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Plant Notebook
Bearded iris

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Use the iris where you want to make a splash of colour early in the season, or where you want a colour to complement or contrast with a plant that will flower at the same time. The bronze and gold varieties will contrast brilliantly with Heuchera micrantha var. diversifolia 'Palace Purple', or try a complementary scheme with a deep burgundy or pale pink flower.

Bearded Iris

The iris is an easy plant, despite our lengthy section on pests and diseases!, and requires only a moderately fertile soil and sun to flourish. These are plants that can bring wonderful results for beginning gardener and the expert alike. For example, conventional wisdom has it that we should divide the rhizomes each autumn, after flowering has finished, and replant them allowing good root growth to be made before the winter. Just as we think that this is essential we see a huge mass of iris flourishing in a garden where they are rarely divided.

When selecting irises at the plant nursery, always look for good, firm rhizomes that are free from any sign of disease and show no signs of drying out. Ensure that there is a good strong growth shoot and that the roots are healthy. The take your new treasure home, plant it and wait for the glorious flowers next spring!

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Irises forNew Zealand GardensBooks
'Irises for New Zealand Gardens' by Karen Glasgow, a book review



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Pests and Diseases
  • Good garden hygiene will discourage most diseases
  • Aphids can be a problem and you can spray for these in early spring
  • Soft rot can occur where the soil has become wet. Dig up the rhizome and remove the affected part, using a fungicide if desired. Good drainage should minimise rot problems
  • Crown rot and corky rot will cause dieback and the root becomes spongy. A fungus may attack the roots. Corky rot results in a brown shrivelled rhizome. Both are difficult to combat and are usually well established before they are noticed. Good garden hygiene is the best prevention
  • In wetter areas slugs may cause damage to the flowers and foliage. Pick off the slugs in the evening, use beer traps or encourage your neighbourhood hedgehog.

Bearded Iris

Pure whites for a fresh look

Propagation
  • Division of the rhizome in mid to late summer. Lift with a fork and shake free of soil. With a sharp knife cut the rhizomes into individual pieces, each should have a strong growing shoot and sufficient rhizome to support the plant in the flowering season. Reduce the leaves to a fan about 15cm high and replant in fresh soil.
  • Seed. Fresh seed is far more likely to germinate. Sow in late autumn, use a moist seed-raising mix in a tray, and cover the seed with fine grit or sand. Water regularly. Germination can be slow, so be patient!

Bearded Iris

Bronze tones add warmth and life
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Last revised 17 Mar '03