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How to Store Iris Bulbs So You Can Replant Them Again and Again

A collage of different types of iris bulbs.
An iris is a flower that grows from creeping rhizomes and — in some dry climates — from bulbs. They have a long and erect flowering stem that can be simple or branched. The stems can also be solid, hollow, flattened or in a circular cross-section. The iris flower usually has basal leaves.

The flower is instantly recognizable by its unique characteristics of deep purple- and blue-colored petals and its unique shape and structure. This beauty of the iris flower has led to its incredible popularity among gardening enthusiasts as a garden flower.

Nearly all of the 41 types of the iris flowers are found in the Northern Hemisphere in the European, North American and Asian Continents. And while its ecology is very diverse, it tends to be found in areas that are predominantly dry, such as cold, mountainous areas or semi-desert areas. It can also be found in grassy slopes and meadows, as well as river banks and bogs.

The flower is named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow. Coincidentally, the word Iris also means rainbow in Greek and is the source of the word iridescent.

Related: Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors | What is a Dutch Iris?

Storing Iris Bulbs

Irises are extremely beautiful flowers perfect for backyard decoration, so some people like to store them for very short periods of time for replantation. This could be due to moving or waiting for replantation for some other reason.

Storing the bulbs can be a tricky process if you’re a novice, however, it can be learned pretty easily if you try. The trick is to pay careful attention so that they don’t rot or dry out. You can keep your bulbs safely indoors if you follow the detailed process to the letter. They can be kept safe for up to a month if you do so.Bouquet of iris flowers in a white pail

Step 1: Remove the Bulbs

Dig up the Bulbs

The first step is to remove the bulbs carefully without damaging them. Start by using a spade. If you have one in your toolbox already, then use it only if it’s clean and not rusted — or just get a new spade altogether.

Next, dig a small hole, which is about two to three inches deep around the area where the irises are growing. You should dig until you reach a bulb and then set aside the spade. Continue digging and uncovering the bulb with your hands and completely unearth it without damaging it.

Make sure that you watch out for the following things:

  • The bulb may have some roots growing from it. In such cases, be careful and try to keep as many roots intact as possible. These are part of its growth system and can affect its survival and preservation.
  • Wear gloves when you handle bulbs. This is necessary to avoid the bulbs getting damages or being scratched by the ridges on your fingers and palms, and also to prevent any itching or allergic reactions from irritation of the skin.

Brush Off Soil

Next, you should brush off any excess soil that covers the bulb with your own hand or a scrub brush. Any soil on the bulbs and roots should be removed while still trying to not damage them in any way. After this, remove the bulbs from their original place. If you use a bag to transfer the bulbs from their point of origin, carry them carefully and avoid dropping or shaking the bag too much.

Inspect the Bulbs

If your bulbs have any damage or suffer from a disease, then you shouldn’t bother storing them. You should check beneath each bulb for any holes and other signs of disease or damage from a pest.

Signs such as rot or visible infestation shouldn’t be taken lightly, and the bulb should be discarded. Any bulbs with signs of disease will surely begin to rot in the container and damage any of the surrounding bulbs.

Trim the Leaves

Use pruning shears to trim any leaves to about three or four inches. If your bulbs have leaves that are intact, then you should carefully trim them without damaging the bulbs. This will prevent them from drying out and rotting.

It will also allow the bulbs to conserve any energy while they’re being stored. However, if your bulbs don’t have any leaves when you dig them up, you can naturally skip this step.

Dry the Bulbs

It is necessary for you to place the bulbs in the sun for a day or two to dry. The bulbs need to be completely dry before the curing process. Placing them in the sun allows them to be dried without excessive damage, as is the case with artificial heating.

If it isn’t sunny on the days that you’re storing them, then you should place them near a window and continue drying them for about three to four days.

Step 2: Cure the Bulbs

Place the Bulbs in a Cool and Dark Environment

It’s important to place the bulbs that have been harvested in a cool and dark place so that they can cure for about two weeks. Once the bulbs are dried out, they have to be cured before storing. This is to adjust the bulbs from their previous environment. If they are placed in an environment with a temperature of 21C with a lot of ventilation, they will slowly adapt to it.

It’s also important to keep them away from sunlight. Excessive drying can lead to the bulbs dying when replanted. Choosing a windowless room — like a garage or a basement — is the best for this task.

Store in a Shallow Container with Ventilation

A good storage container will have enough space to store the bulbs in a single layer. The container won’t need to have a lid or any sort of coverage because the bulbs require access to air. You can use a box or plastic container, as long as it’s dry and clean. Wipe it down to make sure and avoid storing the bulbs in layers because this will cause rot.

Make a Mixture of Sand, Damp Peat Moss and Wood Shavings

Fill your container with peat moss, sand and wood shavings. Make sure you use equal parts of each. This will cover your bulbs in a single layer. Then mix the medium together using your hands.

Coat the Bulbs in Antifungal Powder

Once the curing is done, you should coat your bulbs in antifungal powder or sulfur powder. This will prevent them from rotting. Remember to wear gloves while doing this, and also remember to be in a well-ventilated area when handling chemical powders.

Check the Bulbs Every Few Days

It’s important to check on the progress of the bulbs every day to make sure they’re not rotting or drying out. The bulbs can develop signs of disease after they’re removed from the ground. You should look for browning and soft bulbs in this instance.

Long-term storage can begin two weeks into curing.

Step 3: Preserve the Bulbs Indoorsiris bulbs in an orange bowl

Wrap the Bulbs in Newspaper

If you don’t have storage mix, you can use newspapers to store the bulbs. Wrap each bulb separately in one layer of newspaper.

Place the Container in a Cool Location

Place the container with the wrapped iris bulbs in a cool, well-ventilated location. Make sure the container is uncovered and that there are no pests living near the container.

Mist Drying Bulbs with Water if Browning Occurs

Mist the surrounding mixture with water if you notice that any of the bulbs are browning. Avoid getting water on the bulbs that aren’t drying out because this can cause rotting.

Discard Mushy Bulbs

Rotting bulbs are soft and feel less firm than healthy ones. If you notice one or two of these in your collection, you should remove them and the surrounding storage medium. A good way to check for rotting is once per week by pressing on the medium around the bulbs. If you’re able to press down all the way, your bulbs have begun to rot.

Step 4: Replant the IrisesWoman handing iris bulbs for replanting

After the irises have been stored, you should replant them. They won’t last very long in storage and so you should consider where you’re replanting them before you begin this process. Forcing their growth indoors for around three or four weeks is a bad idea. If you notice that a lot of your bulbs are beginning to rot, consider replanting them immediately.

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