bed a good tidying before the onset of winter - get rid of any dead leaves and other rubbish and trim about a third of the length off the longest leaves to reduce the surface area and hence the wind resistance so that wind damage is minimised over the windy season to come.

November

As buds appear on Iris unguicularis, pick the flowers and place in water indoors. They will soon open and would otherwise provide the birds with a good, hearty meal!

Buy bulbs and plants from Thompson and Morgan.

December

To maintain a continuous supply Keep picking Iris unguicularis. Water irises in pots in the greenhouse once they show signs of growing. To encourage growth move varieties from the cold frame to the greenhouse.

January

Irises grown for cutting, such as Iris reticulata will benefit from being enclosed in cloches. This will give weather protection and bring forward the flowering season. Irises in pots can be given water once they start growing. Irises in cold frames should be moved to a cold greenhouse once they show signs of growth.

February

If you want to get cut flowers early then you can place cloches over your irises - it will only give you flowers slightly earlier but as the plants will be fully protected from the weather they will be of better quality. As the plants develop your cloches may be a little lacking in height but you can just raise them up on bricks or blocks of wood to solve this problem.

Buy bulbs and plants from Thompson and Morgan.

March

Carefully remove the dead leaves from bearded irises. Cut off brown pots or tips on new leaves. Apply a general fertiliser towards the end of the month. Use slug pubs to provide protection against slugs. Spring-flowering Dutch irises may need protection with cloches; summer-flowering Dutch irises can be planted now in good garden soil. Bulbous irises need to be watched for the signs of virus disease. This shows as stunted growth, yellow streaks on leaves and stems and dark patches on flower petals. Bulbs should be lifted and burnt to avoid the disease spreading.

April

Dwarf varieties will be in flower now and bearded irises actively growing. If cutting flowers for indoors, cut early in the morning and place in hot water before placing in vases of cold water. Remove the stems of early-flowering irises once they have finished flowering. Look for leaf spot disease on bearded varieties and spray to treat.