Monday, March 19, 2012

When can I move my tall bearded irises?

Let me start off by saying I know that if you are a tried and true iris grower, you know the answer to this already. But there are people out there that don't know that answer. So I will put it down here with a few extra surprises along the way.

The proper time to split and move tall bearded irises depends on your part of the United States from July until October and even in some parts of California and the far southern states, November. I always try to ship the tall bearded irises to the northern states, if possible, in July. I don't think it is too much of a problem for those states to also receive plants in August, but we try to ship those earlier, if possible. I also try to ship to the southern most states late in September, but usually will try to do it during any week they request them.

Seedling out of 'Select Circle'
Now, every year I get a few calls where there is an emergency and the irises need to be moved in the spring. I seldom hear of any bad results from this, but bloom may be delayed until the second year. So, the big problem is that there will be no bloom for that year and who wants to miss a full bloom season.

So, why don't iris growers just ship their plants when the customer wants them spring or summer? First, we do want to see those irises bloom. In our case, those irises are our show and they sell thousands of plants for us when people see them blooming. There is a second reason we don't sell irises in the spring. The plants are making increases that we can sell as plants later in the summer. Ask any reputable iris grower in the U.S. if they will sell you plants in the spring and you won't get them until July.

Seedling out of 'Pinball Wizard' X 'Wild Jasmine'
Are you ready, here is our secret, we sell irises in May each year when they are blooming. We always have irises that we have way too many of and others that we want to close out. We dig these and sell them bare root during our bloom season. We have been doing this for 15 years and it does not hurt the irises in any way. Our customers say they don't have any more losses than when we ship to them later. They also tell us that 60-percent or better bloom the following year.

I am sure I have the purist iris people shook up now. So, what do I recommend as the time to plant tall bearded irises? I say from July through October depending on what part of the country you are in. But, I will also say that in emergency situations, move them when you have to.

One final thought, if you have to move them in late fall and you are in a climate that has winter freezes, a straw mulch will save them through that first winter. Put it on as soon as possible and take it off the following spring when the temps reach the upper 50s to 60-degrees.

I hope this clarifies the issue and that it may answer questions about when to best move your tall bearded irises.

God Bless all of you and have a wonderful spring.

Jim Hedgecock


  1. I always tend to move them when they've just finished blooming...and have never lost a plant, they are just so tough. I even had a few that I forgot about and ended up under a black trash bag behind our house this winter. They are still alive :-)

  2. My mother once tossed one she didn't care for onto a pile of dirt near her back fence, planning to retrieve it later to discard it. She forgot and the next spring it bloomed! i guess I'll soon find out how tough they are because I have had to unexpectedly sell my dad's house. It is February in the midwest. I must dig some of these iris up and move them to my yard. They may die but at least I'll know I tried.

  3. We are moving from California to Texas,. How do we prepare, pack, move and plant our precious rizomes?


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