Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Happiness of Siberian Iris


Iris sibirica 'Caesar's Brother'

I have had more than half a century of such happiness. A great deal of worry and sorrow, too, but never a worry or a sorrow that was not offset by a purple iris, a lark, a bluebird, or a dewy morning glory. 

- Mary McLeod Bethune

Any fresh iris can elicit such happiness, but ‘Caesar’s Brother’ seems to capture all those qualities in one fabulous flock of flowers.

It’s a variety of Siberian iris – aka Iris sibirica, pronounced EYE-ris sy-BEER-ah-kuh– that’s native from Europe to Central Asia. It grows in perennial clumps with long, herbaceous, grassy leaves up to 48” height, and tall flower stems. Flowers of other varieties may be of white, pale yellow, light blue, purple, and pink shades.

Siberian iris thrives best in rich, moist, loamy soil with pH ranging from 5.6 to 7.5. It needs full sun exposure. It’s hardy from USDA climate zones 4 to 9. Flowers appear mid-season.

Before planting, take a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension Service office. For a small fee, they can run a lab test and tell you what your soil may need.

Prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 10" deep, removing all traces of weeds. Compacted soil should be cultivated to 14" deep. Composted manure may be incorporated into the soil. If you choose to use synthetic fertilizer, incorporate 10-10-10 fertilizer at a rate of no more 3 lbs. per 100 square feet into the top 8" of soil. Avoid synthetic fertilizers contacting any part of your plants.

Plant Siberian iris 18" to 24" apart. If purchased in pots, dig planting holes into the cultivated soil a little less deep than the depth of the growing container. Water the plants in their pots. Place the plants into the holes and back-fill, watering as you go. 

If planting bare roots, cover them just to the top of the root mass. Do not allow the roots to dry before and when planting.

Add a top-dressing of mulch around the plants, not on top of them, about 3" deep. The mulch helps retain soil moisture, so you can water less frequently. It also helps suppress weeds. Irrigate when necessary, remembering that Siberian iris prefers moist soil. That said, though, Siberian iris can tolerate brief periods of drought.

You should know that Siberian iris, though very beautiful, is toxic if ingested. Perhaps for that reason, the plants are pest resistant.

Siberian iris is marvelous in the perennial border. Since it’s native to marshy grasslands, it’ll do well in wildflower meadows with moist soil. Gardeners love them in bog gardens, beside streams and ponds, and other water features. Keep in mind, though, that Siberian iris does not like to be submerged for long. 

Considering the attractive flowers, stately bearing, and their few requirements, it stands to reason that you should consider Siberian iris for your garden.

Return to GoGardenNow.com.

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