Now that fall is upon us, it is time to start preparing plants for winter. This includes splitting your iris for next year. Ideally, splitting occurs during the late summer and early fall. You will want to get your iris split as soon as possible to keep them from molding and rotting. The more warm weather that they have, the better able they will be to take root before winter strikes.
Irises should be divided every three to five years. A good general rule for knowing when your iris need to be divided is to watch them while they are in bloom. If your iris plants have many beautiful flowers, you don’t need to split them. Once you start to notice fewer flowers, you will know that it is time to divide them once again. Irises aren’t traditional bulbs. They are in fact rhizomes, which makes the splitting process a little different than you might have encountered with your other bulbs.
To split iris plants, you will first need to remove them from the ground. It is a good idea to cut back the green blade like foliage of the plant before digging. Trim each leaf fan down until about four inches from the ground. Then, dig the plants up carefully and slowly remove dirt from the rhizomes. Also remove and discard any moldy, rotten or soft pieces of rhizome.
Some people choose to break the rhizome when dividing; however, it is much more effective and accurate to divide using a clean knife. Cut the rhizome into smaller sections. Remember that to grow effectively, each piece will need a few inches of rhizome as well as some leaves. As you divide your iris carefully, examine the leaves and the rhizome for disease and insects.
Once the irises have been divided, you can begin transplanting into various areas in your garden. Iris thrive in sunny environments. They do not need a lot of water; in fact, dry soil helps them to avoid rot and other common problems. Plant your iris so that the fan of leaves will be directly facing the sun. They should be placed a couple of inches below the ground, with the top of the rhizome just barely poking out of the soil.
Your newly divided plants may not bloom their first year in the ground. However, you will find that regular dividing of your irises keeps them healthy, vibrant and looking their best. Plus, you will have more of your favorite iris available to plant in your yard or to share with friends.
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