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To late to plant bulbs? What to do?

Posted by morgang 4-5 NE (My Page) on
Tue, Nov 28, 06 at 16:11

I have bearded iris and lily bulbs from Wayside that I haven't gotten in the ground. We've had a few light frosts, but now it looks like the next week or so is going to be in the low teens. It's too cold for me to be outside long enough to do anything now.

Should I pot the bulbs and put them in the unheated, unattached garage until spring, or should I store them dry in peat moss? Even if I got them in the ground this afternoon, which is a nice day, I'd need to water them, right? And then they'll freeze right away for the next week or so. That doesn't sound good.

I havent' gotten them in the ground because I haven't decided for sure where I want them. Dry, part sun is OK, right? I'm new at this.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: To late to plant bulbs? What to do?

  • Posted by laurief z3b northern MN (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 28, 06 at 18:42

Pot up your bearded iris rhizomes and overwinter them in sunny windows in your home. Be very careful not to overwater potted irises, or you may rot them. Also, keep an eye on them for aphid infestations.

Do not plant your irises outside now. It's much too late in the season, and the likelihood of them surviving the winter is not great. The rule of thumb for bearded irises is to plant them at least 6 weeks before your first hard frost.


RE: To late to plant bulbs? What to do?

Thanks, Laurie. Do I water them when I pot them, or leave them potted dry and start watering them in the spring? Or, if I water them when I pot them, do I continue watering them regularly?

RE: To late to plant bulbs? What to do now?

And I just need to clarify something else: you're saying I should have planted them 6 weeks before the first hard frost -- but a post on another question refers to iris rhizomes liking frost and ice on them. Does that mean frost and ice are fine for ESTABLISHED irises but not for initial plantings?

And when I pot them, do I leave the top half or third above the soil in the pot, as I would outside?


RE: To late to plant bulbs? What to do?

  • Posted by laurief z3b northern MN (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 29, 06 at 8:30

Pot them in a very light potting mix (add extra perlite and/or sand for excellent drainage) at the same level you would plant them outside. I plant mine so that the tops of the rhizomes are level with or slightly below the soil surface, but some folks plant them with more of the rhizomes exposed. Water thoroughly after potting, then water moderately whenever the soil dries out - maybe once every 10-14 days.

You are correct. Established irises can handle frost-freezing-snow cover, but newly planted irises need at least 6 weeks to reestablish root systems before the first hard frost in order to give them the best possible chance of surviving their first winter.


RE: To late to plant bulbs? What to do?

Can I move irises from one outside location to another this late, if I dig up lots of dirt with them? I have to sell my house before spring, and I would like to take some of my irises with me.

RE: To late to plant bulbs? What to do?


Where are you loacated? What zone?

In my zone (5/6) I would dig and store them in a cool dry place, maybe in some peat, in layered cardboard boxes, like flats.

Once you get where you are going, I'd wait until the ground warms and is workable, and then plant them out.


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