How to Transplant Irises Without Killing Them

If you’re a garden enthusiast like me, you already know how beautiful and easy to care for irises are. But sometimes, we may need to transplant them to a new location in our garden for various reasons. Whether you’re moving them to a sunnier spot or simply want to rearrange your garden design, transplanting irises is a relatively simple process as long as you follow a few key steps.

In this article, I’ll share my top tips and techniques for successfully transplanting irises, including how to prepare the soil properly, dig up and divide the iris rhizomes, and properly care for your irises after transplanting. So if you’re ready to learn to transplant irises like a pro, let’s get started!

Why Should I Transplant Irises?

Irises in a Garden

There are several reasons why you may want to transplant irises:

To divide and propagate the plants: Irises can become overcrowded and may benefit from being divided and transplanted every 3-5 years. This will also allow you to create new plants, share them with friends, or plant them in other garden areas.

To improve the health of the plants: Transplanting irises can help to rejuvenate the plants and improve their overall health. If the irises are in a location where they are not receiving enough sunlight or are not being properly watered, transplanting them to a more suitable location can help them thrive.

To change the appearance of your garden: Transplanting irises can be a way to rearrange the layout of your garden and create a new look. You may want to transplant irises to a different location in your garden to create a more cohesive design or to add a pop of color to a specific area.

It is generally best to transplant irises in the fall when the plants are not actively growing. This will allow the plants time to establish their roots before the growing season begins.

What Time Is Best For Transplanting Irises?

It is generally best to transplant irises in the fall, around late September or early October. This is because the weather is cooler, and the soil is still warm, which allows the irises to establish new roots before the cold winter weather sets in. In addition, the fall is when the irises are not actively growing, so the transplanting process will disrupt them less.

If you need to transplant irises in the spring, it is best to do so when they are just starting to grow, around late March or early April. This will allow the irises to establish new roots before the hot summer weather sets in.

It is important to choose when the soil is moist, and the weather is cool, as this will help the irises recover from the transplanting process more quickly. Watering the irises well after transplanting is also a good idea to help them adjust to their new location.

Steps for Transplanting Irises

Transplanting Irises

Irises can add a splash of color to any garden. If you want to transplant irises, there are a few steps you’ll need to follow to ensure the process goes smoothly. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you transplant irises successfully:

Gather the Necessary Materials

To prepare materials for transplanting irises, you will need the following items:

A spade or shovel: This will be used to dig up the iris plants and loosen the soil around the roots.

A garden fork: This will gently loosen the iris plants’ roots and help separate them from the soil.

Pruning shears: These will be used to trim back any damaged or dead leaves or stems from the iris plants.

A watering can or hose: This will be used to water the iris plants after transplanting to help them settle into their new location and prevent them from drying out.

A new pot or container: If you are transplanting your irises into pots or containers, make sure you have a clean and suitable pot or container ready for them. If you transplant them into the ground, ensure the area is properly prepared and ready for the iris plants.

Soil: If you are transplanting your irises into pots or containers, ensure you have good quality potting soil. If you are transplanting them into the ground, make sure the soil is well-draining and has a neutral pH.

Mulch: Mulch can help retain moisture in the soil and prevent weeds from growing around the iris plants.

Once these materials are ready, you can begin transplanting your irises. 

Select and Prepare A New Location

Choose a location for your irises with plenty of sunlight and well-draining soil. Irises prefer a sunny spot with at least six hours of direct sunlight per day and do not tolerate standing water. If your soil is heavy or clay-like, consider adding organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve the soil structure and drainage.

Loosen the soil in the new location using a garden fork or spade, and remove any weeds or debris. if the soil is very dry, water it well the day before you transplant the irises to make it easier to dig and work with.

Dig Up and Divide the Irises

Use a sharp shovel or spade to cut a circle around the iris clump, then lift the clump out of the ground. Be careful not to damage the roots, as they are delicate and can easily be damaged. If the iris clump is very large, you may need to use a pitchfork to help lift it out of the ground.

Once you have dug up the iris clump, divide it into smaller sections using a sharp knife or garden scissors. Each section should have at least one healthy fan of leaves and a good number of roots. If the iris clump is very large, you may need to divide it into several sections.

Plant the Iris Sections

Plant them in the prepared location, placing them about 18 inches apart. Gently tamp down the soil around the roots to secure them in place, and water the irises well after planting.

Water the irises regularly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. A good rule of thumb is to water the irises once a week or more often if the weather is very hot or dry. 

It is also advisable to mulch the irises with a layer of organic matter, such as shredded leaves or bark, to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Monitor Irises After Transplant

After transplanting iris plants, it is important to monitor them closely to ensure they settle in well to their new location. Here are some things to keep an eye on:

Watering: Iris plants require consistent watering during the first year after transplanting to help them establish. Water the plants deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather, to keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy.

Fertilizing: Fertilize the iris plants with a balanced fertilizer once a month during the growing season. Avoid over-fertilizing, which can lead to excess foliage growth and fewer flowers.

Weeds: Keep an eye out for weeds growing around the iris plants, as they can compete with the irises for water and nutrients. Remove weeds by hand or with a hoe.

Pests: Iris plants are generally resistant to pests, but they can be prone to iris borers, which are larvae that tunnel into the rhizomes and stems of the plants. If you notice any signs of damage, remove and destroy any infested parts of the plant.

By monitoring your iris plants regularly and providing them with the proper care, you can help them thrive in their new location.


How do I prepare iris rhizomes for transplanting?

Before transplanting iris rhizomes, cut off any dead or damaged parts, and trim the roots to about 6 inches long. This will help the plants focus their energy on establishing new roots rather than trying to support damaged or excess foliage.

How do I care for transplanted iris plants?

After transplanting iris plants, water them consistently to help them establish. Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Fertilize the plants with a balanced fertilizer once a month during the growing season. Remove any weeds that grow around the iris plants, and keep an eye out for pests such as iris borers.

How long does it take for transplanted iris plants to become established?

It can take up to a year for transplanted iris plants to become fully established in their new location. During this time, it is important to provide the plants with consistent watering and care to help them establish their root systems and thrive.

In my experience, transplanting iris plants can be a rewarding task that helps to rejuvenate and expand your iris bed. I have found that the key to successful transplanting is choosing the right time of year, preparing the iris rhizomes properly, and providing the plants with consistent watering and care during the first year after transplanting. By following these steps, you can help your iris plants become established in their new location and enjoy their beautiful flowers for years to come. 

Leave a comment