Transplanting Irises: A Metaphor for Life

I want to tell you how my experience of transplanting irises became a metaphor for life.

I have truly enjoyed trying my hand at flower gardening in the last three or four years, but to be honest, I have worked blindly, throwing plants wherever I thought they might look nice or wherever was most convenient at the time. This year I did not have a single iris bloom and I was sorely disappointed.

When we moved into this house, there was absolutely no landscaping, so we had a blank slate to work with. I lovingly brought a hand full of irises, hostas, and sedums from our old place to transplant here, but most of them ended up being plunked into the garden plot until I could figure out where I wanted them to take up permanent residency. Needless to say, while I enjoy it, I am a novice flower gardener. Little did I know that plant placement is pretty vital for the health of the plant.

A New Home for My Irises:

Last spring our lovely landlords put in a wonderful new sidewalk that leads from the driveway to the front door. I thought the end of the sidewalk, along the driveway, would be the perfect place to plant the irises so that they could show off their beauty close to the road. (Irises are some of my favorite flowers, so I wanted to show them off!) I made up my mind, transplanted the irises, and decided to be patient knowing I would have to wait until June 2017 to see these beauties in full bloom. (*Side note*- gardening is 90% patience. If you need to learn patience, start gardening.) Fast forward to this year and I am eagerly awaiting the blooms to come forth…. June comes and goes…..and there is nary a one iris, only lots of healthy green spiky leaves. I’m talking probably 12 – 15 plants, and not one had a flower on it. I was so bummed.

Inspiration from Gardener’s World

One evening I was watching one of our favorites gardening shows, “Gardener’s World” with host Monty Don. If you want to learn about gardening, I highly recommend this show! On this particular episode, Monty was talking about transplanting irises….His irises had been in a place where the surrounding plants had grown a bit too tall and were not allowing enough sunlight to get to the irises.

You see, irises are a Mediterranean plant and need dry, rocky soil, to be planted very shallowly, and in a full sun area. Well there was my problem! I had all of my irises in somewhat rich soil, planted too deep, and in mostly shade. How on earth are they supposed to bloom under those conditions!?

So these little gems needed to be uprooted again and planted in the right place in order to realize their full potential. Last weekend I took on the task of transplanting irises to the south-facing back of the house, where they will have almost a full day of sunshine. I followed Monty’s advice carefully:

Transplanting Irises:

  1. Trim the leaves back to prevent the wind from catching and uprooting the plants.
  2. Work the soil in the desired plot
  3. Add a thin layer of gritty stones (he calls it grit; very small stones)
  4. Layer some fresh topsoil/compost on top of the stones.
  5. Plant the irises.

The rhizomes (the lumpy, woody looking parts just above the roots) should be exposed fully to the sunshine to promote growth and should not be buried with the roots. Also, irises really should be split up and transplanted every 3-4 years. Their roots and rhizomes can bombard one another, and again, they will only grow leaves and produce no flowers.

Not to mention this is a wonderful, cheap way to build up your flower beds for free! You can also do this with several other perennials, like hostas and creeping phlox.

A Metaphor for Life:

Like so many things, I believe this experience of transplanting irises is a wonderful metaphor for life. Is it any wonder Jesus used parables to tell deep truths? There is a saying that you should “Bloom where you’re planted”. I like that saying! And I think it is true. But I also think that sometimes you literally cannot bloom where you are planted… can grow, you can survive (just like my irises did), but you cannot reach your full potential, be your truest self, so to speak, until you are planted in the correct place. This is something I am definitely learning in my life right now. I am doing well, I am content, I am living, but I believe there are places in my life that could bloom more fully if I was transplanted to the right place at the right time. And that is also part of it! Timing. Timing and doing the work.

You see, transplanting is not fun. It’s hard work, it’s inconvenient. You can only do it at certain times of the year. Sometimes you damage the plants if you are not careful. But in the end, the result, the beauty, will all be worth it. I cannot wait to see these gems in bloom next June! And we’ll see where God asks me to do some “transplanting” in my own life. 🙂

Be blessed!


  1. Janel Haley

    Good words, friend! Thanks for sharing.

    • Sierra

      Thank you, sweet friend!


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