Introduction: How to Plant Potted Irises

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I’ve always had a love for traditional garden plants, and bearded irises are right there at the top of the list. The large, ruffly petals remind me of a flowing silk gown, in contrast with the grayish stiff sword-like leaves. There is also something magical about the leaves poking up through the soil in spring.

Here in Southern California, flowering plants (luckily) often bloom twice, sometimes three times from Spring through Fall, and irises are no exception. However, my trusty garden expert, Tom at Armstrong Garden Centers, had a lovely surprise for me when asked about irises. He turned me on to a variety that thrives in our Plant Hardiness Zone, 10A – AND it blooms multiple flowers from spring through fall. How great is that? As a side note, if you ever need a garden expert, Tom has been at Armstrong for as long as I can remember and he seems to know just about all there is to know about gardening. Kudos to Armstrong for employing this gem of a professional. By the way, I don’t get paid for saying so. I just think it’s good karma to compliment good people.

Step 1: Choose Healthy Plants With Buds

If you are familiar with how irises grow, they are grown from rizomes, or root balls. Like bulbs, they grow and multiply and should be separated every few years to maintain healthy growth. Although it was too early in the spring to find plants with many flowers, there were a few. Look for buds like the ones shown in the photo above.

Step 2: Removing and Prepping the Plants Before Planting

To get started, I moistened the soil by letting the hose run in the planter for around 30 minutes to allow for easy digging. To remove the plants from the pots, lay them horizontally on the ground and gently press a foot on the side of the container to loosen the root balls, then tip the container to slide the plant out. Be very gentle so you don’t damage the roots. Then give the roots a gentle squeeze to loosen them before planting, to encourage the roots to spread into the ground.

Step 3: Use Fertilizer in the Planting Hole to Promote Rooting

One fantastic tip Tom gave me years ago was to use EB Stone Organics Sure Start when planting. No lie. It makes a huge impact on giving plants a head start in the garden.

Step 4: Plant in Odd Numbers

You can see I had 2 areas to plant. They are mostly sunny, but have a little morning shade in the spring and fall. At Tom’s advice, I planted them in odd-numbered groups to keep them from, as he says, “looking like soldiers in a row.” It made sense, as odd numbers are visually more pleasing.

Step 5: Enjoy Blooms From Spring Through Fall

In the photo above taken of a grouping planted a few years ago, you can see how beautiful and prolific Frequent Flyers are. I can’t wait until mine look as gorgeous!

Send me your questions and comments. I want to hear from you!