Irises for Cut Flowers - Part One
Updated: May 31, 2021
Irises are one of my weaknesses but sadly most people only use Dutch irises as a cut flower. With nearly 300 species in the genus Iris, there is so much to explore. With their long stems and flowers in a rainbow of colours, irises are just begging to be cut and enjoyed. Trust me, once you start exploring the world of irises you will be hooked.
Siberian Iris - Iris sibirica
These irises have a delicate beauty about them but they are very hardy and easy to grow. They are a clump forming perennial that grows between 60 and 90cm with a mature plant capable of producing many flower stems. Flowering starts in spring and continues to early summer. They prefer a sunny position but can handle some shade and well drained soil that is more on the acidic side. Siberian Irises can handle some dryness but it is best to keep them well watered during hot summers and in their first year of being transplanted. Maintenance is simple, remove dead foliage in autumn and mulch.
This is also a good time to fertilise with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer and again in spring (but not in the first year of transplanting). To extend your flowering period, select a mixture of early and late flowering varieties.
Spuria Iris - Iris Spuria
These are the tallest growing irises reaching a height of 1.5m but there are also dwarf varieties available. These are statement plants and are stunning in flower which is from the end of spring to mid summer. They prefer a sunny position but can handle some shade and well drained alkaline soil that is rich in organic matter. Spuria irises prefer a dry summer but mine handle being watered during summer. Maintenance is simple, remove dead foliage in autumn and mulch. This is also a good time to fertilise with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer and again in spring.
Japanese Iris - Iris ensata
This variety has massive blooms, sum as large as 15cm x 15cm! Japanese irises are another iris that is very easy to grow. They require a minimum of six hours of sun a day. Grow in moist, well-drained soil that is more on the acidic side. Their natural habitat is stream banks where the soil remains constantly moist however they are not pond plants. I grow mine in pots placed in ponds where I ensure their crowns remain above the water line, I also have them growing in moist soil and in my bog garden. Maintenance is simple, remove dead foliage in autumn and mulch. This is also a good time to fertilise with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer and again in spring. However, I do not fertilise mine that are growing in pots placed in a pond or in a bog garden. These plants are growing in environments that are rich in nutrients.
How to Harvest Iris Flowers
Harvest your flowers early in the day. Choose buds that are just beginning to open rather than flowers that are fully open. These buds will open within a few hours with the rest of the buds on the stem opening over the next couple of days. Place your flowers in a bucket of tepid water until you are ready to create your arrangement. When you are ready to arrange the iris flowers, re-cut the stems about 2cm above the original cut at an angle under water. Remove spent flowers immediately. Take care as some irises colours will bled and can stain. Check the water level of your vase often and top up as required. Replace water and recut stems every second or third day. Place your vase in an area that is cool and away from direct sunlight and drafts.