If your irises aren’t looking healthy this year, they may have a condition called bacterial soft rot. The bacteria will cause a smelly and slimy rot of the leaves and rhizomes. Leaves often separate easily from the rhizome. If your plants are heavily infested they may die.
Though most often associated with iris borer, environmental damage can also provide an entry point for this disease.
Rhizomes that show extensive signs of damage should be discarded. If there is a plant that has special value, you may wish to try to save it. The American Iris Society suggests using a spoon to remove all infected tissue. Then, allow the rhizome to dry in the sun. Finally, use a chlorine based cleanser to powder the wound. Dousing in place with Dial antibacterial soap (with triclosan) can be substituted for the chlorine based cleanser.
When dividing rhizomes from beds that have shown evidence of soft rot, disinfect the knife between cuts of even apparently healthy rhizomes with a 10% bleach solution or rubbing alcohol.
As mentioned previously, iris borer damage can provide a place of entry for this disease. To control iris borers, remove and discard dead leaves in the fall to eliminate a number of the iris borer eggs. Larvae can also be killed by hand in June by squeezing infested leaves in the vicinity of the injury. During division, borers in lightly infested rhizomes can be killed by poking them with a piece of wire. Borer control can also be achieved through the use of imidacloprid (Merit, Bayer All-In-One Rose & Flower Care, Bonide Systemic Granules, Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Granules) or through the use of the parasitic nematodes Steinernema carpocapsae or Heterorhabditis bacteriophora.
By: Cassie Homan