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How to Keep Weeds Out of an Iris Bed

By Melissa Lewis ; Updated September 21, 2017
Irises do not fare well when invaded by weeds.

Carefree plants that return year after year with reliable, often exotic blooms, irises are excellent choices for a garden. Irises, however, do not fare well with weeds. Depending on the type of weeds and how overrun the irises are, a once-flourishing bed can become an overgrown mess with very little iris blooms. Before this happens, get those weeds out and keep them out so you can continue to enjoy your beautiful bed of irises.

Apply a pre-emergent herbicide, such as one that contains the active ingredient trifluralin, in the early spring before the weeds grow. It will not work after the weeds have germinated. Reapply per label instruction, typically every three months. A pre-emergent herbicide only works on some weeds, so check the label before using it.

Pull out the weeds by hand, getting all the roots in the process. Removing weeds when the soil is damp is easier.

Apply to the weeds a post-emergent weedkiller, such as sethoxydim, which is safe for irises. Kill broadleaf weeds with a nonselective herbicide such as glyphosate. Nonselective herbicides will kill irises as well. When using a nonselective product, paint it on the weeds rather than spraying. Read the herbicide instructions for safety, dilution and application procedures.

Dig up the entire iris bed if it is infected with a weedy rhizome, such as quack grass or thistle. Separate the iris rhizomes from the other weedy rhizomes. Throw out all the weeds and their roots. Dig down deeper, up to 6 inches, to get all the weedy root structures. If the iris rhizomes can not be separated from the rhizomes of the other weeds, discard them as well. When you are sure no weeds are left, replant healthy irises.

Install a border along the perimeter of the iris bed after eradicating the weeds. Plastic edging available in garden centers works well. Dig a trench and install the edging into the soil so only 1 to 2 inches are above ground and the rest is underground. This will prevent weeds that spread via roots from invading the iris bed underground.

Apply mulch in the garden bed to discourage weeds from growing. Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch, such as shredded leaves or wood chips, around the irises. Replenish it as necessary.


Things You Will Need

  • Herbicides
  • Shovel, garden fork or trowel
  • Landscape border
  • Mulch


  • Read herbicide labels carefully to check that it is safe for irises and will effectively kill or prevent the types of weeds in your garden.

About the Author


Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.