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Frequently Asked Questions: Iris

In what colors can I find iris?

EDITH WOLFORD Iris come in every color and tone with the exception of true red. Throughout the catalog you will find detailed descriptions which attempt to convey a mind's eye image of the flower to go along with the picture of the flower. It can be very difficult to describe the complex color blending that takes place in nature, so you may sometimes disagree with a description or question whether it is accurate or matches the picture. Please feel free to bring these issues to our attention, but realize color, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

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How are iris categorized?

In addition to color, iris may be categorized by flower pattern, form, texture, substance, variegation, season of bloom and American Iris Society awards received. The following terms are used to describe iris:

Amoena White/tinted white standards, colored falls.
Bicolor Light or medium standards, and deeper contrasting falls.
Bitone Two tones of the same color.
Blend Combination of two or more colors (one is always yellow).
Neglecta Blue or violet bitone.
Plicata Stitched or stippled margin color on white.
Self An iris of uniform color.
Substance Thickness of petals.
Texture Sheen or finish of the petals.
Variegata Yellow or near yellow standards with deeper falls which may be either varied or solid tones of brown or purple.

American Iris Society Awards Bloom Season
HC Highly Commended
HM Honorable Mention
AM Award of Merit
CGW Clarence G. White Award
CDM Cook-Douglas Medal
CWM Caparne-Welch Medal
KM Knowlton Medal
SASS Sass Medal
DM Dykes Medal
VE Very Early
E Early
M Midseason
ML Midseason Late
L Late
VL Very Late
RE Reblooms

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When should I plant my iris?

For best results, iris should be planted in July, August or September. It's imperative that the roots of newly planted iris be well-established before the growing season ends. In areas with hot summers and mild winters, September or October planting may be preferred.

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How much sun do my iris need?

Iris need at least a half day of sun. In extremely hot climates some shade is beneficial, but in most climates iris do best in full sun. Be sure to provide your iris good drainage, planting either on a slope or in raised beds.

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How do I prepare my soil?

Iris will thrive in most well-drained garden soils. Planting on a slope or in raised beds helps ensure good drainage. If your soil is heavy, coarse sand or humus may be added to improve drainage. Gypsum is an excellent soil conditioner that can improve most clay soils. The ideal pH is 6.8 (slightly acidic), but iris are tolerant in this regard. To adjust the pH of your soil, lime may be added to acidic soils or sulfur to alkaline soils. It is always best to have your soil analyzed before taking corrective measures.

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How deep do I plant my iris?

Iris should be planted so the tops of the rhizomes are exposed and the roots are spread out facing downward in the soil. In very light soils or in extremely hot climates, covering the rhizome with 1 inch of soil may be desirable. Firm the soil around each rhizome and then water to help settle the soil. A common mistake is to plant iris too deeply.

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How far apart do I plant my iris?

Iris are generally planted 12 to 24 inches apart. Close planting gives an immediate effect, but closely planted iris will need to be thinned often. Plants spaced further apart will need less frequent thinning.

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How should I water my iris?

Newly set plants need moisture to help their root systems become established. Specific watering information depends on your climate and your soil, but keep in mind that deep watering at long intervals is better than more frequent shallow waterings. Once established, iris normally don't need to be watered except in arid areas. Overwatering is a common error.

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How should I fertilize my iris?

Specific fertilizer recommendations depend on your soil type, but bone meal, superphosphate and 6-10-10 are all effective. A light application in the early spring and a second light application about a month after bloom will reward you with good growth and bloom. Avoid using anything high in nitrogen, as nitrogen encourages rot problems.

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How should I thin my iris?

RARE TREAT Iris need to be thinned or divided before they become overcrowded, generally every 3-4 years. If iris are allowed to become too crowded the bloom will suffer, some varieties may crowd others out and disease problems may be aggravated. Old clumps may be thinned by removing the old divisions at the centers of the clumps and leaving new growth in the ground. Or, you may dig up the entire clump and remove and replant the large new rhizomes.

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What else should I know?

Keep your iris beds clean and free of weeds and debris, allowing the tops of the rhizomes to bask in the sun. Bloom stems should be cut off close to the ground after blooming. Healthy green leaves should be left undisturbed, but diseased or brown leaves should be removed.

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