The spreading petals of an iris flower stand tall at the end of a long stalk. These stunning flowers come in a variety of colors, including the common bright purple. Iris loves bright sun but can handle placement in a partial shade garden. This hardy plant can tolerate the bulbs being left in the garden for many years. Iris requires well-drained soil to prevent rotting of the bulbs. Learning how to save iris bulbs involves carefully removing the bulb from the soil and properly winterizing and drying the bulb for storage.
Locate the dying foliage of the iris plant. Place the shovel blade about 5 to 6 inches from the plant growth and press down into the soil. Move around the perimeter of the iris plant. Digging at a distance from the iris plant will eliminate any chance of chopping up the bulbs with the shovel blade.
Carefully lift the entire bulb mass on the shovel blade and set it aside. Continue digging up individual iris plants until all bulbs have been removed from the garden soil.
Pick up one bunch of iris bulbs and shake off the dirt. Brush as much dirt as possible off the bulb to allow a thorough inspection of the iris bulb. Look for bruises, indentations or discolored areas on the bulb and discard if necessary.
Clip off excess plant stems and leaves to about 1-inch above the bulb mass. Discard this plant debris in the compost pile or as yard waste.
Grasp the bulk of the root mass in one hand and pull gently on the bulb sections on the side. This portion of the bulb should pull off readily for later planting. Separate as many bulbs as possible from each major root ball until you've thinned out the bulbs.
Place the bulbs on a flat surface in a dark, cool and dry location for 1 to 3 days. Bulbs must dry out completely before storage to prevent rotting over the dormant season.
Move the bulbs into the paper bags for storage over the winter. Choose a site that provides temperatures between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the winter and make sure this site remains dry and dark during bulb storage. Label the bag with a marker so that you know the contents, especially if you're winterizing more than one type of bulb.