When selling your garden…I mean house, there are sometimes a few favorite plants that might need to be packed, stored, and moved also. I have a fairly extensive collection of Iris plants, and will be moving in early spring of 2011. My challenge is to dig, clean, store, and ultimately move a large number of iris rhizomes while the ground is still frozen.

Preparing the plants that will be moved ahead of time will save a lot of stress and work. I will not be moving a lot of plants, but will take a few of each iris and a young Rose of Sharon tree. The tree is easy. I'll simply pot it up and keep in slightly moist through the winter. The iris rhizomes are not hard to prepare, but will be time consuming.

Iris plants should generally be dug, divided, or moved in late summer through fall. This works out well for me because it is late summer now. They can actually be moved any time of the year, but letting them rest for a few months after flowering should result in flowers after the move. If iris plants are moved too early they may not flower the following year.

Plants that will not stay with the house should be removed from the ground prior to the house being put on the market. Anything in the ground is part of the property, and the buyers will expect everything that they bought to remain. You can put a clause in the contract specifying that you can take some plantings, but I find it easier to simply remove the plants prior to selling the property.

Digging the Iris Plants:

I'm a divider. I have very few "mature" clumps of iris to deal with, because I am constantly digging, dividing, and moving my plants around. Digging a mature iris clump out of the ground is a chore. It is much easier to remove a few rhizomes from the edges of the clump, and start fresh. I dig as many rhizomes as I can handle in one day in the garden, and gather them into a central location, where I can work on them. Iris plants are tough as nails, and all you need to do is jab the shovel under them, and scoop them out.

Dividing Iris Plants:

Once the plants are out of the ground they need to be inspected for rot and iris borers. Any hollow sections of rhizome should be discarded. Any mushy rhizome should be discarded. Any rhizome that appears to have been partially eaten should be discarded. Keep the healthy, firm, and young rhizomes to move and replant.

Marking Iris Plants:

I'm fine with mixing up my plants, but many people prefer to know what is what. The easiest way to mark an iris rhizome that will be moved is to use a sharpie. This needs to be done before you start tossing iris bulbs into a pile. Take each separate rhizome and cut most of the leaves back, leaving just enough leaf to write the iris name on the leaf. When using this method to mark iris plants it is important that the plant remains dry until replanted. If the leaves get wet it can smear the name, and then once you get them replanted you have to play "which variety is this?"

Cleaning Iris Plants:

If marking the plants they should be partly cleaned after the marking is done. To clean an iris division you start y cutting the leaves back, leaving an inch or so of leaf. Remove as much soil as possible from the root ball and cut off the roots. Cutting the roots off is not required, but when you have a large number to store and move it saves space.

Drying Iris Plants:

Iris plants are sensitive to moisture. Prior to storing or replanting they should be left out in the sun for a day or 2 to dry out. The wound left by removing an off shoot can rot if it is not dried before packing.

Storing Iris Plants:

Iris plants should be stored in a dry place. I normally put them into a brown paper bag, and mix in some shredded paper to help keep them dry. I store that paper sack in the garage until time to replant. The bag or bags can then be stapled or taped shut and tossed into the trunk when moving day comes.

Replanting Iris Plants:

Iris plants that have been stored for several months will shrivel and dry out. These dried out rhizomes are not dead but are waiting for moisture to come so they can come back to life. If these rhizomes are being planted during a dry period they should be soaked in water for a few hours prior to planting. They need to be planted as soon as possible, into a weed free planting bed or holding area. Iris clumps are hard to weed and planting them into a weed free bed will keep them from becoming entangled with grass and other weeds.

Moving Iris plants can be a challenge, but if you have been collecting for years and cannot leave them behind, storing them prior to moving will ensure that you have healthy and rot-free iris rhizomes to replant.