Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dividing Bearded Iris

A neighbor called me the other day and wanted to know if I wanted some of his Bearded Iris.  As with any avid gardener like myself would do, I said, “Yes!” 
 
Bearded Iris are tall, show-stopping plants that range in color from white to deep purple, some having two colors, or two tones of the same color.  They are an outstanding backdrop to smaller plants and make an excellent addition to bouquets.  Their foliage stays green long after flowering, which makes them a first-rate addition to any garden.

They are, however, a high-maintenance plant.  The rhizomes, the roots of the Bearded Iris, are susceptible to soft rot and borer damage.  This can be eliminated by dividing the rhizomes every two to three years. The rhizomes of a Bearded Iris can be divided any time after they bloom through the month of August.
Here are the steps to follow:

** Carefully lift the plants from the ground using a pitchfork starting about a foot away from the outermost edge of the plant.
** Shake off the loose soil then rinse them thoroughly.  By doing so, you can inspect the rhizomes and roots for damage from insects.

** Cut the foliage back to approximately six inches. 
** Gently pull separate rhizome sections apart and search each one for small holes or dark streaks.  This will indicate if you have iris borers.

** Soft spots in the rhizome indicate the roots have soft rot.
** Using a sharp knife, cut away infected areas and throw them away.

** One the infected rhizomes are eliminated, you can divide them.  The best place is at a place where the rhizome is forked.  Cut them so that each section has a healthy root system and is at least three inches long.
** Replant sections where they can get full sun, in shallow holes about two to three inches deep and about a foot apart, spreading the roots out in all directions. If buried too deep, the flower will not bloom.

** Water thoroughly and at least once a week thereafter until new growth appears.
This process needs to occur approximately every two to three years otherwise the flower will stop blooming.

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