The Q&A Archives: Growing Irises In My House

Question: I had a lot of left-over bulbs when I seprated my bearded irises this year. I tried to plant them all but I was left with some roots. When I went to discard them (in the woods behind my house) they were starting to grow...(hate to let anything go). So I planted them in pots. Last night it was cold so I brought them in. Can I leave them indoors all winter? If this works when should I plant them outside?

Answer: Bearded irises need a period of chilling (their winter dormancy) so I'd put the containers
outdoors in a protected area for the winter. (An unheated garage would be a good spot.)
The containers should be at least 12" across; if they are smaller than that then I'd transplant
the bulbs (technically, rhizomes) to larger pots. Or plant them in a temporary garden spot
somewhere. (Plants in small containers can be damaged by fluctuating winter temperatures,
during which the soil will tend to freeze and thaw repeatedly.) The growing shoots on the
plants will die back but it shouldn't harm them. In early spring, place the containers outdoors
in a sunny spot. As soon as possible, transplant the plants to the garden (or to a friend's
garden if you've run out of room!)

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