Go for color, go for iris

By Lynette L. Walther | Oct 04, 2019
Photo by: Lynette L. Walther Dwarf bearded iris bloom early, along with Greg tulips.

Aptly named after Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the gods, the flowers display every color of that multicolored arc in the sky. There are iris for nearly all growing zones and a variety of locations within those zones, from wet-footed sites to bone dry ledges. And there’s no better time to select and plant iris than now.

According to Breck’s Bulbs and National Garden Bureau, you should plant an Iris when you are looking for a showy flower to add to your garden. These flowering plants are among the easiest perennials to grow. There are hundreds of iris species in almost all the colors of the rainbow.

Irises come in three forms, rhizome, bulb and root:

The rhizome-type iris produce larger flowers and include bearded and beardless-type flowers, while the bulb-type iris produce smaller flowers and are often used in rock gardens or in the front row of borders to provide color early in the year. Floral designers use Dutch iris most often for spring flower designs. Siberian, Louisiana and Japanese iris come in a root form.

Bearded and beardless:

The bearded iris is identified by thick, bushy “beards” on each of the falls (lower petals) of the blossoms. Most of these types are native to central and southern Europe. Beardless iris does not have the “beard” and mainly originated in Asia.

Decide which type of flower you’d like in your garden and when you want them to bloom, and then consult the flowering chart below to pick your perfect iris:

Dwarf Bulbous – Late winter/very early spring

Dwarf Bearded – Early to mid-spring

Tall Bearded – Mid to late spring in general, although this varies slightly per varieties

Siberian – Late spring to early summer

Dutch – Late spring to early summer

Japanese – Early summer

Louisiana – Early to mid-summer

Reblooming Bearded – Mid-spring and again in late summer to early fall

Standard dwarf bearded iris

This is one of the first iris to bloom in the spring and will rebloom in early to mid-fall. These rhizome-type iris make nice, bushy plants with short, sturdy stems, making them perfect for garden edges or borders. These rhizomes are shipped in the summer months of July, August and September and are planted in the fall for an early spring display. When planting iris rhizomes of any type in the garden, set the rhizome so the bottom half is below ground level and the top half is exposed. Plant where they will get at least five hours of sun per day.

Tall bearded iris

When an Iris flower comes to most people’s mind, they think tall bearded iris, a stately, large, beautiful specimen that dominates the garden or cut flower arrangement. Generally, the first tall bearded iris bloom in the U.S. starting in April and the last ones start their display in June. The blooming period will vary depending on geographic location.

Reblooming bearded iris

After the main flowering period in spring, rebloomers will bloom again in late summer to fall! The number of blooms you will get later in the season varies by variety and local conditions. Here is how rebloomers work: The rhizome of an iris can produce only one flower stem and it usually takes an entire year to mature and bloom. The reblooming iris has an accelerated growth cycle. Their new growth matures and blooms within the same calendar year. You will generally find the best reblooming occurs in warmer and dryer climates. For example, you will see more reblooming in Zone 8 than in Zone 4.

Japanese iris

This stunning iris variety blooms in early summer, about a month after the bearded varieties, and loves moist soil conditions. They do very well near water (this is where they naturally grow) or where the water table is high. They like the soil to be acidic. The modern hybrids that are now available have very large (up to seven and a half-inch) flowers that open flat and are available in many different colors. Japanese hybridizers have worked with them for more than 500 years.

Siberian iris

Naturalize your garden with Siberian Iris. This easy-to-grow iris are smaller and more delicate than the large statement flowers. They bloom from late spring to early summer, which is the perfect time when you need some color before the annuals start to bloom.

Dutch iris

Grow your own spring flower arrangement with a Dutch iris. This easy-to-grow Iris grows from a bulb (not a rhizome) and can be planted in both fall and spring. These Iris are a florist’s favorite and flower in late spring to early summer. These Iris can be grown in sun or partial shade and are hardy from Zone 3 to 9.

Healthy roots on this bearded iris corm are what anchor them. Tops of these iris corms should be on the surface with the roots buried. (Photo by: Lynette L. Walther)
Japanese iris produce large, attractive blooms. (Photo by: Lynette L. Walther)
White Siberian iris join peonies for an early summer display. (Photo by: Lynette L. Walther)
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