The Q&A Archives: Iris from seed

Question: This summer my mom gave me some iris seeds from a variety she's grown for years. What's the best way to start these seeds? Amy Likar Hilliard, OH

Answer: If you want to grow your mom's iris variety, you'll need to take a division from the mother plant. If you grow iris from the seed, the plants will almost certainly be a different color and size from the parent. The ideal time to take divisions is in summer, anytime after the the plants finish blooming. You can also take a piece of the rhizome when they begin to sprout and grow in spring. If you want to grow those seeds, however, it's easy to do. It will just take a little longer for the plants toflower and you'll probably get a mixture of colors, according to Jean Sanders, owner of Iris Acres, a grower of more than 1,000 varieties of irises in Winamac, Indiana. Plant the seeds in pots this fall, and leave the containers outdoors in a cold frame or healed in the ground, she says. Iris seeds need a cold period to germinate - six weeks at 40 F in moist soil. Most of the seeds should sprout in early spring, but I've seen some seeds take as long as two years. When seedlings are five inches tall (about two months after sprouting), plant them in a nursery bed or in their permanent location. Choose a sunny site with well-drained, fertile soil amended with bonemeal or rock phosphate at transplant time. The plants should bloom in two years. Once the new irises bloom, select the colors you like, and propagate those rhizomes when they're large enough - usually within three years.

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