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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.

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

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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

QUESTION:

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!

ANSWER:

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

 

 

 

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