Brown Thumb Proof: Care for Iris Plants

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Iris plants brown thumb care, requirements, by TwoPlusCute

It is Memorial day in USA and the one thing I came to relate with that day are our garden Irises. Did you know they always bloom on that day at the latest?

Iris is one of those great plants that you simply can not kill and therefore it is excellent for novice gardeners or ones with little time to tend to a garden.


Care for Iris Plants - our experience - by TwoPlusCute


The following info is from our personal experience growing letting Irises grow in zone 5b. Your experience may be different but, at least, you will see this is a very friendly plant that is a great addition to any garden – and especially friendly to brown-thumbers). Our experience is based on two species of Iris (out of over 260 species).
Please, use your discretion.

Irises are perennials that grow expanding outwards in a circular fashion. Their foliage is simple but their flowers, growing on tall stalks, are very showy.


Care for Iris Plants


Caring for Iris plant by TwoPlusCute


Sun Requirements

They much prefer full sun, where they will bloom profusely between May and July.

They will still flower in shadowy, northern areas but, later and with less blooms.

The next photo collage consists of photographs taken the same day and hour, so you see the difference sun makes:


Iris plant sun requirement by TwoPlusCute


Water requirements

I never water them. They get watered by whatever rain falls on them and they still survive. Keep in mind they are planted in ground,are not in pots and we are in New England that generally gets a lot of rain.

As for drainage, I read (on the internet) they should have great drainage. I beg to differ. As you can see in the post on planting an Arborvitae, our soil takes forever to drain. We do not have great drainage and it has not affected our Irises one bit.


Soil requirements

Anything goes. Seriously. Ours are in three areas with what looks like 100% clay, 100% gravel and plain cheap topsoil. The ones planted in the worst soil (so hard I can’t even dig it) do the best, because they face south and have a lot of sun exposure.


Brown Thumb Proof Care for Iris Plants by TwoPlusCute



All this time, I have never used any kind of fertilizer on them. You may use but it is not essential.


Prune foliage in the fall

This is the only one thing that we pay attention to: cutting down all the foliage every year.

You can prune Irises twice, either in early spring or late fall. Prune them all the way to the ground. I prefer doing it in mid autumn so the snow and rains don’t pool at the spot. And to prove they just don’t die, I mow over them after the first frost. I don’t bother cutting or pulling the leaves. I simply mow.


Care for Iris plants, sun requirements full sun, by TwoPlusCute



Love them and want more? Dig the roots and divide them in late summer, early fall. Cut down the foliage (just snip with scissors) leaving about 4 inches of leaves length, before you plant the new rhizomes. A good rule of thumb is to do it after your plant is done blooming.

Ta-dah, new plants.


A Pretty Surprise

I had a pretty surprise: there are Iris Albicans growing in our garden bed (the one we made with only $24). We have been in this house almost 2 and a half years now and this is the first time I noticed them.


Caring for Iris plants, Iris Albicans (white or cemetery Iris), by TwoPlusCute


Iris Albicans are white Irises, very beautiful and they would look fantastic between more colorful plants. Granted, their common name is a let down (not to mention off putting) but they are so pretty! The common name is…cemetery Iris. Terrible!

I pass a motion to rename it into Bridal Iris. Are you with me?


Care for Iris (plant). Brown thumb proof gardening. Requirements and how to for growing Irises, by TwoPlusCute


ps. If you are looking for plants that do great in shadowy areas, Rhododendrons are your friend and they will bloom profusely even in north, shadowy spots.

ps 2. Hummingbirds love Irises! I was too slow to manage shooting a photo but the little guy was feasting on my southern ones until I got up to get the camera. Naturally…

ps 3. My blog friend Vineta, mentioned something important in the comments: Irises get overcrowded over the years and they should be divided every few years.


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8 thoughts on “Brown Thumb Proof: Care for Iris Plants

  • June 10, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    These are really beautiful. I love the colors and your photography. That white one is extra special. Do you have only one? And how did that happen? Did you plant all of these, is that how they came to be? Or do they grow like weeds? Can y ou tell I am a total dummy when it comes to plants?

    • June 11, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      They came with the house and they do grow like weeds in the way that minimal to no care is required for them.

      My point & shoot camera, rocked that day! I am happy too with the photos. 🙂

  • June 2, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Alas, I live under a carpet of trees- with many deer – so I don’t have much luck with flowers. I have a friend with an Iris patch in her front yard and they are so beautiful every year. Since I can’t really have my own, I always make sure to stop by and see hers each spring:)

    • June 2, 2016 at 4:18 pm

      On the plus side, your trees filter the hot summer sun.
      Silver lining? 🙂

  • June 2, 2016 at 12:32 am

    When we bought our house, the entire garden was overtaken by irises. We moved in after their blooming season, so we were excited to see them all in their full glory the next year. When spring came around, a whopping 5 (!!!) irises bloomed! Apparently no one had divided them in many years, and they were so packed together, nothing could bloom. They just grew their leaves and stayed that way. I spent all summer digging them up and filled many compost bags with old rhizomes. Moral of the story: divide your irises! 🙂

    • June 2, 2016 at 12:41 am

      A-ha! I had read something about dividing them every ~4 years but had no personal verification to mention it in the post. Now I do (have verification) by a proxy (you) I trust.
      I will add your advice in the post.
      Thank you for the input Vineta. 😀

  • June 1, 2016 at 6:44 am

    Love this post! You’ll have me regret passing over the iris plants in the nursery last week as I was shopping for our backyard transformation. Yours are spectacular, I’ve always been a fan of the naturalized look. They must love the lawnmower..I wouldn’t be so lucky!

    • June 2, 2016 at 12:45 am

      It is quite extreme to mow over them. Hehe. I really do though, I tried cutting them with scissors and decided it was too much work (am lazy I know…).
      I have mowed them twice. They luckily survived.

      Also, love your subtlety about our “naturalized” look. 😀


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