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How to Divide Irises

Updated on December 30, 2013
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Bearded irises have fuzzy "soul patches" on their lower petalsBeardless irises lack the fuzzy, caterpillar-like ridges on their lower petals that characterize the bearded varieties.
Bearded irises have fuzzy "soul patches" on their lower petals
Bearded irises have fuzzy "soul patches" on their lower petals | Source
Beardless irises lack the fuzzy, caterpillar-like ridges on their lower petals that characterize the bearded varieties.
Beardless irises lack the fuzzy, caterpillar-like ridges on their lower petals that characterize the bearded varieties. | Source

DIVIDE IRISES IN THE FALL

Bearded and beardless irises are particularly easy to divide and grow. If you have irises, why not try your hand at dividing, replanting and sharing these delightful flowers with your friends, family and neighbors.

Friendship and sharing--what a great way to make your garden grow!


"Don't thank a gardener when she gives you a plant. If you do, it'll never grow." That's what the old women where I grew up always said.

But if you give irises to your friends, they'll be hard pressed not to say, "Thank you!" with a great big smile. And who knows? They might just present you with a few of their own plants in return.

Bearded Irises

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Tall bearded irises are available in just about every color and shade--except bright red.See the "beards" on this tall bearded iris's lower petals?Tall bearded iris blossoms are definitely showy!
Tall bearded irises are available in just about every color and shade--except bright red.
Tall bearded irises are available in just about every color and shade--except bright red. | Source
See the "beards" on this tall bearded iris's lower petals?
See the "beards" on this tall bearded iris's lower petals? | Source
Tall bearded iris blossoms are definitely showy!
Tall bearded iris blossoms are definitely showy! | Source

BEARDED IRISES

Bearded irises produce gorgeous orchid-like blossoms that look difficult to cultivate. But they're really quite simple to grow. If you live in hardiness zones 3-9, raising and sharing bearded irises is easy.

How to Divide Bearded Irises

In the fall, after the blooms have died, dig up your bearded irises, trim off their blade-like leaves, rinse off their bulb-like rhizomes and cut them apart, removing the old growth.

ARS KNKDA1S Hori Hori Knife
ARS KNKDA1S Hori Hori Knife

A multipurpose gardening tool with a wooden handle & serrated blade suitable for cutting iris rhizomes and for digging. It's also a ruler!

 

How to Plant Beardless Irises

Set the trimmed rhizomes in the sun for a day or two, allowing them to dry. Then plant them shallowly about a foot apart, making sure that you choose sunny locations. And don't forget to give a few to your friends, family and neighbors!

Bearded irises should be divided every three to four years, but you can divide them more frequently if you like.

Years ago, my mother gave me a small paper bag filled with tall bearded iris rhizomes from her garden. By dividing them each year, I now have masses of them in different locations throughout our yard--and they're gorgeous. Some are yellow, some are purple and some are a mix of colors.

Following Mom's example, I'm always sure to give at least a few bagfuls away to friends each fall. Division doesn't harm bearded irises at all. In fact, it makes them bloom bigger and more beautifully than before. So does fertilizing them with bulb fertilizer in the early spring when they experience the most growth.

Iris bearded Purple And White - 3 Plants
Iris bearded Purple And White - 3 Plants

As beautiful as orchids but much, much easier to grow, bearded irises will bloom each year when planted in full sun and divided regularly.

 

Gardener Ken Druse divides bearded irises.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Beardless irises are also easy to divide and share. These are less than a year old and won't need to be divided for at least two years.Liked bearded irises, beardless varieties come in a variety of colors.
Beardless irises are also easy to divide and share. These are less than a year old and won't need to be divided for at least two years.
Beardless irises are also easy to divide and share. These are less than a year old and won't need to be divided for at least two years. | Source
Liked bearded irises, beardless varieties come in a variety of colors.
Liked bearded irises, beardless varieties come in a variety of colors. | Source
Hughes Water Gardens Japanese Iris (3 Plants)
Hughes Water Gardens Japanese Iris (3 Plants)

Japanese irises love water. They're often grown near ponds and water features.

 

BEARDLESS IRISES

Beardless irises, such as the Louisiana, Siberian, Spuria and Japanese varieties, are almost as easy to divide and share as the bearded ones. As with bearded irises, fall is the best time.

How to Divide Beardless Irises

After digging them up, slice the rhizomes into divisions with a large kitchen knife or pruning saw. Individual beardless iris rhizomes are small, but make your clumps generous in size, approximately four inches in diameter.

Cut the leaves and roots to about the length of your hand. Don't dry the rhizomes before planting. If giving them to friends, wrap them in wet paper towels and place them in a plastic bag with directions to plant asap--before they dry out. You can also refrigerate them.

How to Plant Beardless Irises

Like bearded irises, the Louisiana, Spuria and Siberian beardless varieties are planted shallowly, about an inch deep so that soil just covers their small rhizomes. Because Japanese irises develop new growth on top of the old, plant them a little deeper.

Beardless irises bloom best in rich, loamy beds that get full sun. Spuria rhizomes are best planted 3 feet apart, Japanese 2 feet apart, Siberian 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart and Louisiana 1 foot apart.

After planting, water them well and keep them moist until they're established. When new growth begins, every type but the Spuria will appreciate a two to three-inch application of mulch.

Siberian and Japanese irises prefer consistently moist, acidic soil. Spuria irises, on the other hand, are drought tolerant. They prefer dry soil in July and August when they're dormant.

Like bearded irises, beardless varieties grow best when they're divided every few years, making them great plant to share with friends.

More About Siberian Irises

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      8 years ago from United States

      Great, tebo. I'm sure you'll enjoy them.

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 

      8 years ago from New Zealand

      They are lovely indeed. I don't have any but my sister does. I shall have to get some and do as you suggest.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      8 years ago from United States

      You're welcome, Bob. Thanks for reading.

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 

      8 years ago from New Brunswick

      Mom loved irises and i have inherited her love, thanks for the hub.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks, kentuckyslone! About 10 bearded irises bloomed out here yesterday. OMG are they gorgeous!

    • kentuckyslone profile image

      kentuckyslone 

      8 years ago

      Beautiful stuff, really!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks, Mslizze! Glad you stopped by.

    • mslizzee profile image

      elizabeth 

      8 years ago from Buncombe County, NC

      Lovely!

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