Bearded Iris

In variety of colors the Iris is hardly equalled and is not surpassed by any other hardy plant, and it rivals even the orchids. The colors range through shades of blue, bronze, claret, crimson, lavender, mauve, maroon, pink, purple, red, rose, yellow, violet, and white. Some of the varieties are of solid color, the standards and falls being of the same or a different color; some are margined or bordered, and many are mottled, penciled or veined. A well-established plant will produce many spikes of bloom. The life of an individual flower is only 2 to 5 days. The Iris is remarkable for its hardiness. It is as easy as a weed to grow, and, given a suitable situation, it is one of the longest-lived perennials, one of the "live-forevers."

The bearded iris, also known as "iris germanica," include tall, intermediate and standard bearded irises. Tall bearded irises have a complex hybrid ancestry and no recognized Latin name. They are divided into six classes, by height. Those 27 inches tall and taller are "tall bearded." The "median" irises include the classes "miniature tall," "border," "intermediate," "standard dwarf," and "miniature dwarf," which range in height from 26 to 6 inches. "Dwarf" refers to the plant height, "miniature" to the flower size.



Tall bearded irises have three distinctive features - three standards which stand up from the center of the flower, three falls which fall down from the center of the flower, and three beards which serve to attract insects for the purpose of pollination. Each iris also has unique features - different color standards and falls, smooth or ruffled petals, and small or large beards.

Bearded Iris Acclamation

Bearded Iris 'Acclamation' Iris hybrida

Bearded irises all have thick spreading rhizomes and stiffly vertical leaves arranged in flat fans. For best results they need to be divided every few years, during the summer. They tolerate hot, dry weather often by going dormant. When planting, spread and bury the roots, but position the rhyzome right at the soil surface. Space 6-18 inches apart, depending on plant height. May not bloom until the second year after planting.

Irises that rebloom in late summer and autumn are relatively new to the gardening world, but iris hybridizers have developed some iris varieties that often produce a second and even a third burst of bloom. Most of these are tall bearded irises, but there are also some dwarf and intermediate reblooming varieties. Reblooming irises require full sun and weekly watering and they are more likely to rebloom in milder winter climate areas.

Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris 'Trillion' Iris hybrida

References

  1. Tall Bearded Iris (Fleur-de-Lis): What, When, Where, and How to Plant and Subsequent Plant. Walter Stager
  2. Taylor's Master Guide to Gardening. Frances Tenenbaum, Rita Buchanan, Roger Holmes
  3. The Beauty of Irises. Katharina Notarianni
  4. Perennial Gardens for Texas. Julie Ryan
  5. New York/Mid-Atlantic Gardener's Book of Lists. Bonnie Lee Appleton, Lois Trigg Chaplin