Dig up irises now & store for planting later?

justjimJuly 31, 2013

The subject line says it all. We'd like to divide a bed of bearded irises. We know the best time to plant is in the fall but, for various reasons, we'd like to dig them up now, store the rhizomes, and then plant in the fall. Is this do-able or a really bad idea?

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Gretchen Wood

I recently dug up mine as well. I keep them in a plastic container with a lid just so moisture stays out. I have dug most anytime and planted later and have had no problems. I live in Texas.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 10:50PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Planting time here is *now*. If we wait much longer, the rhizomes aren't established enough to get through winter. Since the biggest winter problem is water management, not cold, I'd expect proper planting time in NC to be very soon.

This isn't to say you can't store them, just the sooner they get in the ground, the better.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 10:53AM
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Actually, unlike most perennials, iris goes dormant in summer. The perfect time to dig and divide them for most parts of the country is early July to the end of August. Remove any dried up parts of the rhizome, cut the leaf fans back to about 6 inches and plant them with the top of the rhizome visible at the soil line and they'll do just fine. The current leaves may brown or die back a bit, but they should start putting on new growth before fall hits. Even if they don't, they'll be good come spring.

If you need to wait until fall to plant them, they should do fine stored out in the open in an unheated garage. Iris are tough. One time I accidentally left some rhizomes outside over the winter and they actually froze to the driveway. Come spring, I planted them anyway just to see what happened. They grew and even bloomed that year.

Of course, I'm not recommending that you do this. I'm just highlighting how tough the plants are.

This post was edited by flower-frenzy on Fri, Aug 2, 13 at 13:37

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 1:32PM
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jim_1 Zone 5B Illinois(5b)

I regularly dig my iris to divide them. Some I replant, some I give away and some I toss over the fence into the area of the detention pond (at least that is what it should be).

I am amazed every year when look on the other side of the fence and see those that were just tossed in the middle of summer have made it through the central Illinois winter and actually done well, blooming like I knew what I was doing.

Plant before the end of September to give the roots a chance to take hold. Water well when you get them in the ground and walk away. They are tough!

What to do between now and the end of September? I always experiment. Leave some at the base of a shady tree; leave some in your garage (my garage is way too hot for that); leave some on the porch; plant some now. See which ones work best. And, then report to us next year what the results were.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 10:00PM
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taurustendency(5 mid missouri)

i was sort of wondering the same thing...but more of a long term situation. is it possible to dig them up some and store them over the winter? i have a massive bed that needs to not only be dug and divided...but is completely overgrown with weeds and tree saplings. the previous property owners planted a ton of iris and daffodils right along a fence row. couldnt get the mower in there during mowing season, and i assume they never weed-wacked it due to all the flowers they had in there. so after many years it is more weeds than anything. but its huge and has to have thousands of bulbs and rhizomes!

we are wanting to completely get rid of this bed and go back to a clean fence line. but we know that this will be a huge undertaking, as well as the many other projects we have going on right now. we can get them all dug up, but do not think we will be able to replant them all by the time the winter comes.

has anyone else had any experience with storing them long term like this? im guessing we should just hold off and continue looking at the eyesore until next year.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 10:59AM
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You can store Iris anywhere where they will not be too dry, nor too wet.
I often park them in a plastic pot with an inch or two of soil over the rhizomes & roots & water them once in a while.
So long as they stay covered with soil or even sawdust they should be alright.
Cut back foliage by half to save energy for later blooming.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 4:42PM
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