Caring for bearded iris can be worth the work


Bearded iris are tough plants, some maintenance will help the plants look great.

During the bloom season, consider snapping spent flower heads off every day or two. This helps stop the plant from using energy to produce seed and keeps the iris’ looking neat.

You know it’s time to divide the plants when you see fewer flowers and sparse foliage in the center. The time to divide is 1 to 2 months after blooming, usually in July or August. Since the plants are dormant, they’ll have time to form healthy new roots by winter.

Divide by digging out the clumps; insert a spade around the circumference of the planting and lift. Use a sharp knife to cut the younger, outward-growing rhizomes into sections, leaving as many roots and buds on each piece as possible.

For ease in replanting, cut the leaves to one-third their original height. Discard the old central portions of the original rhizome, as well as any sections that feel soft or appear to be diseased. Replant the new sections as soon as possible to avoid excessive drying. Planting depth is critical.

Iris rhizomes should be placed just below the soil surface with the roots pointing down and the cut leaves upright and exposed to the sun. Newly set plants will require weekly watering until they establish a new root system. 

Iris borers are a major pest problem; they are the larvae of a small moth. Larvae hatch in spring, eat holes in the leaves, and burrow down to the rhizomes. Unfortunately, you won’t notice them until damage appears. Look for brown streaks in the foliage or if fans start to fall over.

Dig up the rhizomes and cut away any mushy or holey areas. Insecticide products are available but can only be applied in very early spring, when fans are 4 to 6 inches tall and larvae are first hatching.

Diseases are another problem; however, if you keep your garden relatively clean from debris and weeds you will have less problems. The bacterial leaf spot attached the edges of the leaf tips as small and pale spots then will grow larger and develop white centers – remove the infected plants.

The bacterial leaf spot is prevalent after a mild winter. Another disease is fungal leaf spot – the spots that are oval and do not grow in size. The border becomes reddish brown. This becomes apparent when the weather has high humidity.

The beauty of the bearded iris over shadows the possible pests and diseases.

Plant the iris in full sun and in a well-drain area. Bearded iris has a tendency to have rhizome rot so a perfect location will prevent this of happening.

For home and garden information visit our Call our horticultural hotline at 315-736-3394. With a little maintenance, you will enjoy the beauty of bearded irises for years to come!


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