The Q&A Archives: Indian Summer To Divide Iris

Question: I need to move some iris bulbs due to a gas line being dug up beneath/around them. St. Louis is in Indian summer now (Oct 29) and I was hoping to divide my iris bulbs and save them from Laclede Gas. I've never done much gardening before and wondered if it would kill them. What, when and how can this be done safely?

Answer: Since the alternative is to lose them for sure, you might as well give it a try. Simply dig them up (you will find stringy roots below the rhizomes) and replant in a well drained spot (meaning not soggy in winter or rainy periods) in full sun. To replant, prepare and loosen the soil, then make a ridge. Place the rhizome parallel to and atop the ridge so that at least half of it is above the soil. Drape the roots alongside it down into the soil and cover them. The point to this is to make sure the rhizomes are in a well-drained position so they will not rot during wet spells. Firm the soil and water well, then mulch around but not over the rhizome. During the winter freeze and thaw cycles and next spring, check for any that have been heaved up out of the ground. If you find any, simply push them back in as best you can. Each piece will grow into a new clump in a year or so and you can plant them about a foot apart more or less depending on how fast you want the area to fill in. They may or may not bloom next spring -- the best time to move iris is in late summer.

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