Question about irises

I have some german bearded irises growing around my mailbox.
There's a section of about 2'x2' surrounded by railroad ties. In there is the post to the mailbox, and the rhizomes from the irises. The dirt is completely filled in with iris rhizomes (they've been growing there something like 8 years).
I used to get many stalks of iris blooms, but, in the past two years I've only gotten one "stem" of blooms per season. I think it might be that they're too crowded.
Is there anything special I should do to separate them? Just dig out "all" of them except one or two rhizomes? Should I leave a clump and then free a section of a certain size, so, I effectively 'patchwork' in blank areas?
What I'd like to do is remove the least amount of rhizomes for the most amount of blooming return next year. If that's all of them, then, that's fine, but, I don't want to pull out all of them unless that's really the best choice.
Second to that, I have a new lot of mixed (by color) iris rhizomes that I bought. How far apart should I plant them in a long thin bed that will still leave room for other small flowers in between (I have some snowdrops and grecian windflowers, and other 'small' bulbs that grow into small plants)?
Gwen
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I would wait until around Labor Day and remove all the rhizomes. You can remove any obviously dead areas and check for iris borer. I would then separate them and replant. As far as replanting them in the narrow bed, it depends on how much you want to plant around the iris. I would rather see fewer, larger clumps of iris than to have them spaced out like solders with other plants in front of them, but that is purely a matter of opinion.
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Since they've been in place for many years, I think you will find it difficult to remove just some of the rhizomes in a patchwork fashion. They will be very intertwined, and it will be more trouble than it's worth to try and leave a few. Better to take them all out, and fork over the bed and add some compost. Replant the bigger rhizomes for your best shot at a good display next year.
Cheers, Sue
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bed. But to ensure you get bloom next year, besides planting the largest rhizome, I'd make sure the largest in the bed isn't disturbed and has soil intact around the roots. Sometimes irises will actually quit blooming because their rhizomes are covered up. All leaf and no flower. They like to sit on top of the soil more.
If you do lift them all and plant the largest, be prepared to have them not bloom the first year you divide them. I've lifted irises that were very old with a clump of dirt attached and they didn't know they were moved and bloomed and the ones I did lose all soil from took two years to re-establish. But then, that's just me.............
And I have to agree with Vox on the soldier thing. Single stands of anything is sad. I'd plant them in groups, same as you'd plant bulbs of daffs or such in 5's 7's or more. spaced apart but still in groups. Of course I'm also the one who has no spaces between her plants in her constipated fairy beds., too.......<g> madgardener who moved all the old bearded irises from the old farmhouse when she moved.
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wrote:

I think I can clear out sections reasonably easy (although that thought may be pure ignorance on my part ;)). Yes, I'm getting lots of 'all leaf and no flower', but, the rhizomes are at least partially exposed to the air, so, I don't think they're unhappy to be covered with dirt and that's why they stopped blooming.
I will keep that in mind for the future, as I had thought they were looking 'nekkid' and needed to be covered.

I'll try that.

*laughs*.
Well, I have one of each iris of a particular type and I'm rather hoping they'll spread out over time. If I put them into groups, I think they'll just crowd themselves that much faster, and I don't know if I'll have enough to fill in the whole bed. I mean, enough to fill in the bed in spaced clumps.
Although, maybe if I lift the rhizomes from around the mailbox, I can fill things out that way.
Gwen
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I would dig them all out, improve the soil with fresh soil, devide the rhizomes and maybe put some of the small ones back in, thus griving them time to grow and bloom for a few years before having to do it again. you could mix some steer manure in with the new soil as iris do drain soils of all food.
If you have lots left over, find other areas of your place to plant them or give them to folks around you.

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Gwen Morse wrote:

See my <http://www.rossde.com/garden/garden_divide_iris.html .
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David E. Ross
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Goodness I seem to be doing it all wrong.... will let you know next spring, as I have just transplanted some from the side of the house to the front. This was the first year that I got really lovely blooms, I think it was because they got some water this year, usually they just get what God decides to give them.
take care Liz

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