Tall and stately, the bearded iris reigns supreme in many flower beds and borders. The colorful drooping petals each have a small patch of fuzz that earns the bearded iris its name. As a long-lived, low-maintenance perennial, iris can be added to most gardens without any fuss or worries about future care. Tall varieties are suitable for background planting with low-growing perennial or annual flowers in the foreground. Iris grow from a root piece, called a rhizome, so even planting requires only a minimal amount of fuss.
Prepare the iris bed in an area that receives full sunlight and is not prone to standing water or soggy soils. Lay a three- to six-inch layer of compost over the bed. Apply half a pound of 5-10-10 analysis fertilizer per each 50 square feet of planting area, then till both the fertilizer and compost into the top six inches of the soil.
Dig the planting hole to a depth that is slightly deeper than than the width of the rhizome. Make a half-inch mound in the center of the hole then set the rhizome on top, spreading the roots around the mound. Arrange the rhizome so the top of it sits a quarter inch above the soil level.
Refill the hole with soil, lightly firming it in place around the rhizome, but not covering the top of it. Space additional rhizomes eight to 10 inches apart in clumps that are spaced 18 inches apart.
Water the soil around the rhizome until it is evenly moist throughout. Continue to water until the ground begins to freeze in the fall, irrigating just often enough to keep the soil slightly moist.
Cover the newly planted iris bed with a two-inch mulch layer once the ground freezes, as this prevents frost damage to the rhizomes caused by the ground freezing and thawing throughout winter. Do not place the mulch directly on top of the iris rhizomes though, as this can lead to rot.