Monday, March 17, 2014

Sweet Siberian Iris White Swirl - WV Sprout Journal 2

This is a second journal by WV Sprouts.  I wanted to keep it separate than my other since it is an entirely separate planting.

My good friend, mamsprout, has this in her garden and along the way has shared a few by division.  Last fall she sent some seed with me to Shirley Meniece.  I kept a few thinking that I would start some when I returned.

What is there not to like about this plant?

Siberian Iris 'White Swirl'
Considered to one of the finest white available...hailed for elegant, delicate flowers and disease resistance...sunny to partially shady garden...naturalizes well particularly around water features...suggests that they can be grown under black walnut trees since they are not affected by juglone....bloom after bearded iris, before Japanese iris....deer & rabbit resistant.....attracts butterflies...this variety only 30" tall.
Getting ready to start my other seeds and it is March - uh, oh - have waited too long, but will proceed anyway.  These seeds need a lengthy stratification period to reproduce the outdoor growing conditions.  Also, several sites suggest that these require a lot of patience and up to 3-5 years to produce blooms.  Aha...a challenge!
The other problem is that there is limited information available on starting from seed.  Most sources give division as the best propagation method.  I found some excellent information on the Canadian Iris Society site.  "As soon as all seeds are collected, each variety should be wrapped in pantyhose material (maybe cheesecloth would do). These little tied up bundles are then put in a large bowl and covered with water - a saucer on top to hold the bundles down. The water should be drained and changed every day for at least two weeks. This soaking and rinsing treatment is to remove the seed germination inhibitor present in the seed or seed coat. Outdoors, the fall rains and melting snow in winter do the same thing over a 3 to 4 month period."  The authors then go on to suggest rinsing in a diluted bleach solution and proceed with very specific directions.  
I researched some more - and at found a post by ChocolateMousse ... "I successfully tricked them all into germinating sooner. I had heard a speaker who talked about various germination factors in different seeds. She said our wild irises need to go through the digestive system of a bird as the acids or enzymes in that were necessary, along with sometimes several bouts of cold/warm temps to break dormancy. She said it could take years to break the dormancy for them to germinate. I tried winter sowing seeds several times with no results. So, I tried soaking the seeds in straight lemon juice, probably 24-48 hrs. (can't remember how long, it's in my notes somewhere). Then I planted them in soil and placed a few of the 4" pots in my bulb refrigerator for a couple months. (approx 34°F)"...she provides more information, so visit the blog.
Finally, one last very interesting blog about using milk jugs for seed germination.  How To Wintersow Using Milk Jugs  I found this one really fascinating!
So, I have decided to try a combination of the three methods and hopefully one will survive.  
Below is a photo of my seeds soaking.  The dish on the left is currently just in water as the CIS article suggests a long soaking.  I found using the little mesh bags that you can buy in a kitchen shop to fit over the top of a lemon to be perfect for wrapping the seeds. (I used to own a kitchen shop so had a few of those left over in my drawer).  You can see that they are bundled in the lemon wrap, set in a pyrex dish of water and then a second pyrex dish put on top to weight it down.    The dish on the right has the seeds set just in straight, fresh squeezed lemon juice - and they didn't seem to need a weight. 
Left one has the wrapped seeds soaking in water in the bottom dish
with a second pyrex dish on top for weight.
Right one, the seeds are soaking in straight lemon juice.
March 17, 2014
After 2 days I am ready to plant the ones soaked in lemon juice, so I'm going to try two pots.  Using two 4" plastic pots, I fill both 2/3 of the way with soilless mix, put in several seeds spaced evenly around the pot.  Added 1/4-1/2" of soilless mix on the top.  Label and put each in a quart sized Ziploc baggie.  Into the mud room fridge they go - don't think my husband will get those confused with his beer! 

Milk jug, labeled and ready to go outside.  Note the
cut around the middle, soil in the bottom half, and labeled.  The cut only
goes 3/4 of the way around and is taped closed to start with.  The back of the jug left intact so
 that it is hinged.   Plenty of room at the top to provide a greenhouse effect. 
Now to wait 8-12 weeks.  One blog says 2 months, the other 3 months; so maybe I'll take one pot out at 2 months, the other at 3.  
March 18, 2014
I found the milk jug method fascinating, and since we still have cold weather here - 4" of snow last night - I'll start this also. We are going to have some lovely, warm spring days as it is March, but in WV our last frost date is May 10 and we usually have cold evenings up until then.  One of the blogs suggests a sunny place, since I am so late in starting, I think I will put in a protected shady space and try to grab as much of the cold as I can. Then I will slowly move to a warmer space as the weather also warms.   Following the directions on the milk jug blog  (I'll repeat the link here so you don't have to scroll back up) - I prepare my jug, plant the seeds, take outside and bury in the fresh snow.  Can't wait to see what happens!!  Oops - I have just read to take the top off for ventilation and moisture - will do. 

The left photo shows my jug against a north facing wall, some
morning sun but overall will stay colder here.
One blog mentioned piling up the snow which is what I did in the lower photo.
Well labeled so hopefully no one will pick up thinking it is trash.
I would enjoy hearing from anyone who have tried any of these methods with success - and let me know how many years before bloom.  If you go to the bottom of the blog page there is a box where you can send in questions or comments.
March 24, 2014
Just checking in on all my iris.  Another several days to go still on the seeds soaking in plain water following the Canadian Iris Society blog.  My two pots that were soaked for a couple of days in lemon juice, then potted and put in the back refrigerator need another several weeks.  The milk jug planting is sitting outside - no more snow, but still plenty of cold weather.  A frost last night which is good for them!
March 29, 2014
Time to do something with my little bowl of seeds soaking in plain water using the CIS web site.  Now I cover with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band.  No soil, no paper towel or anything used to wrap the seeds.  If I'm going to do this, then I need to follow the CIS exactly even though most of the other sites suggest putting the seeds into some type of soil before stratification.  So, into the fridge they go - a minimum of 12 weeks now. A label on the dish gives the date in June that they will have finished with stratification.
Dish of Siberian Iris seeds - covered with plastic wrap, labeled
and ready to go in the fridge for 12 weeks.
Think I will also check on my milk jug.  It's been raining all day - spring monsoon and the jug is sitting in a puddle of water.  But, snow and cold temps on their way again tonight.   Can't admit to everyone who is so tired of winter that I am happy to get a little extra cold for my seeds!
Yuck - look at the puddle of water on the right. 
More cold and some snow tonight so my milk jug will love that!
May 24, 2014
Impatience has hit and summer is here.  Although I think I am supposed to wait a little longer I am anxious to get going.  I have two pots of the ones soaked in lemon juice (see above).  I am going to pull one pot out.  It's still moist inside.  Remove the bag and take out and put on my deck in a sunny spot.  It's chilly this morning so it won't hit the heat too soon, but checking back to my resources on starting these seeds, it says it needs heat.  I put it in a saucer and can add water to the saucer as bottom watering is still needed.  Wish me luck!  Leaving the other pot and also the Pyrex dish ones started from the CIS site in the fridge for another month.  I also checked my milk jug seeds.  One sprout of grass that is now about 4-5" high.  But...upon closer checking there are about 5 very tiny sprouts coming up - too small to photograph but hoping they are iris!  Will keep you informed.
Moved one pot of iris outside onto my deck
and in a sunny location.  Bottom watering.
June 16, 2014
Having some good luck with my iris!  Practicing patience here since all I have read suggests that it takes a while.  I've been watching my milk jug for a while and there are several sprouts there.  Hot, summer weather has hit here, so taking my jug out of its shady nest.  Cut the top off the milk just where I had taped together.  Lots of nice plants coming up there.  My one pot from above has one small, but nice sprout.  It was outside already and slightly protected, but several torrential downpours last week disrupted part the soil in the pot and I can't see the second seed.  Smoothed the soil back down and will hope for a second.  But, overall, very happy with the results.  Still have seeds in the fridge and will get those potted up this week.  Meanwhile the ones from mamsprout are blooming in my yard giving me something to look forward to!  I am going to leave the plants in the milk jug, but move outside to warmth and stronger light.  Will leave them in the jug though until good root development.  This is great!
Milk jug propagation on the left - at least 7 iris coming up!
Lemon juice on the right - one out of two isn't bad!
June 21, 2014 

I know I just reported last week, but some new updates.  Took my last dish of iris out of the refrigerator and potted up.  These were the one following the Canadian Iris Society method (above) where I soaked and rinsed for several days in plain water.  I have enough seeds for several pots - so I put two seeds each in the small seed cells and place outside hoping that warmth and light will start the germination process.  Also posting a photograph of the milk jug seedlings that are really putting out some growth now that they are outside.

These are the newly potted up iris following the Canadian Iris Society method.

A lot of growth on the milk jug ones.  Added one new pot of the ones soaked in
lemon juice - this is the second set that I kept in the fridge a slightly longer time.
July 4, 2014
Happy 4th of July to all!  For those of you on the East Coast I hope Arthur has spared you from serious damage.  We are enjoying a beautiful sunny day here in the 70s which is unusual for us.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The above quote seems to perfectly reflect my feelings about my seeds today.  It is hard to express how much delight and joy is received from watching and waiting and then all of a sudden one day two little sprouts appear, the next day 2 or three more and finally an entire tray of plants comes up.  I'm sure for commercial growers this is normal.  For me it is still like unwrapping a birthday or Christmas present! 

I last blogged on June 21 and put 9 little seed cells outside with 2-3 seeds in each.  Two days ago they started appearing!  Today there are 6 tiny 'White Swirl' plants appearing.  I have kept them on my front porch which gets morning sun only, shade in the afternoon to keep them from burning.  I can control how much water they get and am still bottom watering.  All of the material on the internet indicated that these would be difficult, yet they seem to be the easiest (other than my tomatoes which I will catch you up on later!).

My milk jug iris are steadily growing and enjoying our summer heat.  Not ready to transplant since they are doing so well here and I can keep an eye on them.

These are my 'milk jug' iris and the ones soaked in lemon juice.
Look how well they are doing!

These are the plants making me smile today!  It worked and so far
pretty good germination rate.  6 plants and probably some more to come in
the next day or so.

And I can't resist sharing a photo of my black eyed Susan's today.  They are on my front hillside and gradually filling in a huge area.  I started with 2-3 plants a few years ago and now have a huge patch.  The butterflies are already enjoying and the birds will love the seeds!  I'll send some of these seeds to Shirley Meniece in the fall.

July 21, 2014
Back from vacation - fortunately some rain while I was away and all my plants are alive.  Some more new growth - mostly height.  I think I am ready to find a safe place in the yard to plant these.  Also ready to give a couple away to someone else to insure success! The milk jug method definitely has produced the best results.

August 10, 2014
I have given my CIS plants to my sister Artful Sprout.  She will plant in her garden and watch carefully until next year. 
I am keeping my milk jug sprouts and the ones soaked in the lemon juice (photo above). 
August 23, 2014
This will be my last post on my iris until next spring.  Hopefully they will survive our winter and I will have lots to report.  I have divided my iris with my sister, Artful Sprout.  I gave her the CIS method described above and she will put in a safe spot in her garden.  I have saved the milk jug and lemon juice babies and put in the garden a week ago.  They need time to acclimate to their new home - develop roots, tolerate the soil and light conditions.  I am pleased that I have this many that germinated and made it through our summer.  Patience is the rule here as I draw on those internet posts that said it may take 3-5 years to flower.  Be sure and check back in the spring on this one.
I know from the success and ease of the milk jug propagation that I will be trying other plants that way this fall.
These are my milk jug iris.
Surrounded with a tomato cage so that they
aren't mistaken for a weed and pulled out.

Two lemon juice sprouts also marked.
Placed just to the left of the milk jug ones
so that hopefully next spring I will have a
nice clump of White Swirl.
June 8, 2015
I had a few survivors!  And they must have been tough.  Out of the 5 plants that I put into he ground last fall two survived.   They had to survive leaf blowing, winds, cold temperatures and bad soil.  But they did.  I think I will check with Artful Sprout to see if any of hers survived.

Here are my two babies.
Marked with stakes so I know
where they are and so that no
one pulls them while weeding.

White Swirl blooming in my
yard just above where the ones started by seed are.
These were divisions from MAM Sprout
a  few years ago.
 November 1, 2015
Two plants survived the summer - the same ones as above but you can see they had a lot of nice growth.  One a little iffy as I think the puppy may have pulled it out.  I've put it back in and hope it makes it.  See you in the spring hopefully with blooms!

Fall photo of Iris White Swirl
March 25, 2016
Another spring and this makes the start of the third year for my White Swirl.  This could be the year for a bloom or two.  When I last posted in November, 2015 there were two plants.  After leaf blowing season only one remained; the other one possibly blown away by a strong blower and with roots still so small it was an easy thing to happen.  I looked a day or two ago and the one remaining that survived  looks like it now has established some roots and is strong - 2 or 3 small shoots coming off of the root.  Very tiny, but definitely there.  Will keep you posted! 

March 2016: White Swirl starting to show growth
June 9, 2016
Almost to success - when disaster strikes.  I have patiently watched my iris grow tall and strong.  One survivor.  A single bud appeared.  Today would have been the day.  Yesterday I sprayed my deer spray in the area, including the iris.  Even though the deer do not eat the iris, they occasionally nip one bud off a plant, realize it is not what they were after and move on to my day lilies.  Wouldn't you know - the one they decided to taste was the delicious looking tender young bud right in the front!  See the red circle on the photo below on the left.  All the other white swirl that I got from Mary Anne by division a few years ago were blooming brightly in the back and they zeroed in on my sole plant that I have protected now for three years.  Oh well, I still consider it a success and will just have to wait for another year.  Meanwhile I am enjoying the cluster of blooms behind it and know that I will have a beautiful plant another day!


  1. Updated my Siberian Iris post today. Moved one pot that has been in fridge stratifying to a warm outdoor spot. May have some sprouts in my milk jug attempt. Very small but something definitely coming up.

  2. Great luck with my milk jug propagation of the Siberian Iris. 7 little plants coming up nicely. Have uncovered and moved to a sunny spot - keeping in the milk jug for a while longer until the roots are nicely developed.

  3. A little more work today on the iris. Took the last batch out of the refrigerator, potted up and placed outside. Mamsprout - the plants you gave me last year have been blooming this week. I have really enjoyed them - lovely!

  4. "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
    This quote perfectly suits our project! New updates today from WV Sprout and Tee Sprout found something great in her fridge - she will update you soon with a new post on Amsonia 'Blue Star'....Happy 4th - hope your celebration is great!

  5. 'Back from Vacation" update on my Siberian Iris.

  6. I have posted a final update for this year on my Siberian Iris 'White Swirl' - out of the baby pots and into the ground to acclimate for winter. Definitely will try the milk jug method of propagation again!

  7. My Iris White Swirl have survived the winter and are showing growth!

  8. Last photo of the year for my Iris. Lots of great growth and hoping for a bloom next spring - that will be year 3!

  9. March 2016 and my Siberian Iris White Swirl is showing new growth - this may be the year for some bloom. A new photo is posted.

  10. White Swirl becomes a deer delight today! After waiting three years and a bloom about to open, read what happens next.