Irises forum: Cutting back Iris foliage - your experience?

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Name: Kayleigh
(Zone 5a)
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HoosierHarvester
Nov 1, 2015 2:19 PM CST
Due to a thread here, I ended up at Tempo Two Iris website, and was reading some of the information. It was stated to NOT cut back Iris foliage as this would cause the Iris not to bloom. It was further stated that if the foliage wasn't looking the best, just cut the tips and pull off any dead leaves. The indication for not cutting back was that the plant needed the leaves for photosynthesis (sp?) and production and energy to produce the blooms.

Anyone here regularly cut their Iris back? I'm talking to say 6" to 8".

I had regularly done this without thinking about it. When I trim them back, they usually have grown out fully again by the time winter sets in and totally freezes off the foliage anyway. The cutting them back just makes them look so much better since often they have much brown tips and sometimes ugly spots.

I got to thinking about one bed, and how that it hadn't bloomed very well this past spring. I don't know if that was the problem, or just weather or whatever. Many others that I had also cut back did bloom.
Name: Arlyn
Whiteside County, Illinois (Zone 5a)
Irises Beekeeper Region: Illinois Celebrating Gardening: 2015
crowrita1
Nov 1, 2015 3:05 PM CST
I never have been a "fan" of cutting back the "fans"......UNTIL this time of year. I cut them back in late fall, remove them from the bed, and "trash" them.....hoping to get rid of any disease or insect troubles. I also "burn over" the beds, sometime over the winter....for the same reason.
I take the "lazy man's " way, and use the weed whacker ....cutting them to the 4"-6" range. In fact, I started that project , today....I'm a little over 1/3 of the way "cut" ( 144 feet of bed),
I feel that the info on the website you quoted is correct.....if you want it to grow...it has to have leaves !
Name: Jane H.
Kentucky (Zone 6b)
Irises Birds Region: United States of America Region: Kentucky Clematis
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janielouy
Nov 1, 2015 3:12 PM CST
Conflicting info on many sites. I think Schreiner says to cut the fans back. Others say not to. I definitely will cut off the brown or spotted foliage but I wait until after the first hard frost. I suppose it depends on where you live (zone) and how badly things like too much rain or snow you get affect your irises.
Name: John
Kansas City,MO (Zone 6a)
Region: Missouri Composter Enjoys or suffers cold winters Plays in the sandbox
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yadah_tyger
Nov 1, 2015 3:44 PM CST
Last fall I cut back 1/2 of my plants and left the others alone to see what would happen. I did not see any discernible difference this past spring. So this year, no cutting back. I would also do my best to keep leaves out of the beds. This year I'm not going to bother, also to see what happens. I've read that the leaves can help them thru the winter but that requires getting them off as soon as possible the following spring. What do you guys do about leaves?
When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' Theodore Roosevelt
Name: Bonnie Sojourner
Harris Brake Lake, Arkansas (Zone 7a)
Magnolia zone
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grannysgarden
Nov 1, 2015 3:56 PM CST
I do not cut my iris fans. I think that became a fad in the 50's and has no merit except to make the bed look nicer if your leaves have brown tips.

As for fallen tree leaves, I do not live in a really cold zone, 7a, so I try and get them moved before winter really sets in. In some years I have not been able to get them moved or only some moved and it is a chore to move them in the spring if they have gotten wet and are layered heavily. I did not notice a difference in the iris growth or bloom if the irises either way.

If anyone thinks I do not know what I am talking about..... just read the signature below my post.
I love my garden.... and Jesus, and coffee, and naps.......
Name: Leslie
Durham, NC (Zone 8a)
Region: North Carolina Irises Cat Lover Garden Photography Enjoys or suffers hot summers Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Lestv
Nov 1, 2015 3:57 PM CST
Leaves can act as insulation. But I usually clear them out of the beds because we get a lot of rain over the winter months and the leaves trap too much moisture.

As for cutting fans. I cut back the Japanese iris because they produce a thick clump and it's better to cut them back than leave them to become home for mice and insects. The bearded iris I will cut back when it gets really cold, about December. The Louisiana's I leave alone because this is their growing period.
My road calls me, lures me west, east, south & north; most roads lead men homewards, my road leads me forth. - John Masefield
Name: Kayleigh
(Zone 5a)
Cat Lover Seed Starter Canning and food preservation Plays in the sandbox Lilies Hummingbirder
Irises Daylilies Cut Flowers Butterflies Region: Indiana Vegetable Grower
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HoosierHarvester
Nov 1, 2015 3:59 PM CST
John, based on you not seeing any difference, then me cutting mine back shouldn't make any difference. I need to do a test like yours. Say on one row, cut back all like I like to to tidy up, and that would be probably be August sometime, just to see if those still bloomed okay. I do know that I cut back most, and my yellow rebloomer, and one of my seedlings, both still have sent up bloom stalks now, so the cutting back didn't affect the yellow rebloomer, and I don't know if the seedling is a rebloomer, or it is just coming to maturity to bloom at this time ??, but it didn't affect it from sending up a bloom stem (don't know that either will make it now though this late in season).

As for leaves, I don't end up with lots of them in my Iris rows as they usually blow away, but of course some do remain stuck in the clumps. I don't clean those up until spring usually.
Name: Kayleigh
(Zone 5a)
Cat Lover Seed Starter Canning and food preservation Plays in the sandbox Lilies Hummingbirder
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HoosierHarvester
Nov 1, 2015 4:06 PM CST
I too cut back my Japanese Iris foliage and also my Siberian Iris foliage (I've found it's easier, IMO, to cut it green than brown). Doesn't seem to affect their bloom. As for the Bearded Iris, I only cut back for looks, nothing else. That's why my question . . . if what I'm doing affects the Bearded Iris adversely to bloom, then I think I will forego the cutting back.

Thanks everyone.
Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
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tveguy3
Nov 1, 2015 5:47 PM CST
I think what you do depends a lot on where you live. I let the leaves stay where they fall among the irises. I leave the green leaves on the irises. My reason is that it will trap the snow some and it helps keep the ground covered with snow. I have the biggest problem with rot in areas where the snow blows away or melts on and off during the winter. When the snow cover stays constant I seem to have less problems. My friend in town who has irises cuts hers back every fall, and still gets good bloom. I think irises really survive in spite of what we do more then because of what we do. Hilarious! It's important to get the leaves off though very early in the spring. Smiling
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Name: Sherry Austin
Santa Cruz, CA (Zone 9a)
Region: California Irises Keeper of Poultry Roses Dragonflies Birds
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Henhouse
Nov 1, 2015 10:22 PM CST
I remove dead or yellowing leaves through summer and fall. I never liked the look of Iris chopped off in the garden, and was appalled when my new gardener did so (we had a retraining moment). I cut off the brown tips at an angle, so it's not something that stands out in the garden. I use scissors, not clippers, because they make a cleaner cut on the Iris foliage.
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Name: Mary Ann
Kentucky
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Muddymitts
Nov 2, 2015 12:58 AM CST
I pretty much do the same thing, Sherry.
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Name: John
Kansas City,MO (Zone 6a)
Region: Missouri Composter Enjoys or suffers cold winters Plays in the sandbox
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yadah_tyger
Nov 2, 2015 3:08 AM CST
Thanks guys. No cutting back this year and the leaves stay where they are. We don't get much snow here but on occasion caliche falls from the sky!
When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' Theodore Roosevelt
Name: Kayleigh
(Zone 5a)
Cat Lover Seed Starter Canning and food preservation Plays in the sandbox Lilies Hummingbirder
Irises Daylilies Cut Flowers Butterflies Region: Indiana Vegetable Grower
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HoosierHarvester
Nov 2, 2015 7:07 AM CST
Henhouse said:I remove dead or yellowing leaves through summer and fall. I never liked the look of Iris chopped off in the garden, and was appalled when my new gardener did so (we had a retraining moment). I cut off the brown tips at an angle, so it's not something that stands out in the garden. I use scissors, not clippers, because they make a cleaner cut on the Iris foliage.


I enjoy that we all have different taste, and I may be the only one with my preference. I prefer the way mine look when I cut them back, or basically a similar look here in early spring with fresh new growth, and how the plant all stands up erect. Now I don't cut them real short, and all the leaf blades on each rhizome get cut in the pointed manner toward the center. Some reason I like the way that looks better than with the leaves sprawling sometimes toward the ground and in different directions.
Name: Bonnie Sojourner
Harris Brake Lake, Arkansas (Zone 7a)
Magnolia zone
Region: United States of America Region: Arkansas Master Gardener: Arkansas Irises Bulbs Seed Starter
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grannysgarden
Nov 2, 2015 7:14 AM CST
I only have a couple of varieties that will sprawl over. I find that sometimes with more water they will not fall about so much. However, ones like Victoria Falls (known hereabouts as Victoria Falls Over) will sprawl without much incentive. I had a new one, 'Coal Seams', that had that trait several years ago and thought it must have a disease. CS just likes to recline in my patch it seems.
I love my garden.... and Jesus, and coffee, and naps.......
Name: Kayleigh
(Zone 5a)
Cat Lover Seed Starter Canning and food preservation Plays in the sandbox Lilies Hummingbirder
Irises Daylilies Cut Flowers Butterflies Region: Indiana Vegetable Grower
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HoosierHarvester
Nov 2, 2015 7:18 AM CST
Thanks, Bonnie, that's probably why mine do that, lack of water perhaps wilty foliage. They get very little extra water, just rain. Most plants have to be tough in my garden.
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
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irisarian
Nov 2, 2015 3:17 PM CST
We cut back our Siberian leaves. I will only remove bearded leaves if they are flat on the ground. that has only happened to a few plants this year because it was so dry.

The Siberians are a mess in the spring if not cut back & I suspect JI are the same.
Name: Leslie
Durham, NC (Zone 8a)
Region: North Carolina Irises Cat Lover Garden Photography Enjoys or suffers hot summers Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Lestv
Nov 2, 2015 4:37 PM CST
I haven't had that problem with Coal Seams Bonnie. Now this year, Frosted Velvet and Bumblebee are "reclining."
My road calls me, lures me west, east, south & north; most roads lead men homewards, my road leads me forth. - John Masefield
Name: Kayleigh
(Zone 5a)
Cat Lover Seed Starter Canning and food preservation Plays in the sandbox Lilies Hummingbirder
Irises Daylilies Cut Flowers Butterflies Region: Indiana Vegetable Grower
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HoosierHarvester
Nov 2, 2015 5:11 PM CST
Hilarious! "reclining", that's a nice term. Hopefully I can remember that.
South central PA (Zone 6a)
Irises Region: Pennsylvania
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DaveinPA
Nov 3, 2015 3:32 PM CST
I read that the idea of cutting back iris leaves in the late summer was so that those shipped would fit into a smaller box. Fascinating if that is truly the origin of the practice. Late in the season, like now, there is less and less photosynthesis function of the leaves, and the new ones are usually in the 1-6" range so weed whacking should have no effect.
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
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irisarian
Nov 3, 2015 4:29 PM CST
John cut back the Siberian foliage today. Our instrument is very sharp so I don't have to risk it this year. I am so pleased with my decision a long time ago.

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