When to plant Irises

drnukeOctober 4, 2010

I'm a new homeowner, and I have been slowly renovating my garden. I love Irises, but I have never grown them. Now I want to take the plunge into Iris growing, and I was wondering when is the ideal time for planting them, where should I plant them (full sun, morning sun, evening sun?), and where should I obtain them?

I know there's an Iris forum, but I wanted to plant here because I wanted a TN-specific answer.


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I think they are usually planted in summer after they are divided (July or August). I don't think that's a strict rule, though...I would think it would be OK anytime the ground wasn't frozen.

They like full sun, but I've had some do fine in partial shade. Blooming will be best in full sun, supposedly, but mine in partial did just fine.

You should visit the Plant Exchange forum. People are often offering up NOID Irises for postage. Or if you have something to trade you could trade for a named variety.

I've ordered from this place twice. They're in Springfield, TN, which is fairly close to Nashville. GREAT Irises. Very healthy. Wonderful customer service, and they usually include several "bonuses" with your order.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wild Iris Rows

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 8:14PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

There are many different types of iris, and different species have very different requirements. Irises range from plants that live in ponds and bogs to plants that will rot if allowed to stay in moist soil; from plants that like full sun to plants that require at least partial shade; from plants that grow from bulbs to plants with rhizomes; and from plants from very cold climates to tropical species. Since tall bearded iris (generally, Iris germanica) are the most commonly planted in landscapes around here, I will assume that you are wanting to know about them.

TB irises can be planted just about anytime between early spring and early fall. They are generally as tough as nails and don't need/like much coddling. TB's can probably still be planted right now (in this area), but it's really starting to get a little late. They need to to establish before really cold weather, and cold weather probably isn't all that far off.

TB's are best planted in full sun. They need good drainage and need to be planted so that the top of their rhizomes are exposed above soil. Many sources describe this by saying that they like to sunbath the top of their rhizome.

The very best place to get irises in Knoxville is at the East Tennessee Iris Society. I've gotten more irises than I could ever dream about buying for free by being a member of the club. We buy awesomely cool new introductions, grow them in members' gardens, and then distribute them throughout the club. If you get serious about iris, the East Tennessee Iris Society is a terrific club with lots of benefits.

The second best place to get iris is probably at UT's Bloomsdays. The ETIS always has a booth there that offers iris proven to grow well in this area. Usually we have a few hundred (I'm guessing) different cultivars available. Many of the iris offered at Bloomsdays are proven to be rebloomers in this area. (Many iris sold as rebloomers, by various sources, don't reliably rebloom here - long story.) You'll find the selection great, the prices unbeatable, and the experts available for questions at the ETIS booth.

The third best place to get irises is from gardening friends. The selection may be limited (depending no your friends), but the price is probably unbeatable (free).

The fourth best place to get irises is through mail-order suppliers. Below is a link from the American Iris Society that lists many of the commercial sources. ALWAYS check potential sources out through Garden Watchdog BEFORE placing an order.

Here is a link that might be useful: American Iris Society Commercial Directory

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 8:48PM
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Thank you for you great advice. I will probably just wait until next summer. Right now I am giving my lawn lots of attention (reseeding Tall Fescue), so I may have my hands full enough already.

I'll be looking forward to next summer ... in the mean time, I may put down some pansies.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 10:11AM
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I'm in the East TN area and I have never had any problems moving a bearded iris, LA water iris, or dutch iris at anytime during the year. Of course I've never moved them in the dead of winter.

I think summer is the worst time to move anything especially if we are having a hot and dry time.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 12:00PM
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a neighbor gave me several boxes of iris rhizomes she divided in the spring. if i keep them in a cool place can i wait to plant them in the fall?

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 10:24AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Kaye, I wouldn't do that. The rhizomes, if they make it that long, will be very weak by then. Then, when you plant them, they will have little time to regrow foliage and store energy for the winter. I really doubt they would make it. Why not plant them in pots, if you can't get them in the ground soon. You could also plant them in a temporary place, like a shrub border until fall.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 10:46AM
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heathersgarden(6b/7a Mid TN)

Just checked out the link to Wild Iris Rows that Connie posted, and am drooling and planning an order:D Between them and Iris City Gardens, I'll need to start planting them in my neighbors yards too!

Excellent advice, as always, from Brandon:)

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 3:34PM
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