En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - June 08, 2010

From: Pickerington, OH
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Propagation, Pruning, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Trimming iris leaves in Pickerington OH
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I recently trimmed the stems and leaves of my iris plants in late May - I realize now this was a bit early. The leaves are still about 3-4" out of the ground. I would like to half them and move some to another garden and also put mulch down on the garden. Should I mulch now and wait until fall to half and move the plants? Should I go ahead and move the plants now? Have I killed the plants by trimming them to early? Is there anything I should do in order to try to save the plants if trimming them early was detrimental? I'm not good at gardening and these were actually iris my mom planted about 10 years ago. She will be very mad at me if I killed them all just because I got a little zealous trying to "clean up" the garden. Please help!


Iris seem to be pretty self-sufficient, and we wouldn't worry too much about all the particulars. First, no, don't move the tubers now, wait until early Fall. Second, no, don't mulch them. Those tubers need to be partially exposed to the air. In future, you should wait until the blades or leaves start looking frowsey, then trim them back. The leaves will die back in the winter anyway, and you can pull off the dead blades when you do your Fall cleanup. It is very possible they will grow new leaves even now. We don't know if you have an iris native to North America, but figure you probably have a "bearded" iris, Iris germanica which is native to (surprise!) Germany. There are a few irises native to North America and 6 native to Ohio, which we are listing below with some illustrations. If you feel that is what you have, you can follow the links to our webpage on those irises and learn more about their care.

Irises Native to Ohio:

Iris brevicaulis (zigzag iris)

Iris cristata (dwarf crested iris)

Iris verna (dwarf violet iris)

Iris versicolor (harlequin blueflag)

Iris virginica (Virginia iris)

Iris virginica var. shrevei (Shreve's iris)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Iris brevicaulis

Iris cristata

Iris verna

Iris versicolor

Iris virginica




More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Invasive American Germander from San Antonio
May 14, 2012 - I brought home some American Germander (Teucruim canadense) - page 259 In Wildflowers of Texas by Geyata Ajilvsgi - from a railroad right-of-way. Since it is a member of the mint family it has becom...
view the full question and answer

Plants for near a salt water swimming pool
April 01, 2009 - I need some suggestions of plants that will grow next to a public salt water swimming pool, located in Bossier City, Louisiana
view the full question and answer

What to do about bastard cabbage in the Austin area?
May 08, 2015 - I am noticing bastard cabbage taking over roadsides and medians at an alarming rate where a mixture of native flowers used to bloom. Is it allowable to organize efforts to pull the invasive plants ou...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly plants from Austin TX
December 17, 2012 - I have a butterfly garden in the front part of the house facing the south side. However it is also mostly under a few Oak trees that cast shadow over half of the front yard starting early afternoon. ...
view the full question and answer

Erosion tolerant plants for shade from Kerrville TX
August 06, 2013 - We have just cleared a lot of cedar out of a small draw and would like to know the best groundcovers, shrubs, etc. to plant to hold the soil. Deep shade most of the day.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center