Keith Fuller: Irises are a widely recognized sign of spring

If you drive along a wooded county highway, you can see wild irises blooming in the ditch banks.


Irises are a sign of springtime, recognized just about worldwide.

Besides the wild blue flag iris that you can see roadside, there are many other varieties that can be grown in your garden.

Before deciding to grow irises, though, make sure you have the correct soil and location for them. Most iris species prefer fertile soil that retains moisture. You can create such an area by incorporating peat and other organic material into a bed.

Because the sun can be blazing in the Deep South, I would suggest planting irises in an area that receives morning sun and filtered light or shade in the afternoon. Many irises will go dormant here in summer and emerge again in late fall.

Common names of irises that will grow into climate zone 10 are bearded, Japanese, white, stinking, German, Dalmatian, pygmy, Siberian, Japanese roof and Algerian. We are located in zone 9, so the these iris varieties should tolerate our warm climate.

Some species of iris have various-colored varieties while others are just one color such as blue, violet, yellow or white. You should do your homework to decide whether a mixed color or single color will best suit your landscape.

Spring is the time when most garden centers will offer dormant rhizomes of irises. Irises can be grown from seeds or root divisions (rhizomes).

Once established, your irises will need to be divided every few years to prevent overcrowding. If they are allowed to become overcrowded, fewer flowers will be produced.

Remember, too, to keep your iris bed mulched, so the soil will retain ample moisture.