PRODUCTION

Growing & Maintaining Irises with Mike Darcy


April 18, 2022

The Iris is so unique in its look. Graceful and elegant, with flowing petals and brilliant colors. Wilco Garden Centers are welcoming many varieties from Schreiner’s Iris Gardens this season. Walk through the “field” today!

Keppel Iris

Fields of blooming Iris! What a beautiful sight!

Driving on I-5 during the month of May, between Salem and Portland, Oregon, just north of Salem, it is likely that you will see fields of blooming bearded iris, possibly on both sides of the highway. It is a spectacular sight to see, and I can remember the first time that I saw it, I was in awe. Colors of blue, purple, yellow, white, pink, and not just single colors on a bloom stalk, but many with multi colors and the color combinations go on and on.

Schreiner’s Iris Gardens

This describes the view of some of the 100 acre plus growing fields of Schreiner’s Iris Gardens. Seeing these plants growing prolifically and thriving in an open field with no protection from the elements would indicate that this is an ideal climate for growing iris.

Wilco has partnered with Schreiner’s Iris Gardens and now has potted iris plants available in their garden centers. Most of these potted plants will have flower buds and/or blooms. Selection will vary somewhat at individual garden centers, but all will have a good assortment of colors.

Iris Types Available

Two types of iris will be available, ‘intermediate’ and ‘tall bearded’. The ‘intermediate’ types have a height range of 16-22 inches and the ‘tall bearded’ range from 28 inches to 48 inches. The word ‘beard’ with regard to iris, refers to the hairs on the lower petals which are often a contrasting color to the actual petal.

Draculas Kiss Iris

Weather, of course, plays a factor in blooming dates, but generally the ‘intermediate’ will begin to bloom before the ‘tall bearded’ and often their blooming season will overlap. Expect the ‘tall bearded’ to bloom from early May through mid-June. Check the individual labels because there is variance as to blooming dates, some will be middle spring and some late spring and by mixing them, the blooming season can be extended.

Planting

The iris that are available in Wilco garden centers will be in nursery pots and the plants should be planted at the same level as they are in the pots. Some of the rhizome (underground horizontal stems putting off roots) will be exposed and that is the way it should be.

DeWit Forged Trowel

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A common error is planting them too deep, and this will deter bloom. Plant them in a location that has at least a half day of sun, in our climate full sun is fine. If iris are planted in too much shade, there may be lots of foliage but few or no blossoms. Iris planted in the garden should also be divided every 3-5 years. As the rhizomes grow, they can become crowded, and this will also deter flowering.

Pests

Bonide, Bug & Slug Killer Bait, 1.5 lb

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Depending on your particular garden situation, it may be wise to apply some slug control at time of planting. Slugs do like iris and it is much easier to control slugs in the early spring before they do damage to the leaves.

Bonide, Captain Jack's Neem Max Concentrate

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Iris can be attacked by the normal sap-sucking insects like aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and by leaf chewing insects like caterpillars and snails. Neem oil spray is a safe way to keep damage at a minimum without harming any beneficial Nematodes. Bonide’s Neem Max product is also labeled for borers.

Bonide, Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew Insect Spray

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Another pest that can be extremely damaging to Iris’ is the Iris Borer. This pest, hatching from a moth that is active at night from eggs deposited near the stem or under old curled leaves, will bore into the plant and eventually rot the rhizome. This will eventually kill the Iris that is infected, and the bacteria they leave behind can infect a whole Iris plot if left unmanaged.

Bonide’s Dead Bug Brew contains a naturally occurring bacteria that will attack and kill the Iris Borer larvae. Follow label instructions with either dusting or sprays.

Exclusive Availability

Rip City Iris

Schreiners Iris Gardens has given exclusivity to Wilco for two of their tall bearded types, ‘Rip City’ and ‘Sea Eagle’. ‘Rip City’ is one of the best performing reds and is named in honor of ‘Rip City’ Portland.

Sea Eagle Iris

Sea Eagle is a large, ruffled blue purple.

Soil Conditions

Iris do best in a slightly acidic soil. Somewhere close to 6.8pH. If you don’t know the acidity level of your soil, it’s a good idea to do a soil test at least every couple of years. Soil composition changes over time due to what nutrients the plants are using, environmental factors (rainfall, sun, etc.) and even pet and pest activity. Get pro-level results with Wilco’s do-it-yourself kit which will provide recommendations on what to add to get your best results.

Wilco, Premium Soil Test Kit

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Bearded iris are a low maintenance plant to grow and are usually very dependable bloomers every spring. They adapt very well to a mixed flower bed and this is an ideal time to plant so as to be able to enjoy some flowers this season. As the plants grow and spread through the summer season, the proliferation of flowers will be substantially increased next spring, Bearded iris are long lived and easy to divide for your own garden or to share with other gardeners.

Myth Buster

Myth: All Iris’ love coffee grounds. Not all Iris love acidity. Make sure you look at the label or ask the grower for the right growing conditions for your particular Iris. Coffee grounds are highly acidic and don’t decompose in the soil very fast. So their acidity lasts a long time in the soil. If you are in the practice of using coffee grounds on your garden beds, hold them for specific plants like blueberries, azaleas and hydrangeas (to change their color).


We would love to see your garden projects, use #mywilcolife on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag Wilco Stores.


MIKE’S GARDEN IS LOCATED IN OREGON’S WILLAMETTE VALLEY AND HIS ADVICE IS CONSISTENT WITH THE MILD CLIMATE THER
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