Irises forum: Should I cut back or leave them alone?

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Name: Elena
NYC (Zone 7a)
Daylilies Spiders! Plant and/or Seed Trader Winter Sowing Hybridizer Peonies
Vegetable Grower Seed Starter Organic Gardener Composter Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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bxncbx
Apr 8, 2019 7:29 AM CST
Hi everyone! I'm new to irises. I planted my first bearded irises last year. I also accidentally started some iris from seed several years ago but they haven't bloomed so I don't know what type of iris they are.

My question is that now that Spring has finally arrived, should I cut the leaves back on all of my iris? Other people in my neighborhood have bearded iris but all of those die back in the winter. They are now coming back up. Mine have all kept their leaves over the winter. Some of the leaves look pretty bad but most look fine. Should I cut them all back, only take off the bad leaves or leave them alone? If I need to cut them back, how low down should I cut them? I was doing my first garden clean up this past weekend but left them alone because I couldn't decide what I should do with them.
Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Apr 8, 2019 8:33 AM CST
What kind of irises are you growing, if not bearded?

If they were bearded, I would say to: pull or trim off the dead leaves. If the leaf tips are brown or diseased, you can carefully cut back to the green part. (You should probably disinfect your pruners between cuts.)

In general (regardless what type of iris), this is spring time, the plants are actively growing, why rob them of their food (from photosynthesis) by cutting the foliage back? (The only good reason is for disease control, only if there is disease present, and only cutting out the diseased parts.)

Jmho, I'm sure the experts will weigh in.

A 'Premonition of Spring' - PCI time already?!
Name: daphne
san diego county, ca (Zone 10a)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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shizen
Apr 8, 2019 11:46 AM CST
Welcome! to the iris forum elena. i think poly/marilyn gave you pretty sound advice. if you cut them back now, they won't be able to use the much needed nutrients the leaves manufacture for plant and bloom production.

i always disinfect between cuts. i carry a 10% bleach/90% water solution, in a container with me to dunk the tool used between cuts, so as to minimize cross-contamination of bacterial/viral infections.

hope this helps? and good luck with your irises.

i hope you'll post photos of your future blooms?
Name: Evelyn
Northern CA Sierra foothills - (Zone 8a)
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Region: California Annuals Bulbs Butterflies
Cat Lover Foliage Fan Irises Organic Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter
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evelyninthegarden
Apr 8, 2019 11:56 AM CST
Elena ~ Welcome! to the Iris Forum! Hurray!

If you don't want to use bleach, you can get a bottle of Isopropyl alcohol to use to sterilize your scissors in between cuts. That also helps to keep your scissors clean. Just cut off the brown parts, if the leaf is not yet ready to be pulled off.
β€œIt was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold, when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.” ~Charles Dickens
(This seems to apply to May as well!)
Name: Elena
NYC (Zone 7a)
Daylilies Spiders! Plant and/or Seed Trader Winter Sowing Hybridizer Peonies
Vegetable Grower Seed Starter Organic Gardener Composter Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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bxncbx
Apr 8, 2019 1:10 PM CST
Thanks everyone! I'm not sure where I got the idea that if the plants don't die back the leaves should be cut off. I'll leave them alone for now. I haven't inspected them too much this Spring but so far I think they look pretty healthy. Since I'm brand new to irises I have no idea if they'll like my climate, soil, etc and decide to bloom this year or some time in the future.

As for my seedlings, @Polymerous, they were seeds from my first seed swap on another site. I thought they were Sisyrinchium! I guess they could be Siberian iris or even Dutch Iris. I won't know for sure until they bloom. I probably need to dig them all up and replant them. Some aren't in a good area (too much shade or too crowded) and all are planted too deep. I must not have a problem with rot though ( Crossing Fingers! ) as last year we had the fifth rainiest year since they started making records in the 1800's! But all the iris look good (even the ones planted too deep).
Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Apr 8, 2019 2:35 PM CST
I hope you are right about the rot - so many people on this forum have had so many problems this spring.
A 'Premonition of Spring' - PCI time already?!
Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Apr 8, 2019 3:48 PM CST
Mine never die back, the time to cut them back is after they bloom.
I cut them on a diagonal about 4 inches.
😎😎😎
Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
Name: Elena
NYC (Zone 7a)
Daylilies Spiders! Plant and/or Seed Trader Winter Sowing Hybridizer Peonies
Vegetable Grower Seed Starter Organic Gardener Composter Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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bxncbx
Apr 8, 2019 8:11 PM CST
When I got home I checked all the iris. The only one with some damage to the rhizome was the one planted the most shallowly. I think it got some damage over winter and part of it shriveled up. It doesn't feel soft or mushy, just kind of empty if that makes sense.

My house is near the top of a hill so drainage isn't typically a problem. I guess I'm lucky that way since the soil is actually quite moist. But all the rhizomes felt nice and firm.

I dug up one of the seedlings. There wasn't much in the way of a rhizome. But it did have 3-4 babies coming up despite being planted about 6 inches deep. I dug them all up & moved them to a better spot. I also planted them only about an inch deep. I want to see if those do better this year compared to the others.
South central PA (Zone 6a)
Irises Region: Pennsylvania
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DaveinPA
Apr 9, 2019 9:07 AM CST
If those seedlings are nice ones you might consider looking into registering them and giving them a name!
Name: Elena
NYC (Zone 7a)
Daylilies Spiders! Plant and/or Seed Trader Winter Sowing Hybridizer Peonies
Vegetable Grower Seed Starter Organic Gardener Composter Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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bxncbx
Apr 9, 2019 9:13 AM CST
@DaveinPA I don't think I can do that. Well, at least with daylilies you have to know who did the cross (and also what the cross was). Since these were swap seeds that were mislabeled and I have no idea who I got them from (I didn't label the seeds with the person's name) I'm guessing I can't register any of them. I just want to see if I can even get them to bloom!
Name: Nancy
Bowling Green Kentucky (Zone 6b)
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alilyfan
Apr 9, 2019 7:22 PM CST
Did you get the bearded iris from me last year? I hope they bloom for you this year. Sounds like they are doing fine though. Sometimes overwinter the rhizomes can heave out of the ground a bit, but I have very rarely lost any from that. Often I just add some soil to it. I only trim when the foliage gets rough looking. Really though, don't worry. My mother in law had learned to cut them back after bloom. Of course, they grew back, so she cut them back again. I know one summer she cut them back 3 times before giving up. They were in too much shade, and mulched. They bloomed beautifully every year.
Name: Nancy
Bowling Green Kentucky (Zone 6b)
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alilyfan
Apr 9, 2019 7:23 PM CST
Did you get the bearded iris from me last year? I hope they bloom for you this year. Sounds like they are doing fine though. Sometimes overwinter the rhizomes can heave out of the ground a bit, but I have very rarely lost any from that. Often I just add some soil to it. I only trim when the foliage gets rough looking. Really though, don't worry. My mother in law had learned to cut them back after bloom. Of course, they grew back, so she cut them back again. I know one summer she cut them back 3 times before giving up. They were in too much shade, and mulched. Everything I have heard not to do. They bloomed beautifully every year.
Name: Elena
NYC (Zone 7a)
Daylilies Spiders! Plant and/or Seed Trader Winter Sowing Hybridizer Peonies
Vegetable Grower Seed Starter Organic Gardener Composter Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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bxncbx
May 4, 2019 8:23 AM CST
So back in March/April I dug up one of my seedlings that was in a bad spot and replanted it correctly. When I dug it up I couldn't really tell if it had a rhizome or not (they were all planted deeply).

Just a few weeks later I could see a nice big rhizome forming! So I dug all the rest up & replanted them too! Now they are all getting obvious rhizomes! I'm guessing none will bloom this year but maybe next year or the year after.

I'm amazed at how quickly the rhizomes are forming! We have been getting a crazy amount of rain this Spring. I guess that helps.

I'm still not sure what kind of iris these are. I'm thinking not bearded only because I can't see the fans getting anywhere near as large. Maybe now that they are planted properly they might surprise me?
Name: Lilli
Lundby, Denmark, EU
Irises Roses Bulbs Hellebores Foliage Fan Cottage Gardener
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Seed Starter Winter Sowing Bee Lover Dog Lover Region: Europe
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IrisLilli
May 4, 2019 8:34 AM CST
I hope you get a nice surprise! Crossing Fingers!

They could be median or miniature bearded iris, if you think the leaves are to small for them to be tall bearded?
You don't know if it will grow until you try!
Name: Elena
NYC (Zone 7a)
Daylilies Spiders! Plant and/or Seed Trader Winter Sowing Hybridizer Peonies
Vegetable Grower Seed Starter Organic Gardener Composter Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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bxncbx
May 4, 2019 3:00 PM CST
I'm very confused after looking at them in the garden just now. I have what I think is a mini bearded iris with a bloom stalk. The leaves are about 10" tall. The seedling's leaves are 15.5" tall so it might be a median?

The rhizomes seem different though. Here's a picture of a bearded rhizome.

Thumb of 2019-05-04/bxncbx/955cb5

And here is a picture of the seedling's rhizome.

Thumb of 2019-05-04/bxncbx/65f353

Are they the same? Here's a pic of one seedling clump.

Thumb of 2019-05-04/bxncbx/a88310

Name: Monty Riggles
Henry County, Virginia (Zone 7a)
Oops. The weeds took over!
Irises Region: Virginia Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Garden Procrastinator
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UndyingLight
May 4, 2019 4:19 PM CST
I have some that look like that. They should be the same. Good luck with your seedlings, by the way! Crossing Fingers!
What a beautiful sunset!
Name: Elena
NYC (Zone 7a)
Daylilies Spiders! Plant and/or Seed Trader Winter Sowing Hybridizer Peonies
Vegetable Grower Seed Starter Organic Gardener Composter Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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bxncbx
May 4, 2019 5:01 PM CST
Oh, okay thanks! I'm amazed the seedlings have done so well so far. Especially since I planted them incorrectly. I think I started with five seedlings and now all have formed clumps. I believe these guys are 3 years old this year although they may be four.

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