Anyone Can Grow Iris in a Container

by Fern on October 29, 2008

in Fall Gardening,How To

As someone with legal training, I’m hesitant to make such a broad claim, but I am pretty sure I am safe with this one:* Anyone can grow Iris in a pot. If you can add water when the soil is dry, you can have a beautiful one of these…

Photo by **Mary**

The ideal time to buy iris rhizomes (fat roots that look sort of like fingerling potatoes) was back in August and September, but you should still be able to find rhizomes in your garden center. When you head out to the garden center, you will probably find rhizomes with clipped roots and leaves. The rhizome should be firm; it should not be dried out, mushy, smell bad, or have holes from insect damage.

Planting and caring for Irises is really easy:

  • A 6″ to 8″ pot will work for Dwarf Iris; a 12″ pot will work for Tall Bearded Iris. Make sure your pot has good drainage (i.e. a big hole in the bottom or several smaller holes).
  • For soil, choose a fast draining, light potting soil.
  • To plant, dig two shallow trenches with a ridge between them. Put the rhizome on the ridge and spread the roots carefully in the trenches. Cover the roots and rhizome with dirt, but don’t bury deeply. The top of the rhizome should be very near the surface and the leaves should be above ground.
  • Put the pot in a sunny location.
  • Water only when the top two inches of soil are dry (it’s better to water too little than too much with irises).
  • Fertilize one month before blooming with 5-10-10 fertilizer. Bearded irises generally bloom in May and June, dwarf irises in April. Check the tag of your particular iris for a more precise bloom time.

If you live in an area with mild winters, you can leave the pot outdoors for the winter. But if you have “real” winters, bring the pot inside and find a sunny spot. Since this is a bit late to start irises in temperate climates, they might not have enough time to get established before winter. But next year, you can leave the pot outdoors with a protective layer of straw or leaf mulch or something similar.

If you forget to water or fertilize, don’t worry, your iris is most likely fine. I know my grandma didn’t fertilize her irises and they still bloomed like clock work. Many varieties of iris can even tolerate partial shade.

Sources: Iris Colorado, Schreiner’s

*Please don’t sue me if I’m wrong. ;-) I promise it would be a waste of time because I have no assets to take if you won the suit!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

tina October 29, 2008 at 7:25 am

How neat.


Nancy Bond October 29, 2008 at 9:23 am

This is such an informative post — I may give irises a go on my balcony!


Fern October 29, 2008 at 11:39 am

Tina — Thanks for stopping by!

Nancy — Let me know if you do (or post about it on your blog). I’d love to see pics!


Janice March 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I have never had any luck growing irises in pots. I can get the leaves to grow but I have never had any flowers. So what I have ended up doing is when I thin my irises I put them in pots and end up giving them away to friends and family. They all appreciate the new flowers.

The Fun Gardener


Cindi June 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I planted a new iris I purchased from a local Iris farm in a pot with Lilies. Neither bloomed the first 2 years. This year, the Iris bloomed, spectacularly! I put it on my porch just outside my window and so enjoyed it! The Iris is done, and the Lillies have blooms that should open in a few weeks! I am hoping to enjoy them for years!


marilu September 16, 2012 at 11:55 am

thanks for the tips! i was wanting to plant irises with my students as part of our study on van Gogh. i originally wanted them in pots but was hesitant to try. i didnt want to kill the poor things. ill definitely be giving this a try. thank you!


Mindy August 6, 2013 at 5:18 pm

I planted iris bulbs in a pot with regular potting soil. I had to pull it out of the direct sunlight as it was in the 100′s here in Los Angeles for a long time, and it was unhappy. I pulled it into a covered outside area-not a patio though, and they seem to be happy. I’m wondering if I could put it on the front porch that gets sunlight (only a little) but mostly shade? Thanks for any guidance :)


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