What will happen to my irises if I cut them way back, leaves and all, now that they are done blooming?
Hardiness Zone: 4a
Ginny from New London, MN
I was always told that the leaves need to stay on the plants and to just let them wither. That the rhizome gets "food" from the leaves and that if you do cut the leaves off that you won't get as many blooms the next year. I believe it to be the same with daffodils and tulips, that if you cut off the foliage the bulbs won't get enough food and you won't get many blooms the next year.
My sister-in-law mows her daffodils every summer and they always come back nice and green the next year, but with very little flowers. I don't want to take any chances, I like the flowers too much! (07/10/2008)
My sister has a day-lily business and she cuts the blades back called fans for shipment. It won't kill the plant, but may not produce next year depending on the size of the rhizome. This goes for irises as well.
I have irises in a permanent location and do not cut them back, but allow the leaves to die down and in the fall, clean up the dead blades. Always pick off the old blooms before going to seed so you can have more showy blossoms the following year.
Transplant extra rhizomes from the bed so you have space enough for growth when plants get too thick. (07/10/2008)
In most hardiness zones (yours included), Irises need to be cut back in late July or early August. This is also the time to thin and transplant the plants. Cut the fans back to where they are about 5-6 inches tall. This allows the leaves to continue to feed the roots but makes your garden look neater. Remove any spent or damaged leaves.
If you are transplanting any of the corms (root tubers), make sure that you check them for iris borers. Borers will leave small holes in the corms where they eat their way into the corm. Dispose of infected corms in the garbage, not your compost bin.
When dividing corms, cut the small "daughter" tubers away from the "mother" tuber with a sharp knife. Transplant into shallow trenches. Spread the roots out and cover lightly with soil. Irises do not like to be buried too deeply, they will not bloom if the corms are covered with too much dirt.
I hope this information helps. I've been doing this for twenty years, and I have a garden full of irises. So do my friends and neighbors to whom I have passed along plants over the years. Good luck and happy gardening! (07/11/2008)
Wait till the foliage dies, then cut them back. (07/12/2008)
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