I have bearded iris growing at 7,000 feet.

I want to see which of the iris will rebloom this season, and when the blooms are finished, to split and propagate the plants.

In either case, it's my understanding that the steps are to (a) cut the stem as close to the rhizome as possible while leaving at least two leaves, (b) do so quickly (days, not weeks or months) after the iris stops blooming, and (c) fertilize.

But the bottom-most leaves of the iris are tightly wrapped up and around the stem. I tried loosening the leaves to cut the stem closer to the rhizome, but only succeeded in tearing the leaves.

So bottom-line, I can cut to the rhizome, making the plant leafless, or I can leave two or more leafs intact by cutting several inches above the rhizome.

  1. What is the real importance of the two leaves? Is it just for looks, or critical to health and propagation?

  2. If I need the two leaves, will they unravel from the stem, making it easier to cut to the rhizome, if I wait several weeks?

  3. Are re-bloom and propagation two different problems with slightly different steps? I.e., do I need leaves only for propagation?

2 Answers 2


Don't sweat the "as close to the rhizome as possible" part. Cutting the flower stem is just an energy-saving measure; it prevents the plant from dedicating energy to seed growth, so the energy is spent in other areas (root growth, root division).

I have Bearded Irises. They get some food collaterally because I feed the nearby Lilies, but I don't give them any boost (have never needed). Some years I don't even deadhead them, and I still have to cull a few every year.

They'll divide on their own. Attempting to hasten the process isn't necessary, and introduces labor and risk to an otherwise easy and safe process. Leave its leaves, let it become hardcore-established, and in a year or two it'll be bulbing out ridiculous numbers of babies.


If you don't have leaves, no energy is transferred from the sun to the rhizome for the next flower.

So if "as close to the rhizome as possible while leaving at least two leaves" is your metric, cut above the two leaves, even if they are wrapped around. The main aspect is cutting off the flowers.

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