For the Love of Iris

Articles, Tips and Notes from Schreiner's Iris Gardens


Bearded Iris Grow Strong All Summer Long

Summer days, summer gardens. Most enjoyable. For the Tall Bearded Iris in your garden, summer is also the perfect time to grow, to expand, to be transplanted.

Planting IrisBearded 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.”….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.” ( The World of Irises, p 314)  After the springtime 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 early to mid-July. Once the summer growth is complete, the Iris takes a well-earned rest. Enter the gardener, spade in hand, plan in mind. Now is the time to dig, divide, share and transplant.

HowIrisDivide-webHere, 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. On a smaller scale in your garden, consider digging your Iris to transplant this summer if the clump is three to five years old. 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. Allowing Iris clumps to become over grown can lead to poor or no blossoms, smaller and smaller rhizomes, and outbreaks of rhizome-based diseases (such as bacterial soft rot).

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.

Dividing Bearded IrisSo, how do you go about digging and dividing the Iris in your garden? Visit our “How to Grow Iris” pages for more details and images on dividing 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.

Iris | Iris Fertilizer

What’s happening in the July garden? To trim or not to trim the foliage…Depending on your location, you may have a handful of lingering Iris blossoms, or all of your bloom stalks might be sporting the papery remains of the seasons’ blooms. When all blossoms on the stalks have finished, carefully trim the bloom stalk at its base. Leave all green foliage, though, in place. They offer an elegant vertical visual throughout the garden. You may remove any browned and dry leaves. Keep the Iris beds clean and free of weeds. Well-established Iris plants are drought tolerant. Newly planted Iris, though, do require a good long drink approximately every 7 to 10 days if the weather is very dry. Reblooming Iris also prefer irrigation between the spring bloom and summer/autumn re-bloom times. We recommend an application of a low-nitrogen fertilizer (such as 6-10-10) approximately one month after blooms have finished. Superphosphate and bonemeal also work well as a fertilizer for Iris.

Discount IrisSummer brings the promise of long days enjoying our gardens and all aspects of our lives. The season also brings with it our annual Summer Sale. You’ll find over 300 varieties of Tall Bearded Iris at deeply discounted prices.


Shades, Tones and Tints in the Iris Garden

Tall Bearded Iris|Schreiner's Iris GardensThe idea of a monochromatic garden isn’t a new one, but it is a good one. Good enough to justify republishing this blog post, even. This time, though, we have another link for you to investigate. Blogger Susanne Holland Spicker recently published a visually fantastic description of monochromatic Iris plantings on the American Iris Society’s blog “World of Irises”. Click to read Ms. Holland Spicker’s post, “The Blue Iris Garden“.

Bearded Iris represent the full spectrum of the rainbow. Planting a full range of colors in your garden brings brightness and variety to the scene. Some of us like the mixed up rainbow effect, others like to plant in tidy, organized blocks of color. Building upon the idea of uniform color blocks,  below we present the idea of planting an area using a monochromatic theme. Monochromatic color schemes are derived from a single base hue, then extended using its shades, tones and tints…. As a result, the energy is more subtle and peaceful due to a lack of contrast of hue.* Iris blossoms in shades and tones of a single base hue move the eyes from dark to bright and back again.

Let’s take purple as an easy example. The range of purples in the Bearded Iris family seemingly defy notation. Nevertheless, here is just a sample of Iris falling into the purple spectrum.

Tall Bearded Iris|Schreiner's Iris GardensVarieties featured above from left to right: Badlands, Rosalie Figge, Rhinelander, Excuse Me Darling, Feature Attraction, Royal Sterling, Fancy Stuff

Here is another example of reds lightening to pinks:

Tall Bearded Iris|Schreiner's Iris GardensVarieties featured above from left to right: Infrared, Red Hawk, Code Red, Dance The Night Away, Annabelle Rose, Power Point, Drifting Bubbles

A fun idea for an extreme garden might be the exclusive use of black and white! The Tall Bearded Iris shown below all have a registered bloom season of mid-to-late. When these Iris are planted in proximity, 12 to 18 inches apart, and with simultaneous bloom time, you are sure to enjoy the full impact of the color contrast.

Schreiner's Iris Gardens|Bearded IrisVarieties featured above from left to right: Raven Girl, Immortality, Black Is Black, Winter Waltz, Black Suited, Angelwalker

Keep in mind, when creating a visual spectrum in the garden, you many wish to choose Iris that bloom at the same time. The Iris pictured above were chosen only for their color for purposes of illustration. When selecting Iris for your garden design, pay particular attention to their listed bloom season. Also, keep in mind that Iris will bloom at slightly different times depending on the weather and climate in your area.

The possibilities are endless. The wonderful thing about gardening is that you can always change things up. Experiment, have fun, let your creative spirit loose!

P.S. Share images of the results of your garden design on Schreiner’s Gardens’ Facebook page.



June Has Busted, June Has Burst! Quench Your Tall Bearded Iris Thirst!

The summer solstice, a most propitious date — brings the promise of long, heady days of summer, reaping the success in our gardens and in all aspects of our lives. June 21st also heralds the start of our 2014 Summer Sale. You’ll find over 350 varieties of Tall Bearded Iris at deeply discounted prices. Pictured on the cover of our summer sale catalog below is a special bonus for your summer sale order. “Swept Off My Feet”, one of our 2014 introductions, is the 2014 Summer Sale bonus. Use coupon code SSC2014 to get yours. (*Limit one per customer; minimum $25 order of plants.)

Tall Bearded Iris | Discount Iris

Iris | Iris FertilizerWhat’s happening in the June garden? Depending on your location, you may have a handful of lingering Iris blossoms, or all of your bloom stalks might be sporting the papery remains of the seasons’ blooms. When all blossoms on the stalks have finished, carefully trim the bloom stalk at its base. Leave all green foliage in place. They offer an elegant vertical visual throughout the garden. You may remove any browned and dry leaves, though. Keep the Iris beds clean and free of weeds. Well-established Iris plants are drought tolerant. Newly planted Iris, though, do require a good long drink approximately every 7 to 10 days if the weather is very dry. Reblooming Iris also prefer irrigation between the spring bloom and summer/autumn re-bloom times. We recommend an application of a low-nitrogen fertilizer (such as 6-10-10) approximately one month after blooms have finished. Superphosphate and bonemeal also work well as a fertilizer for Iris.


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!