Dividing Bearded Iris To Increase Flowering & Saving Sunflower Seeds

Question:

I’m going to divide several clumps of Bearded Iris in the hope that it will increase the flowering. They flower sparsely along the edge of the clumps while the center has none. Is there anything special. Do I need to do before replanting? 

Answer:

It is beneficial to periodically divide Bearded Iris. However, you can increase the flower production by leaving the clumps alone.
  • The decline in the production of flowers is a nutrient deficiency issue.
    • The primary elements necessary for plant growth are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (N-P-K). Nitrogen (N) keeps, plants green while Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) are for flower, fruit and hardiness.
    • Bearded Iris stop blooming when the soil is depleted of the Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). Unlike Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium remain fixed in place and have little movement through the soil.
    • Bearded Iris are shallow rooted and they will deplete the surface nutrients over time. Hence, all the flowering occurs at the outer edges because the new roots are expanding into areas that haven’t been depleted.
  •  Fertilizing in the fall and winter months is critical for the spring blooms. This is when Bearded Iris flowers are forming for next year.
    • Monthly applications of a granular 0-10-10 (N-P-K) such as EB Stone Ultra Bloom or similar fertilizer now through March are recommended to replace the depleted nutrients. Also, any of the liquid ‘bloom type’ fertilizer such as Maxsea Bloom are acceptable. Do not be concerned that the winter rains are going to leach the nutrients out of the root zone.
    • Soil erosion is the only way the nutrients would be displaced. After dividing Bearded Iris, there isn’t anything special one needs to do to the Iris roots/tubers prior to planting.
    • Although, I’d remove any of the brown leaves and trim the remaining ones back to eight inches. You would prepare the soil by adding organic matter like soil conditioner or homemade compost and sprinkle a starter fertilizer on the ground.
    • The fertilizer is cultivated into the soil or covered with a layer of soil. The key to planting Bearded Iris is not to bury the tubers. The tubers must be visible with a half or more of them exposed above the soil line.
  •  It’s now a judgment call on your part whether to divide or not.

Question:

How would I go about saving the seeds from the Burpee’s Sunflowers for planting next year? The plants produced beautiful blooms on short stalks. I’d like to cover a large area with them, and I don’t want any surprises. 

Answer:

Seed saving is a popular activity; however, it’s only recommended with open-pollinated varieties and not with the hybrids.
  • Plant characteristics such as flower form, color, height, leaf color, etc. from saved seed are always unknown. The DNA or the plant genetics will not be revealed until the seed germinates.
    • Unfortunately for seed savers, most of the varieties from Burpee are hybrid crosses. You can double-check this on line. In the variety description, any reference to an F-1 would indicate that it was a hybrid.
  • Hence, to duplicate this year’s success will require purchasing new seed, as the saved seed would be very unpredictable.
    • So, I’d skip saving the seed and avoid being disappointed.