Planting Japanese irises requires little effort on your part, and you'll have beautiful irises as an end result. Japanese irises has been likened to oversized fluttering butterflies due to the shape of the flower and their vibrant colors. This effect is enhanced when the gardener plants the flowers in groups of three to a dozen. The Japanese iris was originally a wild plant, and the blooms guided the Japanese farmers on when the rainy season had begun and the time was ripe for transplanting the rice plants from the seedbeds into the paddies. However, cultivation and hybridization in association with planting Japanese irises has been practiced since the 17th century, resulting in a hardy plant well suited to be planted in almost all climates.
Probably the most important factor in planting Japanese irises is to located them in a sunny location that is moist or even wet in warmer climates. The plants will survive in partial shade, but the blooms will benefit from full sunshine. The best times for planting are the spring and fall, with the fall being the absolute best, particularly if the planting is done just after the plant has bloomed.
While some gardeners plant Japanese irises in containers, they do well when planted in beds as long as the ground is kept moist. The soil should be loosened down to at least the one foot level, and for best growth a pH level of 5.5 (acidic) is excellent. It is possible to make the bedding soil more acidic by adding 1-3 pounds of sulfur, along with compost, to each ten square feet of garden and working it into the soil to a depth of one foot. This should be done two or three weeks ahead of time and the soil then retested, with the procedure being repeated as needed until the desired pH level is reached. If the soil is sandy, additional compost or humus will make it heavier and more suited to the irises.
The bulbs, or rhizomes, should be planted in groups of threes about two inches deep and eighteen inches apart. The bulbs should then be covered with covered with soil and watered well, then mulched heavily to prevent the growth of weeds and to help hold the moisture. After the first season, fertilize the flower using 12-12-12 fertilizer.
Many people also enjoy using the flowers of the Japanese irises for arrangements or bouquets. Cutting some of the blooms will not hurt the plants, and allows the gardener to enjoy their flowers both inside and outside the home. After the blooming season is complete leave the foliage intact. As colder weather creeps in, the leaves may yellow and die back. At that point the foliage can be removed, however in warmer areas the foliage may stay green all year.
The Japanese irises will multiply, and it is necessary to thin them or they will become overcrowded and suffer. The most popular method is to dig the rhizomes up, then separate and transplant them to form a new bed, using the same methods described above for planting Japanese irises.