Customers often ask us, “How and when should I fertilizer my iris?”
The short answer (continue reading for the nitty-gritty): one month before bloom season, while the tulips are blooming, apply a low-nitrogen, well-balanced fertilizer, such as Schreiner’s 6-10-10 Controlled Release Iris Food. Keep the fertilizer several inches away from the rhizomes. In late September, fertilize again. That sums it up nicely, but perhaps you would like a bit more to chew on about the “what” and “when” of feeding your Iris. Read on for a more substantial serving of info on nurturing both your soil and your Iris.
There are four main nutrients that we must maintain in the soil: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. The first three nutrients are found in most mixed fertilizers, and calcium can be purchased separately in the form of limestone. Nitrogen is necessary for new cell formation in all parts of a plant. Compared to other nutrients, nitrogen is typically the most lacking. A symptom of a shortage of nitrogen is yellow-green stunted growth. Potassium (potash) is necessary for strong roots and stems as well as deep flower color. A symptom of potash deficiency is weak stems and yellowing or browning leaf tips and edges. Phosphorus is necessary for development of roots and stems. This nutrient also stimulates fruit and seed production. A symptom of Phosphorus deficiency is red or purple discoloration of leaves.
Before applying any fertilizer to your garden, do a soil test to discover what your plants actually need. The best way to know how much, and at what proportion, to add nutrients to the soil is with a soil test. Simple soil tests can be purchased at garden supply centers. Once you determine what nutrients are lacking or are in abundance, you can amend the soil to correct most problems. Your soil test may also reveal a need to correct pH or add trace minerals, for example. Completing a soil test, and making modifications to your soil based on the results, is the preferred method to determine fertilizer amounts.
Fertilization of Iris is important to obtain best results, but must be done in moderation. The only thing Iris may resent more than underfeeding is overfeeding. Nitrogen, potash, and phosphorus are essential for Iris, but excessive nitrogen promotes lush growth that is more susceptible to rot diseases. If applied in concentrated form, do not allow the fertilizer to come in direct contact with foliage and roots, as the plant may be damaged or killed. Low-nitrogen fertilizers, such as 6-10-10, are ideal for the needs of Iris.
When to apply fertilizer to Iris:
1) In the spring, about a month before bloom, apply a light application of fertilizer around the Iris clumps. This goes for dwarf iris, too, which bloom in March. Apply a low-Nitrogen fertilizer to your dwarf iris in mid to late February. Apply the same to your intermediate and tall bearded iris in intervals coinciding with the month before their bloom cycles.
2) At planting, sprinkle a tablespoon of the fertilizer around the newly planted rhizome. Or, if preparing a large area for iris planting, incorporate ½ lb of a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as 6-10-10 per 50 ft2 (or 1 ½ oz per 10 ft2) to your garden bed.
3) After your Iris bloom is another time you should fertilize them. Doing so keeps them healthy and in tiptop shape for better growth for the growing cycle later in the year. Wait a month or so after blooms have finished, or in the fall, with enough time before winter so the Iris have the proper nutrition they need going into their winter dormancy.
Here’s a little more info on the subject of fertilizing, including a short video with Ben Schreiner showing us how and when to feed your iris
Now that you’ve got the scoop on Iris nourishment, you can take the necessary action to feed your hungry Iris. Schreiner’s Gardens offers a specially formulated Iris food to help you provide balanced nutrition in the flower garden. Order now for summer and fall shipment.