This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area



August 22, 2013

How to plant iris in the desert


Iris do great here in the Phoenix, Arizona area. But there are a few tricks to making them work here.

There are places in the world where you can dig a hole, put the plant in, and that's it. In fact, I was in one of those places last week - Southern California. I helped a friend dig up and subdivide some iris, which do incredibly well there. And naturally, as they had multiplied, they were getting overcrowded, which was reducing the bloom, so while I came to the rescue, I was also able to get some choice bulbs (actually they're called rhizomes) to bring back here to the desert.

The first thing that I did here was to provide a water line. Iris love water! In the photo you can see how I am beginning the process of "excavating" the native soil. I love Arizona, but the soil is really only good for native plants, who have the ability to send their roots through that "concrete". I start by soaking the area, then physically removing the clay soil (I put it in a pot and set it aside). Then I break up what I can (watch out for your lower back!) and fill with potting soil.

I like to say that my plants aren't really planted in Arizona, they're planted in holes in Arizona filled with potting soil!

Bearded iris blooming in the desert
And after that, just plant iris very shallowly. Iris are just giant flowering grasses, and they like having their roots just slightly in the ground. Don't bury iris! I add some slow-release plant foot and mix in some watering crystals. This is the right time of the year for planting iris (around September) here in the desert. Now all we need is some nice weather and sunshine. I'm Phoenix, I can count on that!

By the way, the best iris to get is the bearded iris, also called Siberian. It's the one with the purple blooms. And, uh, it's OK to use the word iris for plural and singular. If someone uses the term "iri", just back away slowly.
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