Most mail order iris nurseries ship bareroot plants in the fall only, and for several reasons that involve both the health of the plant and the requirements of the nursery.
First, the growing cycle of irises begins in the fall. Except in cold climates, irises grow through the winter, experience a rapid growth and bloom in spring; then they continue growth through summer, although less rapidly. There may be a semi-dormancy in late summer when the irises do not put out new foliage. Moving the plant as this quiescent period is about to end and the new growth cycle is poised to start is optimal for good increase and bloom the following spring.
Rhizomes dug and shipped bareroot in spring, late winter or early summer will have not yet grown to a sufficient size to sell, meaning that the rhizome is not yet large enough to have a good chance of blooming the next spring. Growers will have better luck with a good plant sent in the fall rather than a smaller one obtained six or so months earlier. Often a bareroot plant will struggle to become established in the summer heat and not put on as much growth as it would have had it stayed in place until fall. There also is a possiblity that a plant moved in or near the hot months may not survive, although with TLC - lots of water and more shade than otherwise desired - it probably will limp along until fall growth begins.
Second, from the standpoint of the nursery, irises that remain in the ground through the growing cycle are supporting increases that are the basis of stock for the next year's sales. These small offsets will not thrive if the mother rhyzome is removed, and there will be fewer plants to sell in subsequent years. To maintain and increase the stock of a variety, and to lower prices, it is important to maximize plant increase. That means selling in the fall as the old season ends. Growers with a large stock may be able to sacrifice increase by selling at any time, but smaller mail order nurseries such as Zydeco specialize in a wider array of mostly newer irises and grow individual varieties on a relatively small scale.
In addition, in the "off" season, there is hybridizing to do, seedling beds to prepare and plant, beds to periodically rework and other tasks for which there is no other labor supply than the owner.
As a result of all this, the phase of selling and shipping is confined to the fall.
Beginning this year, I will end shipping in early October to allow time to get the garden ready for the next season.
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