How and when to prune iris plants


Iris is a genus that groups between 260–300 species of plants with beautiful flowers. Its name in Greek means rainbow, it is believed to refer to the wide variety of colors that different species have. Irises can be of the “bearded” type (soft hairs along the center of the falls) or crested (beardless). The crested iris, the hairs form a comb or crest. Most irises bloom in early summer. Some, mostly bearded hybrids, are tracing and bloom again later in the summer. In this article we will study how iris pruning should be carried out. We will also take the time to give some basic types on how you should take care of this beautiful floral plant.


If you read to the end you will learn the best techniques for proper pruning, the right time to trim and the tools to do it. The article has no waste, I assure you. 😉

Note: Please note that the advice given here is general, this blog is consulted from many countries in the world, with totally different characteristics, what not all tips will be adapted in the same way in all cases. Once you finish reading the article it will be necessary to analyze all the information and apply what you have learned in the best way. If you have any questions, remember that you can contact us to make your inquiries.

1. How to care your iris plant


Although the pruning of iris plant is the central axis of this article, it does not stop being one of several of the caution that this bush needs to be healthy, strong and beautiful. In this section we will see the key care of iris.

  • Climate: It adapts to a wide variety of climates, tolerates winters very well and develops very well in cold temperatures and also adapts very well to hot climates.
  • Sun: Although they prefer a full sun exposure they can also live in semi-shade.
Iris flower
Iris flower
  • Soil: He likes well drained soils, and must be kept moist but not in excess so that the plant does not get damaged. In the case of pots, we recommend that you place a ceramic plate in the base to keep it moist.
  • Irrigation: Regarding this point, it should be noted that we must provide water regularly but not in excess. Pay attention to the humidity of the soil around the plant and water it every 5 or 7 days depending on how dry it is when the flower is in full development.
  • Planting: When planting it you must leave a part of the bulb underground and the other exposed, the reason for doing so, is that a fully buried bulb prevents the development of the flower due to the lack of sunlight. On the other hand it always leaves at least 30 cm of distance between plant and plant, this will allow a correct development of the roots.
  • Fertilization: A slight contribution of compost in autumn is sufficient.
  • Pruning: Since you must control its growth and expansion (they can become invasive), pruning will be of great help in this and other aspects more related to the aesthetic.

2. Tools needed for pruning iris plant


In the next sections we will see that pruning this plants is not complicated at all. And as often happens, easy pruning needs a small amount of tools.

In this case you can manage with simple hand pruning shears or a sharp knife, It is more in many occasions you can perform pruning with stationery scissors. Keep in mind that the moment you make the cut is ideal to transmit diseases from plant to plant, that is why you must disinfect the blades before pruning and every time you change the plant.

On the other hand, when we carry out gardening tasks like this, some basic safety implements never go wrong. These can be a pair of gloves and glasses, this will protect your hands and eyes from any sharp elements.

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2.1 Needed care of cutting back tools

Try to perform the following care in your pruning tools to extend useful life.

  • Use the right tool for a job and avoid twisting or straining it.
  • Clean and oil tools regularly by wiping an oily cloth on blades and other surfaces.
  • Keep cutting edges sharp by regularly using an oilstone.
  • Wooden handles should be varnished or regularly treated with linseed oil to keep them from cracking or splintering.

Keep in mind that if you extend the life of your tools you will not be doing anything other than saving money. 😉

3. Why prune an iris plant


The best way to make sure that we are carrying out a maintenance task correctly, is to understand the objectives and reasons why such a task is necessary. Therefore let’s start by knowing the reasons why our iris plant needs to be pruned. We can summarize them in the following points:

  • You should know that in these plants the production of seeds can prevent the generation of more flowers. That is why removing the withered flowers prevents the production of seeds, something that will often result in greater flowering. It is more in many varieties you can achieve a second flowering.
  • As with any floral garden plant, aesthetics is everything. Therefore wilted flowers take beauty away from new flowers. Routine pruning in which you remove these dried flowers will help the new flowers look more beautiful.
  • It is well known that iris plants spread easily, a feature that can end in an invasion of iris in your garden if you do not control it. A good way to control this situation is to avoid seed production, something you can do with pruning.

These are three key reasons why you cannot forget to prune your iris plants, let’s see now how and when to carry out this task.

4. How and when to prune iris plant


As soon as we started with the article, we said that irises are a genus of plants that group more than 250 species. You can imagine that not all of them should be pruned exactly the same, having small details that will escape us in this post. Even so, and trying to cover as much information as possible, we will begin to see how to prune an iris in a general way, and then deepen a little more into two very popular species such as the bearded iris and the African iris.

Iris flower
Iris flower

To develop pruning in a general way, thus covering almost all the iris species, we will see two types of pruning, the one that is done during the spring and the one that must be carried out after the flowering, preparing the plant for the winter.

4.1 Pruning irises in spring

As you have noticed when we analyze the reasons why you should prune this beautiful plant, they have to do mostly with aesthetic reasons. That is to say that the plant will not die if we do not carry out a pruning, but it will lose much of its beauty.

The pruning most related to this aesthetic is the one that you should carry out during the flowering season (spring-summer), and it is nothing more than a periodic task of trimming withered flowers.

You can do it only with your hands or with the help of scissors or sharp knife. If you want to control that your iris plant does not produce seeds make sure to cut part of the floral stem, do not stay with just removing dried petals, otherwise you can be allowed to generate seeds equally.

Within the number of iris species there are those that generate flowers that only last one day (example: African iris), this increases the regularity with which you should prune the wilted flowers. Do it about twice a week.

There are few species of iris that bloom twice a season, to help generate this second flowering it will be important that once the flowers wilt cut the flower stalks from the base. Take well sharp scissors (the stems can be quite woody and hard) and make a cut about 2.5 cm from the rhizome. You can add some compost for a second flowering even more abundant.

4.2 Cutting back iris after bloom (in fall) for winter

After the flowering period, the plant begins to prepare for winter. Many are the garden plants that need hard pruning before the cold begins, this is not the case of the iris.

It is advisable to leave the foliage on this plant. Therefore do not fall for the common mistake of cutting all the foliage from its base. The iris will use the foliage to store energy in its roots to survive during the winter, so leave it on the plant until it withers on its own.

Depending on the climatic characteristics where you live, the foliage may wilt completely during autumn or early winter. It will be at that time when you can trim all the foliage to a height not less than 15 cm from the ground (6 inches).

5. Pruning according to the species


We already saw in a general way how you should prune an iris, but there are many questions that come to me about how to prune two very popular species such as bearded iris and African iris (Dietes bicolor). Let’s see if there is any particularity in the pruning of these species.

5.1 Pruning African iris (Dietes bicolor)

There are few times that on this website we go to video material to explain questions like this, in part to help understand everything more graphically as well as not to repeat agreements already seen in other sections. To see how to prune an African iris we have selected a video of the Brainy.Garden channel, I hope it works for you.

5.2 Pruning bearded iris

For this case we have also looked for a good video (of the CTSCAPER channel) to answer the question about how to prune a bearded iris. I do not doubt that it will be of great help. 😉

You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:

Well up to here we have arrived with this article in which we talked about how and when to prune a iris plant. I hope you have no doubt when you should take your scissors and get to work. 😉

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