How to Process Rhizomes for the HIPS Sale
Suggestions from the Rhizome Sale Committee

DONORS, YOU ARE WONDERFUL.  Your enthusiasm and generosity help save historic irises by distributing them to other gardeners who love them.  Often there is no other known source for an iris that is offered in the rhizome sale.  That’s huge.  On top of that, money earned in the sale allows HIPS to stay afloat financially—and more than that, it helps support vital rescue projects, education via our website and ROOTS, and all the other things HIPS does to achieve our mission of preserving historic irises.

Please understand, then, that the following suggestions are given constructively, to help make the HIPS Rhizome Sale as good as we can make it.  We want our customers to be as happy with their rhizomes as they possibly can be, because a happy customer returns year after year, and a healthy rhizome means another historic iris has been preserved.

The Golden Rule of Donating Rhizomes

Donate only rhizomes that you would be willing to buy yourself.  Is the rhizome a reasonable size for that class of iris?  Is it healthy?  Is it properly named?  Would you be a satisfied customer if you paid $40.00 for your collection?


Historics are the top priority and sell the best.  One of the most exciting aspects of the HIPS sale is the availability of rare historics.  Distributing them makes them safer.

Modern irises that are close to 30 years old (i.e., nearly historic) are welcome.  But do bear in mind that modern irises are often the bread and butter for our vendors; let’s not compete with them.

– PLEASE be accurate with your IDs. If you are not sure of the correct name of an iris you want to donate, maybe hang onto it. We may be able to offer NOID collections in future years.



Please wash the rhizomes with a strong stream from a hose and let them dry thoroughly in the shade or early or late sun.

– If there is any chance of rhizomes getting mixed in washing, label them first.  See Labeling, below.

Please don’t bleach before shipping.  Bleach is very harsh and hard on the rhizomes.  Let the buyer bleach, if desired, right before planting or potting, rather than you doing it just before the rhizome has to go through the mail.

Make sure rhizomes and fans are completely dry before packing, or they’ll mold or rot in shipment.


Cut fans about 6 inches long.

Remove old bloomstalks.  They’re just extra weight for you to ship.  Most of the time, they snap off easily at the base; if not, cut off close to the rhizome.

If you have leafspot starting, PLEASE cut off the diseased parts of the leaves.

Roots—to trim or not to trim:  Some previous donors trimmed the roots to about 4″ long to save shipping weight, but some left them long.  We discovered that those long, dry roots (still attached to the rhizomes) actually made good packing material, providing air flow.  Interesting idea!

Double-check for borers.  ‘Nuff said.


Use a BLACK Sharpie Fine Point.  Ballpoint pen does NOT work.  Ultra Fine Sharpie is too fine.  Colors other than black are often absorbed by the leaf before the iris is received by the customer.

Spread the leaves of the fan.  Write on ONE inner leaf, first wiping off the powdery “bloom” so the ink adheres better.  Start at the base and write toward the top of the fan.  PRINT.

– Abbreviations: We don’t expect you to write ‘Souvenir de Madame Gaudichau’ on every fan.  Abbreviate if you must, but make sure the buyer understands what you write, so do include a list of names and abbreviations.

A few of our donors staple paper name labels to the iris leaves.  We understand that not everyone can print legibly on the leaf and must use an alternative way of labeling.  If you do this, please make sure the papers are stapled firmly with two staples and not way out at the tips of the leaves; as the leaf tips dry out, the staples loosen and the labels fall off.


We’re all getting used to delays in shipping, and your rhizomes should be prepared to weather two weeks in the mail, as an extreme.  We tested this with the rhizome below, which we labeled Rhizome A. The leaves were trimmed to about 6″ and the bloomstalk was snapped off.  Then it was packaged and sat around for two weeks.  As you can see in the comparison photos, Rhizome A came through well.  The outer leaves have dried, as have the tips of all leaves, but the writing on the lower end of an inner leaf is still legible.  Rhizome A is the ideal iris for shipping.








Print your NAME & ADDRESS on the outside of every box.  You do not need to punch holes in the box.

Ship Priority Mail and send on a Monday or Tuesday for fastest arrival. Save your shipping receipts if you want reimbursement. Please do not ship by Express Mail; it’s much too expensive and we cannot reimburse you for it.

Rhizomes need packing material to keep air moving inside the box; otherwise they mold or rot.  PLEASE don’t just throw the rhizomes in the box, packed tightly, or they really suffer.  They need some excelsior or clean straw in there to give them some air pockets.  Cedar shavings used for animal bedding work very well.  One clever donor used clean, dry pine needles as packing, which worked great.

DO NOT WRAP THE RHIZOMES in anything, even newspaper.  They will mold, every time.  Plastic wrap or bags are the very worst thing for them; the rhizomes will simply rot.  Air flow inside the box is key.

– If you use email, please email the sale committee when you ship the boxes. Our email is

Thank you for all you do!  Your donations make the HIPS Rhizome Sale a success.




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