Chicken Coop Chatter©
Bearded Iris or known as *Flags*, were common sweetly fragrant, perennial garden plants on the old homesteads. The name Iris comes from the Greek goddess that rode rainbows, which signifies the array of colors available in the Iris family.
There is an Iris farm in our Willamette Valley of Oregon state, with every imaginable color of Iris growing on it's many acres. A drive down I-5 corridor through the Willamette Valley region in spring cannot be missed for the rows and rows of Iris in bloom. There are at least 300 species of Iris with countless varieties and colors. The bearded Iris is probably the best known and most familiar.
Iris is easy to grow from the rhizome in most any soil with good drainage. They are care free, winter hardy and make wonderful cut flowers. The Bearded Iris produces several blooms on each stalk, which bloom one after another, rather than all at once.
When planting the rhizome, look for any holes, or rot and discard any bad parts. The rhizome should not be planted too deep. Unlike a bulb, that will grow deep in the ground; they do need to be close to the surface of the ground to remain healthy and to bloom.
Iris prefer a mildly acidic to neutral soil, so if your soil is acidic you will want to top dress the soil with lime each year. When fertilizing, use a low nitrogen fertilizer. Typically if an Iris is not blooming, it is either planted too deep, is too crowded or the fertilizer is too high in nitrogen.
Six to 8 hours of sun is required for Iris to bloom at its best, however in hot climates some afternoon shade or dappled shade will be beneficial. Iris and Peony have very similar growing requirements and make lovely companions in the flower bed as well as in a bouquet.
The Iris should be divided about every three to five years and planted in clusters of three or five, each cluster about 2 feet apart. The best time to divide and plant Iris is after they have bloomed, about mid summer. Dig or till the soil about 12" deep, add about 4 inches of compost and work into the soil. Plant the Iris rhizomes about 3-4 inches deep, with a bit of the rhizome exposed. Water well to establish, but do not allow the ground to stay wet or the rhizomes will rot or attract borers. If the rhizomes show borer holes they must be discarded, not placed into the compost.
For the farmstead or homestead, Iris will bring cheer, fragrance and long lasting joy to the flower or garden beds. There are many heirloom varieties available. My all time favorite hybrid Iris is *Lace Handkerchief*, but the purple heirloom varieties are gorgeous and hard to beat during bloom time. Butterflies and bees flock to the blooms of Iris.
CREDENTIALS: Certified Oregon State Master Gardener since 1999. Horticulture degree 2001. Study of Herbs and Horticulture Therapy, heavy research and study of all plants and herbs. Gardening a lifetime.
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