Iris are an incredibly diverse group of bulbs and rhizomes, encompassing over 200 species and numerous cultivars. They range widely in cultural requirements, some are drought tolerant, while others require a pond to flourish. Flower color and size vary dramatically as well. Foliage is grass-like or sword-like, and flowers are complex, very showy. The three inner segments(known as standards) are petals, the outer ones(known as falls) are sepals. There are three main categories of irises: bearded, beardless and crested. Bearded iris are the most popular and well known, and come in virtually every color. The iris borer is a serious pest, found east of the Rockies in Canada, south to Washington, D.C. west to Iowa. Small piles of “sawdust” near the iris rhizome, is the sign of iris borer. Where winter temperatures remain above 10F, it is absent or rare. It is a larval form of a moth, the main prevention is a good fall garden cleanup of debris where larva can overwinter. ‘Professor Jim’ a Louisiana beardless iris produces red flowers that have red-violet veins and yellow signals. These do best in moist soil in areas with hot summers. Like a well-drained neutral to slightly acidic soil.
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CharacteristicsCultivar: Professor Jim
Size: Height: 1 ft. to 1.5 ft.
Width: 0.25 ft. to 0.33 ft.
Plant Category: bulbous plants, perennials,
Plant Characteristics: low maintenance,
Foliage Characteristics: poisonous,
Flower Characteristics: long lasting,
Flower Color: purples, reds, yellows,
Bloomtime Range: Late Spring to Mid Summer
USDA Hardiness Zone: 2 to 9
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined for this plant
Light Range: Part Shade to Full Sun
pH Range: 5 to 7.5
Soil Range: Some Sand to Some Clay
Water Range: Normal to Moist
FertilizingHow-to : Fertilization for Annuals and Perennials
Annuals and perennials may be fertilized using: 1.water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; or 3. organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are generally used every two weeks during the growing season or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are worked into the soil ususally only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, follow label directions as they may vary per product.
LightConditions : Full to Partial Shade
Full shade means there is little or no light in the growing zone. Shade can be the result of a mature stand of trees or shadows cast by a house or building. Plants that require full shade are usually susceptible to sunburn. Full shade beneath trees may pose additional problems; not only is there no light, but competition for water, nutrients and root space.
Partial shade means that an area receives filtered light, often through tall branches of an open growing tree. Root competition is usually less. Partial shade can also be achieved by locating a plant beneath an arbor or lathe-like structure. Shadier sides of a building are normally the northern or northeastern sides. These sides also tend to be a little cooler. It is not uncommon for plants that can tolerate full sun or some sun in cooler climates to require some shade in warmer climates due to stress placed on the plant from reduced moisture and excessive heat.
WateringConditions : Moist and Well Drained
Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.
PlantingHow-to : Preparing Garden Beds
Use a soil testing kit to determine the acidity or alkalinity of the soil before beginning any garden bed preparation. This will help you determine which plants are best suited for your site. Check soil drainage and correct drainage where standing water remains. Clear weeds and debris from planting areas and continue to remove weeds as soon as they come up.
A week to 10 days before planting, add 2 to 4 inches of aged manure or compost and work into the planting site to improve fertility and increase water retention and drainage. If soil composition is weak, a layer of topsoil should be considered as well. No matter if your soil is sand or clay, it can be improved by adding the same thing: organic matter. The more, the better; work deep into the soil. Prepare beds to an 18 inch deep for perennials. This will seem like a tremendous amount of work now, but will greatly pay off later. Besides, this is not something that is easily done later, once plants have been established.
How-to : Planting Bulbs
Plant bulbs at a depth that is three times their height, and at least 1-1/2 bulb-widths apart. Work a little bone meal fertilizer into the bottom of your hole, and then place the bulb upright in the hole. The more pointed end is almost always the top. If you have trouble telling which is the top, look for evidence of where a stem or roots were last year. If in doubt, plant them sideways. Fill in with soil gently, making sure there are no rocks or clods that would impede the bulb's stem. When planting a great number of bulbs, dig out an area to the specified depth, place bulbs and replace soil. This ensures that ground has been properly prepared and bulbs are evenly spaced.
Plant bulbs in natural drifts rather that formal rows: bulbs can fail or be eaten, leaving holes in a formal arrangement, or will shift with freezing and thawing. If you have trouble with gophers or squirrels eating your bulbs, try sprinkling red pepper in the holes, covering the bulbs with chicken-wire, surround bulbs with sharp shards of gravel or other substance, or planting rodent-repelling bulbs like Fritillaria nearby.
How-to : Preparing Containers
Containers are excellent when used as an ornamental feature, a planting option when there is little or no soil to plant in, or for plants that require a soil type not found in the garden or when soil drainage in the garden is inferior. If growing more than one plant in a container, make sure that all have similar cultural requirements. Choose a container that is deep and large enough to allow root development and growth as well as proportional balance between the fully developed plant and the container. Plant large containers in the place you intend them to stay. All containers should have drainage holes. A mesh screen, broken clay pot pieces(crock) or a paper coffee filter placed over the hole will keep soil from washing out. The potting soil you select should be an appropriate mix for the plants you have chosen. Quality soils (or soil-less medias) absorb moisture readily and evenly when wet. If water runs off soil upon initial wetting, this is an indicator that your soil may not be as good as you think.
Prior to filling a container with soil, wet potting soil in the bag or place in a tub or wheelbarrow so that it is evenly moist. Fill container about halfway full or to a level that will allow plants, when planted, to be just below the rim of the pot. Rootballs should be level with soil line when project is complete. Water well.
How-to : Planting Perennials
Determine appropriate perennials for your garden by considering sun and shade through the day, exposure, water requirements, climate, soil makeup, seasonal color desired, and position of other garden plants and trees.
The best times to plant are spring and fall, when soil is workable and out of danger of frost. Fall plantings have the advantage that roots can develop and not have to compete with developing top growth as in the spring. Spring is more desirable for perennials that dislike wet conditions or for colder areas, allowing full establishment before first winter. Planting in summer or winter is not advisable for most plants, unless planting a more established sized plant.
To plant container-grown plants: Prepare planting holes with appropriate depth and space between. Water the plant thoroughly and let the excess water drain before carefully removing from the container. Carefully loosen the root ball and place the plant in the hole, working soil around the roots as you fill. If the plant is extremely root bound, separate roots with fingers. A few slits made with a pocket knife are okay, but should be kept to a minimum. Continue filling in soil and water thoroughly, protecting from direct sun until stable.
To plant bare-root plants: Plant as soon as possible after purchase. Prepare suitable planting holes, spread roots and work soil among roots as you fill in. Water well and protect from direct sun until stable.
To plant seedlings: A number of perennials produce self-sown seedlings that can be transplanted. You may also start your own seedling bed for transplanting. Prepare suitable planting holes, spacing appropriately for plant development. Gently lift the seedling and as much surrounding soil as possible with your garden trowel, and replant it immediately, firming soil with fingertips and water well. Shade from direct sun and water regularly until stable.
ProblemsPest : Aphids
Aphids are small, soft-bodied, slow-moving insects that suck fluids from plants. Aphids come in many colors, ranging from green to brown to black, and they may have wings. They attack a wide range of plant species causing stunting, deformed leaves and buds. They can transmit harmful plant viruses with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Aphids, generally, are merely a nuisance, since it takes many of them to cause serious plant damage. However aphids do produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface growth called sooty mold.
Aphids can increase quickly in numbers and each female can produce up to 250 live nymphs in the course of a month without mating. Aphids often appear when the environment changes - spring & fall. They're often massed at the tips of branches feeding on succulent tissue. Aphids are attracted to the color yellow and will often hitchhike on yellow clothing.
Prevention and Control: Keep weeds to an absolute minimum, especially around desirable plants. On edibles, wash off infected area of plant. Lady bugs and lacewings will feed on aphids in the garden. There are various products - organic and inorganic - that can be used to control aphids. Seek the recommendation of a professional and follow all label procedures to a tee.
Pest : Earwigs
Earwigs, which hide during the day and emerge at night to eat, usually target young leaves and flower petals in late spring. Normally, they do not pose a huge problem, but their pinch can hurt.
Prevention and control: Keep the garden tidy, eliminating hiding places. Control by reducing population. One way is to create a trap. Invert pots filled with dried grass on stakes. The earwigs will hide here during the day. Earwigs will also hide in moist balls of paper that have been placed on the ground, close to plants. Every few days, discard the paper balls. Heavy infestations may require the use of an insecticide. Select one that is labelled for earwig control and follow all label procedures to a tee.
Pest : Caterpillars
Caterpillars are the immature form of moths and butterflies. They are voracious feeders attacking a wide variety of plants. They can be highly destructive and are characterized as leaf feeders, stem borers, leaf rollers, cutworms and tent-formers.
Prevention and Control: keep weeds down, scout individual plants and remove caterpillars, apply labeled insecticides such as soaps and oils, take advantage of natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden and use Bacillus thuringiensis (biological warfare) for some caterpillar species.
Pest : Gypsy Moths
The gypsy moth is known for defoliating trees and evergreen conifers. Oaks seem to be a favorite target. Larvae of the gypsy moth hatch from egg clusters on the bark of trees. The larvae are 2 inches long when mature, and black, with white lines and tufts of long hair.
Prevention and Control: Named for their ability to travel, the gypsy moth can be more of a problem in the eastern United States. If relocating from the east to the west, check garden equipment and lawn furniture for egg masses. Handpicking caterpillars is an option. Destroying egg masses in winter, before they have a chance to hatch, is a strong option. Insecticides can be used; seek a professional for a recommendation. If trees are too big for home equipment, contract with an arborist to make the applications. Better control will be achieved with young caterpillars. The older the caterpillar, the harder to control with insecticides.
MiscellaneousConditions : Deer Tolerant
There are no plants that are 100% deer resistant, but many that are deer tolerant. There are plants that deer prefer over others. You will find that what deer will or will not eat varies in different parts of the country. A lot of it has to do with how hungry they are. Most deer will sample everything at least once, decide if they like it or not and return if favorable. A fence is the good deer barrier. You may go for a really tall one (7 to 8 feet), or try 2 parallel fences, (4 to 5 feet apart). Use a wire mesh fence rather than board, since deer are capable of wiggling through a 12 inch space.
How-to : Cut Flowers
Flowers suitable for cutting maintain their form for several days when properly conditioned and placed in water or soaked oasis. A cut flower should have a fairly strong, long stem, making it easy to work with in arrangements. There are many short stem flowers that make good cut flowers too, but they look best when floated in a bowl or clustered and placed in a juice glass size vase.
For best results, always cut flowers early in the morning, preferably before dew has had a chance to dry. Always make cuts with a sharp knife or pruners and plunge flowers or foliage into a bucket of water. Store in a cool place until you are ready to work with them, this will keep flowers from opening. Always re-cut stems and change water frequently. Washing vases or containers to rid of existing bacteria helps increase their life, as well.
Glossary : Border Plant
A border plant is one which looks especially nice when used next to other plants in a border. Borders are different from hedges in that they are not clipped. Borders are loose and billowy, often dotted with deciduous flowering shrubs. For best effect, mass smaller plants in groups of 3, 5, 7, or 9. Larger plants may stand alone, or if room permits, group several layers of plants for a dramatic impact. Borders are nice because they define property lines and can screen out bad views and offer seasonal color. Many gardeners use the border to add year round color and interest to the garden.
Glossary : Bulbs
A bulb is a modified, underground stem.
Glossary : Herbaceous
Herbaceous refers to a non-woody plant that dies back at the end of its growing season, generally after frost or during the fall of the year. The rootstock of perennials will overwinter, providing the plant is hardy in that area, and resume growth in the spring.
Glossary : Flower Characteristics
Flower characteristics can vary greatly and may help you decide on a ""look or feel"" for your garden. If you're looking for fragrance or large, showy flowers, click these boxes and possibilities that fit your cultural conditions will be shown. If you have no preference, leave boxes unchecked to return a greater number of possibilities.