by Joe Falkner, El Paso Master Gardener
Interested in growing iris in El Paso? There are many standard varieties and thousands of beautiful hybrid varieties from which to choose. For many years, iris lovers had to settle for bulbs that produced only a few spectacular blooms each year. Now there is a wide spectrum of re-bloomers available.
Bearded Iris is the most common variety grown in the United States. In the Southwest, a common iris is aril or arilbred varieties. They are native to the Middle East and do well in our environment, arils require good drainage and full sun for two thirds of the day. Sandy soil with a lot of added compost or organic matter is best. Planting on hills, ridges or raised beds will help with drainage.
Planting should be done in late September or early October. The iris should be planted with the tops of the rhizomes slightly exposed and the roots spread out facing down. Firm the soil and water. Make sure no soil covers the leaves. Keep the soil moist until first frost. Water occasionally in the winter. When spring growth begins, resume a normal watering schedule.
A light fertilizer should be applied six weeks after planting and six weeks before spring bloom. The aril will go dormant in summer. It will lose all its leaves and should have no water while dormant. Start watering again in the fall when new growth emerges. You should install a rain cover over the beds for our summer monsoons, but make sure there are no walls so that air circulates at ground level.