Irises are one of the showiest flowers you can grow. They are striking as cut flowers, come in a wide variety of colors, and are easy to care for.

If you know where to go, you can even get them inexpensively.

When my wife Nancy and I were on a garden tour as part of the Garden Club Federation of Maine convention, we bought 10 iris rhizomes from the Maine Iris Society for $1 each. These were median irises, mostly dwarf bearded varieties, which bloom earlier in spring and grow about 15 inches tall.

I found a place to plant them without much dithering. They prefer full sun, dry neutral soil and, for these shorter varieties, being planted a foot apart. You’d go 15 to 18 inches apart for taller varieties. The rhizomes came with fans attached; I dug a hole and placed the rhizomes just below the ground with the stiff leaves above ground. Don’t mulch the irises, because the rhizomes like to dry out between rains.

You can buy irises in pots throughout the growing season at any nursery or garden center, but then you’ll pay retail prices. Instead, consider shopping at Maine Iris Society events: There are two more this year where you’ll find bargain irises as well as some rare ones – with the events scheduled at the ideal time for planting the different types.

The Society’s tall bearded iris auction starts at 1 p.m. July 15 at the Treworgy property, 120 Flaggy Meadow Road in Gorham (the garden alone at that private home is worth the trip, and a side benefit of attending the auction). For Siberian irises, you’ll need to wait until fall – that auction is slated for 7 p.m., Sept. 12 at the United Methodist Church, 439 Park Ave., Auburn. Both auctions also offer daylilies.

So consider yourself on notice: You’ve got until July 15 to find vacant space in your gardens.

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