For the Love of Iris

Articles, Tips and Notes from Schreiner's Iris Gardens


Sultry July Nights in the Iris Garden

Hot summer nights. Hot summer days. Sultry summer afternoons….. Perfect for dreaming, for transformation. For the Iris in your garden, it’s the perfect time to grow, to expand, to be transplanted.

DenseClump-webThe single Iris rhizome you planted last summer has transformed even in just one year, promising an even greater display come next spring. Here’s how: Bearded Iris experience two root growth cycles in their annual growing cycle. The springtime growth we all eagerly anticipate in our Iris beds begins with the lengthening of the foliage upward and the root system outward. The rhizome uses its stored-up nutrients.  Borrowing from Ben Hager, who writes in his chapter on Bearded Iris propagation in The World of Irises, “….as the bud swellings appear in the new fans there is a quickening of the new roots that will supply the plant with nutrients for new growth during and after bloom. The old roots from the previous year’s growth then wither and decay.” (p 314)  The springtime growth of the Iris, from bud to past bloom, is largely above ground… thankfully for us gardeners who eat up the sight with our winter-weary eyes. After the color display of full bloom has passed for the year, the underground development begins in earnest.

The Iris revel in the long summer days. During the six to eight weeks post bloom, the plants absorb the necessary nutrients for next spring’s growth and bloom. The rhizomes send out new increases which will become new self-contained, self-supporting rhizomes by the end of the summer. Once the summer growth is complete, the Iris takes a well-earned rest. Then gardeners eager to expand their Iris empire can begin to think about dividing older Iris clumps and transplanting the new rhizomes.

HowIrisDivide-webThe Iris rhizome has reached full maturity as the sultry July days, the dog days of August arrive; summer dormancy has set in. Here, in the Willamette Valley our Iris bloom season ends early to mid June. Therefore, at Schreiner’s Iris Gardens, we begin digging our fields early to mid-July. We are “transplanting” our Iris all over the world. On a smaller scale in your garden, consider digging your Iris to transplant if the clump is three to five years old. Overgrown clumps can lead to poor or no flowering habits, smaller and smaller rhizomes, and outbreaks of rhizome-based diseases (such as bacterial soft rot). Share the divided Iris not only in your own garden, but also with the neighbors, friends and family….garden clubs, retirement homes, 4H clubs, and so on.  Remember that the latest date for transplanting depends on local conditions. Newly planted Iris require a minimum of 6 weeks to set their new roots. Thus, they should be in the ground a minimum of six weeks before the first hard frost. Consult local resources to determine the frost dates in your area.

Visit our “How to Grow Iris” pages for more details on growing and caring for your Iris! Take a look at another great Iris care resource, “A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow“, by Kelly D. Norris.

~ Happy Gardening!


Dwarf Iris, Schreiner's Iris Gardens


Consider the Early Blooming Iris…and then some…

Dwarf Iris, Schreiner's Iris Gardens

Dwarf Iris bed around base of tree, Schreiner’s Iris Gardens

Easy to plant, easy to care for, easy to enjoy! That is the Iris. And such variety too! Variety of size, variety of bloom season, variety of color, variety of style. Isn’t success in life all about the choices we make? That simple maxim can apply to the realm of the flower garden too. The Iris offer such a host of choices, one is surely to find just the right color, or size, etc. Let’s talk about the breadth of bloom time, for example. The Miniature Dwarf Iris and the Standard Dwarf Iris are among the very first Iris to bloom. Weather depending, of course, they open up their diminutive blossoms, just 5 to 15 inches in height, approximately mid-March to early April (in most temperate zones), heralding the launch of another promising Iris season. On the heals of the waning Dwarf Iris, the Intermediate, Median, or Border Iris open on the garden scene. A bit taller than the tallest Dwarf, yet slightly shorter than the shortest Tall Bearded Iris, these intermediaries offer brilliant bloom to span the gap between March and May, a beautiful compliment to the Cherry blossoms! The earliest blooming Tall Bearded Iris will overlap with the later-blooming Intermediate Iris, to create a seamless floral transition of color. Sprinkle in several mid-season and late-season Tall Bearded Iris around your garden, and the color show continues well into June.

Purple Paws, Paul Black 2014

Purple Paws, Standard Dwarf Bearded
Black 2014

Let’s have a few more words about these Dwarf Iris, though. The Hungarian language has a saying, “The pepper corn is small, but mighty.” (Kicsi a bors, de erős.) The same can be said about these Iris of smaller stature. They are no less hardy than their taller, more robust cousins. Dwarf Iris, both Miniature and Standard types, propagate with strength and, once in bloom, stand up to the early spring frosts. There are several wonderful resources available which provide great detail on the origins of these hybrids (quite fascinating, really). The Dwarf Iris Society is a good place to start for further links and leads on exploring the subject. Several Iris breeders today have introduced spectacular Bearded Iris cultivars in miniature. Among them is our very own friend and neighbor, Paul Black of Mid-America Gardens in Salem, Oregon. Schreiner’s Iris Gardens is proud to introduce five new Dwarf hybrids by Black this year: Purple Paws, Fire, Fruit Cup, Web of Desire, and April Fanfare. All five are classified as Standard Dwarf Bearded Iris.

A few moments spent even casually mapping out the succession of Iris blooms in your garden will yield months of rainbow color from your ankles to above your hips! Dwarf, Intermediate, Tall Bearded, as well as Beardless Iris, are all planted in the summer months. Below is a simple chart, indicating approximate bloom times for Iris ranging from the Miniature Dwarf to the Tall Bearded, and including the Beardless Iris such as Siberian and Louisiana. Bloom time is greatly dependent on weather conditions and gardening practices, however. For example, Reblooming Iris require regular fertilization and dividing.






Min. Dwf. & Std. Dwf.

(5″ to 15″; 5cm to 28cm)

Inter. & Border

(16″ to 27″; 40cm to 68cm)

Tall Bearded

(28″ to 48″;70cm to 122cm)

Tall Bearded & Beardless

Reblooming Bearded Iris of all sizes

Music, Keith Keppel 1999

Music, Standard Dwarf Bearded
Keith Keppel, 1999

If you are one who can hardly wait for the year’s Iris season to start, you have merely to plant some Dwarf Bearded Iris this summer. You will have Iris blooming with the first inkling of spring warmth. As Barbara Whitehouse and Bee Warburton write in their chapter entitled “Miniature Dwarf Beardeds”, in The World of Irises, (The American Iris Society, 1986) “…each iris lover should grow at least one or two clumps of them …. However, they are so charming that one or two clumps may ultimately become a whole bed or border.” (pg 145)…. And even if you consider yourself simply a fan, a dabbler, a curious gardening newbie to the world of flowers, give the Dwarf Iris a try!

~Happy Spring and Happy Gardening!

What to do in the Iris garden this month… more on our site.


Iridaceous Pink Artistry, Iris Winter Care, and Bulbs vs Rhizomes

Winter Iris Care  Does your Iris bed look like this right nowbearded-iris-in-snow…. under a foot of snow? Iris beds covered in a blanket of snow need no care at this time. Let nature’s insulator do its job.

bearded-iris-bedOr maybe they look something like this….a tangled mess of decayed leaves? Well, even though it’s not an ideal sight, don’t be ashamed. Let’s talk about how to remedy the situation.

If you have a garden that boasts bare ground right about now, you most likely are also starting to see signs of spring – along with the darling and beloved daffodil, tulip and hyacinth shoots, weeds and grass blades are also emerging. Now is a good time to dote upon the forgotten Iris bed, and trim back the dead, decayed foliage. If the leaves are droopy, brownish-gray — completely lifeless — then gently tear them off at the base, like a sheet of notebook paper from its spiral. If the leaves are still sturdy and green, trim those down to below any evidence of leaf spot.

Clear away the debris from the beds, pick out the emerging weeds, if any, from the soft soil. You might spray a preventative fungicide at this point, as well. Follow all manufacture’s recommendations carefully. If you anticipate another freeze in your area, you can lay evergreen boughs or straw over your newly-cleaned out Iris beds for added protection until the spring temperatures return in earnest. At which time, you will remove any covering. Remember, rhizomes grow close to the surface and want to feel that sunshine. Bearded Iris can be very forgiving, largely due to their very sturdy nature.

Bulbs vs. RhizomesDenseClump-web

Just a short two bits on the distinction between two of the methods herbaceous perennials (including Bearded Iris) utilize for food storage…. Plants have evolved several methods of storing food so that they can spring to life when the conditions are right, bulbs and rhizomes among them. The definition of a bulb is any plant that stores its complete life cycle in an underground storage structure. The “food” is converted sunshine, collected through the leaves through photosynthesis, and carried into the “larder”. Only some of the plants commonly called bulbs actually are bulbs. Bearded Iris, although falling into the above definition, develop a storage structure known as a rhizome (really an underground “stem”). The rhizome is the larder for nutrients that give the plant the energy it needs to grow, bloom, and complete its life cycle. Trimming the Iris foliage too early deprives the plant of its food intake.  Rhizomes grow horizontally just under the surface of the soil which is why they must be planted shallowly, in soil with good drainage.

Peggy Sue with Lilies and Echinacea

Send Iris the promise of Iris…with our annual Sweetheart Iris Collection!

Celebrate the passion of Valentine’s Day all over again during Iris bloom season. Send these five radiant Tall Bearded Iris to your sweetheart, or invite them into your own heart (and garden)* with our annual  Sweetheart Iris Collection.
These five sweet beauties offer wonderful discount and a lovely array of pink, just screaming out, “Be Mine!”

Only $49.95 (plus s/h)

(*We ship our freshly dug Iris July – September)

Thank you to the following websites for the succinct information on bulbs and herbaceous perennials: and


Reblooming Iris: Just can’t get enough! Ooo!

Best Best and Eternal Bliss (white) with Rudbeckia

These are for you, mom!
Best Best and Eternal Bliss (white) with Rudbeckia ©

Imagine yourself next summer, the heat of July warming your face as you gaze across your garden, colorful perennials dot the landscape… but you’re thinking back to springtime, May, when your glorious Iris were in full bloom. Nothing compares… But wait! Consider this: a second bloom season for Iris. Yes, reblooming Iris hold the promise of reliving the spring time bloom in the middle of summer!

Scanning the summer garden, speckled with the hues of phlox, cone flowers, daisies, lilies and the like, my heart skips a beat as I catch sight of a Tall Bearded Iris! A delightful surprise in the midst of the late summer bloomers. It’s one thing to take in the wash of color in a garden full of Iris at peak bloom in May; it’s quite another to find a lone flag, so seemingly out of time and place, among the rudbekia!

As with any gift of nature, there are caveats. Reblooming Iris, while so satisfying when they produce bloom in July, August, September and even into October, do not bloom on command. Their remontancy is dependent upon multiple factors: soil conditions, weather, gardening practices, to name a few. Rebloomers need extra fertilizing (low in nitrogen, 5-10-10) and water compared to their single-bloom cousins. The plant’s own genetics, of course, play a strong role as well. Varieties of Iris that rebloom consistently here in the Willamette Valley (here is a partial list) may exhibit different behavior in other locales. Just as there are varieties of Iris that do not bloom every year in the spring bloom season, so is the case with summer re-bloom.

But when it all comes together… Wow! These bonus blossoms just scream to be united with pink and red lilies, flounces of phlox, fist-fulls of Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) — anything blooming nearby. Rich summer bouquets can take shape before your eyes. Here are several of my favorites from a recent jaunt through the garden.

Autumn Jester (a Dwarf Iris) with Daisy

Autumn Jester (a Dwarf Iris) with Daisy ©

Pictured above a charming reblooming Dwarf Iris, Autumn Jester, cozies up to its little companion daisy. Wouldn’t this be lovely blooming among the snapdragons and pansies along a low summer border? Below, the pinks pack a punch. Peggy Sue mixes with the lovely lilies and echinacea for a sight so divine.

Peggy Sue with Lilies and Echinacea

Peggy Sue with Lilies and Echinacea ©

Pure As Gold and Immortality (white) with Daisies and Thistle

Pure As Gold and Immortality (white) with Daisies and Thistle ©

Pure As Gold mixes with Immortality, above, continuing the white-yellow theme carried by the daisies. The hosta leaf and blue thistles provide pleasing contrast to the bunch. “Cowslip” sneaks in a bit of summer informality….

Ominous Stranger with Cedar branches and Thistle

Ominous Stranger with Cedar branches and Thistle ©

Ominous Stranger, above, blends harmoniously with sprigs of cedar and blue thistles. Below, October Sky loves the phlox, verbena and hosta. Best Bet contrasts with rudbeckia.

October Sky (in vase) and Best Bet (on cloth) with Phlox, Verbena, Hosta and Rudbeckia

October Sky (in vase) with Phlox, Verbena, and Hosta;  Best Best (on cloth) with Rudbeckia ©

Selecting the varieties of reblooming Iris for your garden which will be successful in your area of the country (or the world), is a matter of trial and error. The rebloom is a bonus. At the very least, you will enjoy one season of bloom in the springtime. Give it a try!

The Reblooming Iris Society offers a plethora of information on the development and care of Iris that rebloom. Start with their page offering tips for growing rebloomers, then explore the greater site for more information.

Three Dwarf Iris arranged with Daisies: Blueberry Tart (left), Forever Blue (center), and Autumn Jester (right)

Three Dwarf Iris arranged with Daisies: Blueberry Tart (left), Forever Blue (center), and Autumn Jester (right) ©

Have you planted reblooming Iris in your garden? Tell us about your trials, errors and successes. Please include your geographic area as well.

P.S. And speaking of geographic area, take a look at our Iris order date cut-off map for information on the last date to order Iris to ship to your neck of the woods.


© 2013 SCHREINER’S IRIS GARDENS. All rights reserved. Unauthorized copying or use of this blog’s content is prohibited without prior written permission.


Saving Overgrown Iris

Nature happens....

Nature happens….

Let’s say a friend told you about this patch of once-lovely Iris which has become completely engulfed by grass… (or maybe that friend is you…) You tell your “friend” that her situation reminds you of something you once read by Sara Stein*: “I appreciate the misunderstanding I have had with Nature over my perennial border. I think it is a flower garden; she thinks it is a meadow lacking grass, and tries to correct the error.”

July, August and, in some areas, September, is the time to assess the situation in your Bearded Iris garden, and rectify the misunderstanding you might have with Nature. If it’s been a few years (say three to five) since you planted your Iris, it is likely that the clusters have grown, and over-grown, themselves into a large mass of rhizomes 12 to 24 inches wide. If you are (or know of) that friend described above, fear not. If you see foliage above the blanket of grass, the Iris can be saved! Read on.

Before you reach for the shovel, though, let’s review some tips on dividing and transplanting the new Iris babies.

Iris Identity: If you have your Iris labeled, you will want to label all of its babies. Prepare tags of some sort to help you keep track of what you are transplanting and where. If you haven’t labeled the Iris in your garden, then proceed unfettered by the bondage of labels….

Digging the clumps: Depending on how densely packed the Iris clump is, you may wish to dig up the entire mass and work on it out of the ground. In the case of the clumps overgrown with grass, you’re best bet is to dig up the whole shebang. Carefully pull the soil and grass away from the rhizomes and roots so that you can see what you’re dealing with. Take care to remove as many of the grass roots as possible. Once cleaned up, you will likely find that the mass of Iris resembles a tangle of fresh ginger, or small oblong potatoes, some of which will have fresh green foliage attached.

bearded iris|growing iris

New growth on left and right of spent rhizome

Separating the plants: The rhizomes with the foliage are the plants you will keep. Any rhizome which has no foliage is “spent”, and will not bloom again. It can be discarded. At this point, you can decide how many of these new plants you’d like to replant. Some of the new growth may yet be quite small, the size of a cherry. These are called “nubs”, and will have tiny green leaves. You can plant these, but expect possibly two years at least before you see any blooms.

To separate, carefully snap or slice the rhizomes at the junction between the old plant and the new growth. Take care to disentangle the roots so that the new plants retain their set of roots.

Cut or break off new growth from original rhizome

Cut or break off new growth from original rhizome

If the foliage on the new plant is very tall, you can trim it back to 6 inches to make transplanting easier.

Prepare soil for transplants: For the area where you intend to plant the new growth, dig up the soil 6 to 12 inches deep, remove weed sprouts, mix in some organic mulch or a low-nitrogen fertilizer (follow manufacturer’s recommendations for quantity and ratio) to give the soil a nutritional boost. Break up large clumps of soil and smooth out the area. Plant your new iris so that the roots are covered but the top of the rhizome is showing above the surface of the soil.

Water in: Water at the time of transplanting. Newly set plants need moisture to help their root systems become established. Specific watering requirements depend on your climate and soil, but keep in mind that deep watering at long intervals is better than more frequent, shallow watering. Once established, Iris normally don’t need to be watered except in arid areas. It is always better to underwater than over water. Too much water can induce rot.

What to do if you have more Iris shoots than you know what to do with: Consider donating the extra plants (labeled or unlabeled) to a nursing home, school, or community center in your area. You can also check with your neighbors to see if they’d like any of the offspring.

Getting ready to divide your Iris? Tell us what you do with the extras. We’d love to read your comments.

*Sara Stein, influential advocate for gardening with native plants, and author of “Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards” (Houghton Mifflin, 1993).


Summer Around the Gardens

Day Lilies brighten our summer garden

Day Lilies brighten our summer garden

July – that quintessential “summer” month. This middle month of summer seems to hold an abundance of potential… for projects, vacations, gardening, and camps. Don’t we find ourselves wondering how we could cram more into these 31 days? June is too early, and by August we already feel the end of summer.

July is a busy month around the gardens here as well. We go full-swing into our digging and shipping mode. The buildings are fitted with various conveyor belts for sorting, cleaning, tagging and packing the Iris for delivery to retail and wholesale customers. The fields of Iris, waves of colorful bloom just a month ago, now yield themselves to the crews and diggers. Trucks come and go, loaded with thousands of orders of Iris.

Preparing gardens for replanting

Preparing gardens for replanting

This year is an exciting year for our display garden. We replant our gardens every three to five years. This summer, in preparation for the American Iris Society convention to be held up the road in Portland in May 2015, we will completely replant our 10-acre display garden. Our dedicated, and very hard-working, crew seems to make light work of this tremendous task!

If you are also feeling ambitious and energetic this middle-month of summer, you may also wish to revamp your Iris beds. Perhaps it’s time to divide the older clumps of bearded Iris, expand their colorful glory through replanting the new growth in more sunny corners of the garden – or by sharing them with friends and neighbors to plant in their gardens. Here’s an idea: if you find yourself with an abundance of new growth from your Iris clumps, consider donating them to a nursing home, school, or community center; plant them along the edge of a community garden, or check with your city’s parks and rec department about planting them in your local city park.


Replanted display gardens


Dividing Bearded Iris clumps

We offer detailed and illustrated instructions on thinning and replanting Iris clumps on the “How to Grow & Care for Iris” pages of our website. Take a look at the monthly Iris care guides while you’re there.

Whether planting new Iris or thinning old clumps, you’ll want to have a good fertilizer on hand. Bonemeal and super-phosphate (available at your local garden center) are both good choices. A fertilizer low in nitrogen (5-10-10 or 6-10-10) is also a good option. We offer a one-pound bag of specially formulated Iris food on our website.

Whether choosing to “get ‘er done” or put your feet up for a well-deserved break this July, we wish you a pleasant and memorable summer.

P.S. There’s still time to order for planting Iris this summer. Check out our Summer Sale!


Caring For Iris Through the Winter

Happy Holidays from Schreiner's Iris Gardens

Happy Holidays from Schreiner’s Iris Gardens

While we here in the NW seem to have more than our fair share of rain throughout the winter, we realize that some parts of the US have not been receiving their usual amount of moisture this fall and winter. Although bearded Iris are resilient, and typically drought tolerant once established, newly planted Iris do require some regular moisture in order to get established. A recent posting on the American Iris Society blog page, World of Irises, covers the topic of drought and Iris very nicely. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we direct our readers to that post. If you don’t already, you might consider following that blog.

As the temperatures drop below freezing, you can mound a winter protection around your Irises. We recommend straw, evergreen branches or leaves. The key with winter protection is to remove it when the weather begins to warm again in the spring. Winter protection can help prevent heaving out the rhizomes caused by repeated freezing and thawing that happens throughout the winter.

We wish all of you a happy, healthy holiday season and prosperous and healthy new year!

May you find peace and fulfillment in gardening! The Schreiner Family

P.S. Gift Certificates! Although you can’t send Iris to your loved ones and favorite gardeners in December, you can send them a gift certificate for Schreiner’s Iris Gardens now and all throughout the year! To be sure your Gift Certificates arrive on time, order early.

Schreiner's Display Gardens February 2011

Schreiner’s Display Gardens February 2011


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