How to Plant and Grow Perennial Louisiana Irises, Plus Other Types of Iris
A Long-Lasting Floral Gift
Recently some good friends celebrated my birthday by wining and dining us in their lovely home. They bade us farewell with a large vase of two dozen cut stems of Louisiana Irises that were in bloom, along with a birthday card and memories of a lovely evening.
Talk about great birthday gifts! It is about a week now since that evening spent with friends, and the irises are still gracing our home with their beauty.
This made me think of our experiences growing irises throughout the years in various locations, both in northern climates as well as southern ones.
A Hardy Perennial Flower
For anyone looking to grow a hardy perennial flower that spreads fairly rapidly, this just might be what you are seeking!
Irises also make for great cut flowers that last for quite some time. They are reblooming flowers in the sense that the top flowers are followed by other buds on the same stalk that open generally one at a time. Just snip the spent iris flowers off and watch that stalk bloom again and again until the last bud is opened.
Types and Varieties of Irises
Bulb Irises as well as Rhizome Irises both come from the Iris Genus. These two groups are broken down into countless species which include the following:
Anyone seeking a specific color for their garden landscape will certainly be able to find it within the family of irises. Irises come in an almost limitless number of colors as there are many hundreds of varieties/families of these satisfying flower plants!
Rhizomes are fleshy thick roots that grow horizontally just under the ground.
When my husband and I were transferred from Houston and lived in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin for four years, my grandmother gave us some tulip bulbs and also some iris rhizomes from her garden.
Like many perennial plants as they grow, replicate and spread; eventually, they need to be thinned so that the remaining bulbs or rhizomes have room to take in nourishment from the soil and produce large and showy blossoms.
Thus we gained some great perennial flowers for our new yard and garden areas while also aiding my grandmother's garden beds in keeping them healthy.
Prior to leaving Wisconsin and coming back to Houston, we were able to share hundreds of those perennials with our friends and neighbors who have probably done the same by now as it was many years ago when we lived there.
We mostly grew the Bearded Iris in Wisconsin, which blooms in the springtime of the year as do the tulips. They have large blossoms with caterpillar-like fuzzy areas on the petals that droop down. You can see an example in the photo below. They come in all kinds of different colors.
Full sun or many hours of sun per day and well-drained soil with reasonable amounts of water are the requirements for most Iris. There are some however that prefer partial shade.
Some Iris plants can grow successfully in marshy areas and actually like their "feet" kept wet. These are the Louisiana Iris of which we are familiar in the Houston area. Others that enjoy wet conditions are the Japanese and Siberian Iris.
In our part of the country, the Louisiana Iris is mostly evergreen in nature whereas the more northern grown varieties die back and put up new growth each Spring.
If growing these perennial flowers up north, prior to freezing weather, it is best to cut the leaves back to a height of around 4 to 5 inches above ground. Then top them generously with mulch.
Division of these flowering plants should be done every 4 or 5 years. This allows the bulbs or rhizomes more space to absorb soil nutrients. They will reward the gardener with bigger and more prolific blooms.
When dividing and replanting the rhizome varieties it is okay to break off pieces of those long tuberous roots and discard them. Just keep several inches of the rhizome nearest the leaves to replant. 3 or 4 inches should be enough of the root to sustain and help nourish the newly moved plant from my personal experience.
Prep the soil for the new plants prior to planting by digging a hole at least 10 inches deep and place some compost or fertilizer at the bottom of the hole. Then partially refill the hole.
Place the divided rhizomes with a leaf or two attached to it 8 to 12 inches apart or more and do not cover the root with more than an inch of soil.
"Since Iris is the Greek goddess for the Messenger of Love, her sacred flower is considered the symbol of communication and messages.
Greek men would often plant an iris on the graves of their beloved women as a tribute to the goddess Iris, whose duty it was to take the souls of women to the Elysian fields."— Hana No Monogatari : The Story of Flowers
Maintaining Distinct Colors of Iris
Years ago, I purchased 5 different colored Louisiana Iris from a Bulb Mart at a Houston church. It did not take long before we were sharing irises with others.
They grow easily in our hot and humid climate and actually love our generally moist and acidic soil. Our soil is quite heavy and consists of much clay which holds water. We work hard to amend the soil conditions for most of our plants particularly when first planting them.
The thick rhizome roots spread rapidly and my only mistake was in letting the different colored irises get too close together as they spread. The more dominant colors took over and what was originally 5 different colors over time became just 2 or 3. The lavender, blues and purples seemed to predominate.
So from my experience, if you are wanting various colors, keep them spaced far enough from each other so that their colors do not blend.
Also keep in mind that while you cannot see the rhizomes just under the ground, they can grow and spread quickly thereby becoming quite friendly with a neighboring plant. At least that is what I imagine happened to those other colored irises.
"The 'Amen!' of Nature is always a flower."— Oliver Wendell Holmes
Fun Facts About Irises
- The Louisiana Iris is the state wildflower of Louisiana.
- The Dwarf Lake Iris is the state wildflower for Michigan.
- Iris is the state cultivated flower for the State of Tennessee.
- It is the national symbol of the country of France.
If you are playing the game Trivial Pursuit, this information just may come in handy!
Or perhaps you can casually share this information around the water cooler today with your co-workers and amaze them with your knowledge. (Smile)
These Three American States Claim the Iris for State Flowers.
If you wish to be rewarded by a hearty and perennial plant that has flowers that are re-blooming for quite some time, grow in a variety of climates and make terrific cut flowers, think of growing irises.
These pictures and videos should give you some idea of the variety of irises and the brownest of thumbs should have success. One need not be an expert gardener to succeed with these flower plants and soon you will have some to share with family or friends.
Closeups of Irises Set to Horn Music
"To analyze the charms of flowers is like dissecting music; it is one of those things which it is far better to enjoy, than to attempt to fully understand."— Henry T. Tuckerman
Have you grown Irises?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
When is the best time to dig up, separate and replant Louisana Irises?
From my experience, you can dig up iris plants any time of year and replant them. If the Louisiana Iris is truly overgrown when you dig each plant up you will find some very long tuberous roots. Feel free to break some of the root off of each plant and discard it prior to replanting. I have seen some that get to be almost a foot long. Keep several inches of the root nearest the leafy part of the plant and plant that.
Other types of iris do not form those long roots. Just dig up clumps of them and separate them prior to planting. Soon you should have many more iris plants if your soil is well prepared and they have the room to spread.Helpful 2
Where can you buy irises?
You can purchase irises in many places. In some locations, there are annual bulb marts. Nurseries sell iris and other types of bulbous plants, and there is always online sources if all else fails.Helpful 1
© 2011 Peggy Woods