Can I cut back the green leaves of my irises since they have already bloomed? They are crowding other plants nearby.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Dolores in Kentucky: Iris provide wonderful color in the spring garden. This large genus has hundreds of species ranging in color as well as size. As with all plants, just because they have finished blooming does not mean it is time to cut back the foliage. In fact, this can jeopardize next season’s flowers. It is important to leave the foliage alone so it can collect the nutrients it needs to remain healthy and flower again for you year after year. Iris benefit from being divided every few years. They spread and become overcrowded, forcing them to compete for nutrients, and as a result we get fewer blooms. So if you have not divided them recently, you can put this on your list of garden chores for late winter or early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. If you must divide them now go ahead and cut back the foliage, dig them up, and replant them but keep in mind that you may not get any blooms next spring. It could take them a couple seasons to produce flowers again. If you can wait until later this winter or early next spring just as the foliage begins to emerge, that would be ideal.