To be successful with Pacific Coast Iris, attention to the active growth stage is critical. When in active growth, PCI can be divided, potted, shipped and transplanted successfully. When dormant, PCI resent being disturbed or moved, and disturbed plants die. If mishandled during digging, boxing and shipping, plants will die.
PCI prefer to have moist soil and cool roots. Their roots dry out quickly, and fatally if not replanted promptly. There are two periods when PCI can be safely shipped to gardeners: in the late winter and spring; and in the fall. During these periods PCI roots are actively growing and plants can stand to be moved and replanted with good chances of survival. Fall planting is most successful for many gardeners, provided plants establish before cold winter weather arrives.
PCI are commercially grown in beds or pots. Successful garden establishment in a new location depends on the health of the roots. We recommend growing PCI in planting mixes that are heavy on Perlite ™ or another fast-draining medium. Plants can be dug up, divided, potted, grown for a season to establish in the pot, and then shipped in fall or spring when in active growth.
If you are digging plants, dig only when roots are actively growing, typically in the late winter to spring, and fall. Separate the fans out and trim to 1-3 green fans per cluster. New roots are white and plump, and should be around two inches long. Old roots are dark and wiry. Gently shake the soil off the roots, trim old roots back to 4-5 inches long, cut off old dead leaves and trim green leaves to 4-5 inches long. Soak the roots in fresh water for a few minutes before potting.
If shipping plants grown in beds, a practice SPCNI does not recommend, they should be dug up no more than a day before shipping. Protect roots with damp media. This can be newspaper, peat moss, potting soil or compost, using paper, peat pots, or plastic pots to protect the roots. Trim the leaves to no more than 6 inches long.
Newspaper or bubble wrap can be used to encase the plant to keep it protected when boxed. Punch a few air holes in the box. Do not pack in a large plastic bag inside the box: PCI plants need fresh air.
Don’t let PCI sit around in bare roots for days or weeks before shipping. This is one of the easiest ways to kill PCI when out of the ground.
Send plants out promptly by a fast shipping method. Ship PCI plants so that they will arrive in 1-3 days, mid week, and not sit in delivery centers over long weekends. Monday is a good day to ship. Avoid shipping during hot or cold spells. Plants may die during shipping, simply due to temperature problems.
Include a label and a ‘How to care for PCI’ insert for gardeners.
To keep the roots damp and alive, there are several alternatives: a peat pot or plastic pot with roots tucked into a planting mix, damp paper towels in baggies, damp newsprint, damp peat moss, or damp planting mix. Or grow them in pots. The latter is the method that SPCNI recommends for commercial growers.
Some varieties simply do not move well. Avoid growing them. If they died coming to you, they will probably die going to your customers’ gardens. Most PCI die between being lifted and potted. Track what lives and what dies, and focus on the successes.