Bearded iris- really a maintenance nightmare?

threeorangeboysMarch 31, 2006

In most of my perennial garden books, bearded iris are described as maintenance nightmares, requiring careful management so they do not succumb to borers or rot. I have indeed lost several to rot over the past year as the rhizome got buried too deep. Yet, I see bearded iris in people's gardens that are covered with soil and appear to be completely ignored, and yet, they come up year after year. Do they know to do something I don't? They are so beautiful I can't imagine a garden without them, but perhaps other forms of iris are just much easier. Any thoughts??

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I think that the older irises are hardy as all get out! Perhaps the newer hybrids are the more delicate. I think they all give more bloom if taken care of but, I have dropped older irises as I crossed the lawn with an arm full and I will see them growing by them selves in the lawn the following season!!!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 10:46AM
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Nancy zone 6

I have grown bearded iris for years. The only real problems I have is that they have multiplied so very much. You are supposed to dig every 3-5 years, but I tend to slack off that too much. It can be a huge job, I give tons away when I dig, & still have lots left I have to replant (cause, of course, I can't just compost the poor things). I do find some borer damage, but apparently doesn't hurt the plants. I never bother to treat for them, I do dip the bulbs in a bit of bleach solution when I replant, but other than that, nothing. I find them very easy maintenance the rest of the time. I trim them back a bit in the fall & that is it.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 3:37PM
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garden_of_mu(Z7/8 PNW)

I think it depends where you are. I have heard that iris can be difficult in borer country, but here on the west side of the Rockies we don't have them and bearded iris grow like weeds. Many historic irises are much tougher and can take much more neglect than modern varieties can, so it also depends on what varieties you are growing. The type of soil you have and the light is also important. Bearded irses demand well-draining soil and won't thrive in hard clay. they also need a cool winter and don't do well along the warm coastal states where winter temps don't fall low, enough.

But there is an iris for every situation. Perhaps if you desrcibed yours we could suggest ones that would do well where you are with little care or concern and reward you with great blooms and good growth habits.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 10:14PM
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like everyone says it is where you are and the plant here in knoxville we have red clay. iris thrive here. I grow talls and aril and arilbred in the native clay. if they rot it is bacteria as the cause. the simple solution is to kill the bacteria with anti bacterial soap.slate

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 3:35AM
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As stated before, you just need to find the ones that do well in your area, and they do usually need to be divided every few years to keep blooming. Historics tend to be tougher than the moderns, although Jesse's Song has performed like gangbusters here for me in NC. Your best bet is to get divisions from people who grow iris in your area. I see I. albicans, kochii and germanica growing and blooming without any care here. My neighbor actually has some growing on the sides of a ditch on the roadside part of his property. One looks like albicans, the other is a lovely amoena.

Apart from dividing, I don't do anything to my iris, and have actually found them to be one of the easiest plants to grow because they are so drought tolerant. Too much moisture is their worst enemy.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 9:11AM
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Wow- thanks for all the wonderful feedback. I am not sure which iris I have as I have ordered them online and mostly for color. I have tried to find really dark purple to black ones as well as golden-orange ones, but whether or not they are historic or new- I have no idea. I am not sure how to divide them, so I will have to look that up.
Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 11:15AM
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shapiro(5a Ontario)

In this area, historics are rarely if ever offered for sale commercially, the only way to get them is as "pass-alongs". Sometimes, if you drive through an older neighbourhood when irised are in bloom, you may see some beautiful older varieties. Friendly gardeners will often give you a piece if you ask nicely. I prefer the older types for many reasons: partly because they are hardier but also because they are beautiful and not so over-bred.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 10:19PM
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Argyle Acres and Superstition Iris (mail-order) carry a lot of historics, so that's a good way to get older iris if you can't get them as passalongs.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 10:40AM
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