Advice on Iris in Container - Pics

sister_k(Zone 5 Lafayette, CO)March 15, 2009

Hello, this is my first post on the iris forum, and I would appreciate any advice you could provide. I am pretty new to gardening and I planted these 3 iris last fall in a rectangular planter that measures about 10-12 inches deep. They were just the kind from Home Depot (Pink Attraction -- 3 dried out looking rhizomes in a mesh bag). I didn't really know how best to plant and care for these, but they've made it through the winter!

I planted them pretty shallow as the instructions & pictures showed, but now that I know a little more about gardening in general and have read more about how irises grow, I worry they are going to be too crowded in this planter. I had them pretty heavily mulched, but I read that can promote mold/rot, so I've cleared the mulch away from each stem. My mom has so many beautiful iris at home in Maryland, but I'd hate to kill these off, as I was so excited to find some and that they lived through the winter (well, so far)! Here are three photos of the container & close ups of two of the three clumps of shoots. I have a couple of questions, if anyone can chime in. Thanks!

So, here are my questions:

1. Should I trim off the brown tips in any way?

2. Should I try to move any of these now to another container, or do you think they will be healthy in their current planting? If you have receommendations, I appreciate hearing your ideas about moving this now or later in the season, or not at all.

3. I have another package of 2 (Cherub's Smile) and one package of 3 (Before the Storm) to plant which I bought last fall. Would they do best in their own containers, or is it okay to combine them? If so, is there a particular size & depth you recommend per iris?

4. Once the shoots are up this far or further, do they need protection from freezing in the containers (I could bring them into the garage)?

5. Any other obvious tips about growing iris in containers?

Thank you all so much in advance!

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I don't grow any in containers, BUT yours look like they are planted too deep. They like to have their rhizomes up top of the dirt near the sun. Do not take them in as they need cold to set bud. Once it warms up some I would remove some of the dirt and expose some of the fleshy part of the rhyzome to the sun and leave the roots underground. They need lots of sun, so don't put them into the shade and they should do fine.


    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 6:57PM
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iris_gal(z9 CA)

You can leave the brown tips or trim as pleases you. The brown is dead leaf so removing it will not harm. It may be caused by cold temps. at this time of year. It always occurs after bloom (prob. late April-June in your zone) as the outer leaves die off during late summer/fall.

The iris you named are all tall beardeds. Unfortunately they will not like being confined to a pot. Bearded iris travel to new ground and the old mother rhizome withers and dies. This means they'll reach the edge of the pot and be blocked. And they are not finding new soil for its nutrients. I have dug beardeds whose roots have gone down 20 inches!!! The only sucessful TB's I've seen in a container were in a 1/2 barrel. Your container size would possibly be sucessful with miniature dwarf or standard dwarf beardeds.

That's the bad news. Good news is they did well for you! I would prepare a bed for a July move-in. Drainage, drainage, drainage. Dig in a low nitrogen fertilizer and/or bonemeal a month ahead. At least a foot apart when planting. Some cultivars are more vigorous than others and could be planted further apart. Many people plant 3 feet apart. If you have been bitten by the iris bug and will want to trade, label each rhizome. You will have to move the labels as the darn thing travel. I would keep different pinks well apart for id purposes.

If your iris do not bloom this year, don't worry. Often newly planted beardeds take 2-3 years to settle in and bloom. I would say this is particularly true of those distributed by Home Depot and other retail stores. You will also hear fantastic stories about what actually bloomed compared to the picture on the mesh bag.

Here's the link to the American Iris Society - an abundance of information.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 12:18AM
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berrytea4me(Z5 CO)

Welcome to the fun of iris!

Growing iris CO is a tad different from the milder and wetter climates.

Here you need to be careful about hard frost damage which can still damage the newly forming buds and rhizomes, and in pots, the roots. Your rhizomes should remain covered by at least an inch of soil until around April. Once established they will do well planted similar to warmer regions where the rhizome is on top of the soil to one inch below. Some people here like to have them covered a little to protect from sun scald during the summer months.

I agree you should get them planted into the ground. They will be much happier. Spring planting before bloom is actually the best here since it gives the plants lots of time to establish a good root system before the next hard winter. It is a tad early due to the frosts. I would wait until early April and then move these into the ground. Because you want them to bloom this season if possible try to minimize disturbing the roots by planting with large balls of potting soil attached. If we get more very hard frost (ie. 20s or below) cover them overnight until the weather warms up. This is just a precaution for newly planted rhizomes and you would not need to do this after they are established.

Also, due to our desert climate, you will find they need to be watered more here than what is recommended in other climates, especially newly planted rhizomes. Mine do well with watering by automatic sprinkler system in the same zones as my lawn & daylilies w/o developing rot- though I probably am on the minimum side of watering those other thirsty plants.

CO is its own region in AIS and I encourage you to join the newly formed Denver iris club. There are several commercial growers/hybridizers in our region and they along with club members can help you choose iris that have been selected to grow well here. The Denver club will host iris shows and rhizome sales later this year. More info on AIS region 20 at the url below.

Here is a link that might be useful: AIS Reg 20

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 9:19AM
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sister_k(Zone 5 Lafayette, CO)

Wow, thanks everyone very much for all the info! I'll definitely check out the AIS links, too, thanks. Hmmm, I have only a tiny little piece of actual ground that could technically be considered "mine" -- but then this winter, they removed all the mulch and covered it with pretty large landscaping rocks but those could be worked around. I'm in a condo, and as I keep expanding my gardening endeavors (and will soon run out of room on my 300 sq. ft. balcony!), I'm wondering whether I should proactively ask the HOA for permission to do some planting in the ground, or just do it and hope it works out -- thinking of the expression that guides me at work often -- "it's better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission." : ) Probably just do it, but not plant anything I'm too attached to, in case the landscapers get rid of what I plant...

I was really kind of surprised these irises grew at all -- they're even bigger since I took these pictures and posted this! I can even see where one of the rhizomes has "traveled" and sprouting from another location (I think). I can't wait for the weekend to finish up some winter sowing and move around all my pots & things. Thanks again for sharing this great information & I look forward to learning more about irises! -- Kristin

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 12:44AM
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berrytea4me(Z5 CO)

Look to see if anyone has started a community garden near you.

We have one in my town and it is so nice. Next year I think I'll be out of room for iris & daylily seedlings but for $15-35 per year I can rent a plot at the community garden. The plot fee covers water, tilling, common paths, etc. They don't all let you grow perennials so you have to ask but its an option for people who don't have enough land for their gardening passion.

Maybe your HOA would even allow one for the condo owners.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 6:16PM
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sister_k(Zone 5 Lafayette, CO)

Yes, that suggestion is very timely! I am thinking of trying to get a garden started -- there's a patch of green grass just across the road from me that would work great! It's not huge, but could be a few neat patches...

I actually have a very good friend who manages a community garden, but it's about 20 minutes away. She would definitely help me put the right things in a proposal & help me get it started if it got approved. It's amazing, all these past few years, she's studied organic gardening and then got this position with the comm. garden, and I never had a single plant -- now, I can't seem to stop and I can't wait to pick her brain!

I also keep meaning to knock on a door down the way -- this summer I was just blown away by all the gorgeous flowers, window boxes & hanging baskets outside the whole place. I thought maybe if I solicited some other gardener's support in advance, it might help us to get this to work.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 12:06AM
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organic_tosca(9/Sunset 14)

Hi, iris people - I usually hang out on the Antique Roses forum, but last Fall I planted some iris (tall bearded) in containers. I wasn't sure at the time if this was a wise thing to do, but thought it was worth a try. They are in 10" pots (one to a pot - I realize now that 12" would have been better), and they are growing very well so far. Two of them (Over Alaska and Beverly Sills) have emerging flower stalks, which is pretty exciting! However, I realize now that they can't stay in pots, so when they are through blooming (providing they all do that), I'm going to give them to a friend who has a garden with GROUND - I have only a balcony. Since I think I'm going to really love them, I wondered if all iris would dislike a pot, or just the Tall Beardeds? If next Fall I plant Intermediates or Dwarfs, would they like being in containers better? Or should I just forget it? Also, I went to the AIS website that was mentioned in one of the posts here, and clicked on the link for the Historical Irises. What a treat! They are what I was really thinking of when I planted my iris - I believe I was thinking of my grandmother's garden... would these older iris do any better in a container?
Thanks for any advice!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 7:35PM
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