Growing and caring for purple irises is a fantastic way to bring a shock of color to your garden. There are about 200 species of iris. Some are tall, some short, some have frilled petals and some have smooth petals. All iris species come in a variety of colors, but each species has at least one purple flower to offer. Purple iris varieties can vary from light lilac to deep purple. Gardeners love them as they're easy to plant and care for. Gardeners in Tennessee have a particular affinity for the iris, as it was named the state cultivated flower in 1973. The purple iris is usually chosen to illustrate the iris in Tennessee. If you've been intrigued by the purple iris, it's time to get planting.
Plant irises in the early fall. Choose a sunny location for your plants. Iris plants do best in soil that drains well. Soggy soils can cause the iris to rot rather than bloom. Mix in compost or peat moss to help your flowerbeds drain with ease. Plant small varieties of iris about 1 foot apart; larger varieties should be planted 2 feet apart. Smaller varieties are typically bulbs, while larger varieties are rhizomes, which produce large masses of roots. Dig a hole about 10 inches deep and apply a teaspoon of fertilizer to the soil. Place your iris in the hole and cover loosely with dirt.
As your iris begins to grow, the blossoms may become heavy, especially if you have heavy rains. You can help keep your iris out of the mud by staking them up or placing them in tomato cages. Remove faded blossoms as soon as possible, to encourage the plant to continue to bloom. In the late summer, the foliage of your iris will begin to fade and die back. Trim off dead leaves and prune healthy foliage to 5 to 6 inches. After the first frost, apply a thick layer of mulch to protect your bulbs through the winter.