It seems that the flowers this season deserve to be described in superlatives! There were outstanding daffodils and tulips, then magnificent redbuds and azaleas. For the last week the irises have been spectacular.


It seems that the flowers this season deserve to be described in superlatives! There were outstanding daffodils and tulips, then magnificent redbuds and azaleas. For the last week the irises have been spectacular.

In the summer of 2003 the bed of irises at the post office was divided. This was the first time this had been done in ten or more years. The rhizomes were growing on top of each other, sort of like a bunch of puppies trying to feed. After they were dug, some were replanted in the original bed. Others were planted in medians of the parking lot across the street. OBU students planted many more on the north fence of the Beard cabin grounds as a part of preparation for the depot’s centennial. They looked nice the first year; better the next; and great this year.

One of the keys to success in the growing of irises is to divide the clumps every three or four years. Although a bother, it doesn’t take that much time. Ideally, the plants should be dug and replanted the same day. Probably the best time to dig the plants is in the middle of July. This is when the Oklahoma City Iris Society has its annual sale. If you don’t do it in July, try to finish by the end of August. This gives the roots time to get settled before cold weather.

A number of garden writers offer procedures to follow in dividing the plants. This is an combination of several recommendations:

• Use a spading fork to lift the plants, starting several inches away from the plant and digging deeply enough to get under the plants. Place the dug plants on a tarp and clean the soil from them by shaking or washing them. Perhaps a tub of water could be used to wash the plants and the remaining water be used on a flowerbed.

• Cut the foliage back to about 4 to 6 inches. This helps decrease the moisture needed to keep the plant healthy after it is back in the soil.

• Divide the rhizomes by breaking or cutting them apart, discarding diseased, petrified or smelly rhizomes. Put these in the trash, not the compost pile.

• Dig the locations where the plants will be installed, placing bone meal at the bottom and covering it with enough soil to keep the roots from touching the meal and being burned. Be sure that the site you choose gets at least six hours of sun.

• Make a mound for the rhizome and place it on top with the roots spread on either side. When planted, the top of the rhizome should be barely covered with soil. Many writers recommend placing three of the same color and variety in a triangular pattern. The sides of the triangle should be about 12 inches long.

• Cover with soil that has been mixed with compost, but not with peat moss. Irises prefer an alkaline soil. Firm the soil and water well.

• Continue to water regularly until new growth appears.

• If you have rhizomes that you can’t plant immediately, store them in a cool, dry place, and start offering them to friends and neighbors.

• Look forward to receiving your reward for this work with better blooms over the next few years before it is time to do it again. (I’ve just reminded myself that it is time to divide the irises at the post office and Beard cabin this summer.)