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(Video) Digging and Dividing Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris are a valuable garden plant. They stand tall, like sentinels, with sworded foliage topped with frilled, floral fancies in a never ending array of colours. The Ancient Greeks admired them, and the name, Iris denotes the Goddess of the rainbow; uniting heaven and earth. Monet used Bearded Iris for this in his garden, with real style and flair.

Caring for your Bearded Iris

This video demonstrates how to dig and divide your Bearded Iris with further step-by-step explanation below.


Bearded Iris flower for a long time and don’t need much in the way of care. They partner well with roses, or grasses, and can easily be woven through borders – really anywhere, as long as they get a good dose of sun.

Bearded Iris are rhizomes that grow at ground level, with a beautiful fan of leaves. Bearded Iris like a climate with a dry summer and chilly winter, They grow well in VIC, SA, NSW, parts of WA and QLD. In warmer climates, we have heard that you can put ice on them in winter, to help set flowers, but we haven’t had the need to try this ourselves.

Bearded Iris grow best in a full sun position, this is especially important in spring and summer when the flowers are growing. You need to ensure your rhizomes aren’t shaded by mulch, or neighbouring plants, which is what makes roses such a good companion.

You don’t need to fuss too much with watering for Bearded Iris. They like a soaking and then to dry out for a bit, which nature usually takes care of. If the weather is really dry, then you should get the hose out about once a fortnight.

Bearded Iris

Divide and conquer

To flower at their best, Bearded Iris need to be dug and divided every 2-5 years (depending on growing conditions and varieties). Now this might sound like it is a bit of work, but, it only takes a minute and then you can either increase your supply, or share them with family and friends.

Bearded Iris are ideally divided late summer to autumn, once they have finished their flowering. Moving them at other times is ok, but it will disrupt their flowering.

1.    Simply dig under the clump with a fork or spade, ensuring you don’t run through the rhizomes as you do. Lift up the clump by the leaves and shake off any loose soil.

2.    Once you have done this, simply separate your rhizomes by pulling them apart, they break as easily as Ginger.

3.    You then trim the foliage to around 10cm. You trim the leaves to reduce the stress on the plant, leaving enough to allow photosynthesis, soon the plant will develop fresh leaves and the browned leaves can simply be pulled off.

4.    It is important you replant your Bearded Iris within a couple of weeks after dividing, as they do not like to totally dry out – it leaves them susceptible to diseases and rot.

5.    Prior to planting dig your soil to ensure good drainage. Bearded Iris need good drainage or they will rot. Dig your hole so the roots are beneath the soil, and the rhizome is sitting at the soil level, just exposed to the sun. In warmer climates, cover the rhizome with 1-3cm of soil to prevent scalding. Space your Bearded Iris 35-45cm apart.

6.    Then you just need to water it in. Adding a seaweed tonic at this time will give your Bearded Iris a bit of extra get up and go.

Bearded Iris

And the job is done! It probably took you more time to read this than it will to actually do it!

Keeping your Bearded Iris happy is easy. You just need to give them a top dressing with a slow release fertiliser at the start of spring. Use one that isn’t too high in nitrogen as that will encourage leaf growth at the expense of flowers.

That is all you need to do have happy, thriving Bearded Iris.

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