Dividing Bearded Iris

Iris would have to be one of my favourite plants. I grew up with them in the garden, and my Mum and i used to have alot of fun searching for new varieties.

Bearded irises (sometimes sold as Iris germanica cultivars) have large fleshy stems (rhizomes) at soil level and flowers with soft hairs (the ‘beard’) on their lower petals (falls).

  • Lift and divide rhizomatous bearded irises every three to five years. Although they can be happily divided once a year (depending on how quickly your Iris are multiplying)
  • This is ideally carried out six weeks after flowering, to give sufficient time for the plants to produce new growth for the following season before they enter winter dormancy


  • Cut away each fan of leaves from the clump, using a sharp knife. Each fan should have a portion of young rhizome (up to 15cm/6in long for tall bearded irises, smaller for miniature tall bearded irises)
  • Select the largest fans with the healthiest rhizomes
  • Discard smaller fans and old, withered looking rhizomes
  • Shorten the leaves to about 15cm  above the rhizome and trim the roots to shorten them


  • Dig a hole, large enough for the rhizome and roots, mounding the soil slightly if this makes placing the rhizomes easier, but otherwise working the soil back between the roots
  • The rhizome should be placed at soil surface on heavy soils, but a little below the surface on light sandy soils, as they will work their way back to the surface
  • Replant the divisions in groups, with 30cm between larger plants and 15cm between dwarf plants


  • Those irises divided and re-planted in summer are at risk of drought during dry spells.
  • Watering the area and allowing it to drain overnight before planting, then watering every five days during dry periods after planting, can help in these conditions

Iris growing tips

  • Plant them in a sunny spot in late summer. The plants need well-drained soil and at least six hours of sunlight per day. A full day of sun is even better to keep the rhizomes dry.
  • Give them room to breathe. Bearded iris require good air circulation. Plant them a minimum of 40 to 60cms apart .
  • Make dividing a habit. Refer to notes above.

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Cold comforts

Winter doesnt have to spell a dull garden. There is plenty of choice when it comes to plants that will add colour, scent and foliage.

Winter pruning is a priority in July, except in frost-prone areas where you’ll wait another month or so. Roses and hydrangeas are top of the list, as well as deciduous climbers such as wisteria and grapes. Evergreen shrubs that flower in summer can be given a good cut back too, including gardenias, plumbago, abelia, buddleia, oleander and duranta. Sasanqua camellias are pruned, either lightly or hard, as flowering finishes. Keep pot plants on the dry side to help them fight the cold. Plant bulbs for summer colour such as hippeastrums, lilies, and gladiolus. This is the best time to transplant deciduous trees and shrubs, when they are dormant.

Keep planting carrots, spring onions, leeks, radishes, potatoes, broad beans, English spinach, silverbeet and peas.

Winter flowering plants are often highly fragrant and are best placed close to the house so the perfume can be enjoyed.

For flowery shady borders try Helleborus orientalis (the common name is Winter Rose). It has bell shaped blooms that appear from mid to late winter.


My top flowering winter plants:

– Daphne odora has the most wonderful scent. It is a very slow growing small shrub, so be patient. This plant thrives on neglect……once you choose a home for it, never even think about transplanting it.

– Camellia varieites- You can refer to my post specifically on Camellias for information.

– Osmanthus fragrans – An evergreen shrub 3-4m tall and about 2m wide. It has glossy, toothed leaves, and apricot-scented, small white flowers from late winter to early December. The only downside is that it is slow growing.

There is a great miniature variety Osmanthus delavayi ‘Pearly Gates’ which has a zigzag form to its growth and flowers in late winter then intermittently in spring. Osmanthus delavayi ‘Heaven Scent’- has a more upright growth than ‘Pearly Gates’ and flowers in late winter to early spring.

– Helleborus orientalis- are easy to grow and have a spectacular flower display. Hellebores favour a shady position.  They are favoured for their delicate, hanging heads, and, with the right conditions, will spread themselves throughout your garden.

– Hosta varieties- are admired for both their foliage and their flowers. If you’re looking for a soft plant to grow under a tall, dense planting Hostas could be the ideal choice.

– Clivea miniata- Brilliantly coloured flowers – bright oranges, apricots, reds and yellows which are currently very fashionable. There is also a pale cream or white clivia which is rare at present. Lush green foliage all year round. Extremely tough in dry conditions so grow well in shade underneath trees. Grow in a wide range of climatic conditions but need shelter from cold or frost in cool or frost prone areas. Low maintenance plant for a lush look. Tolerates root competition such as under shallow-rooted palms.

One of the easiest things to do for Winter colour would be to fill your garden with bulbs. A very cheap option that will provide you with mass of colour. You could try and plant Narcissus, Daffodils, Snowdrops or Bluebells.

I spend alot of time browsing the internet for the latest trends and also for open gardens in Europe that i could visit.

I recently stumbled across this gorgeous scarecrow that you can build yourself from Hen and Hammock. http://www.henandhammock.co.uk

This would be perfect for the vegetable or herb gardener!

They ship internationally as well.