The Iris family contains over 200 species and all Iris flowers have 3 outer and 3 inner petals with 3 stamens. The outer petals protect the inner petals as sepals do on other flowers. An inner petal is called the ‘Standard’ and the outer is called the ‘Fall’ which bends backward and hangs down. The fall is normally patterned with distinctive markings and a bearded iris has central line of pollen bearing hairs. The Standard is often a different colour to the Fall, in the example a mauve with a deep purple fall. Buds are protected by insignificant papery bracts.
Reticulata Iris grow from a bulb or corm like the Dutch Iris.
Bearded Iris grow from a rhizome with roots on the underside.
Iris Japonica is a stoleniferous variety sending out roots to make new plants.
Juno Iris have a bulb like structure with a tuberous root.
Siberian or Pacific Coast Iris root from the flower stem in a cross between the other methods of rooting.
Size of Bearded Iris
Minature Dwarf Bearded Iris are up to 8 inches tall whilst Dwarf Standards are 8-18 inches and form good clumps.
Intermediate Bearded Iris are 17-27 inches tall as are Border Bearded which will stand up to windy conditions.
Miniature Tall Bearded Iris are also 16-27 inches tall but are more graceful with smaller flowers that stand well as cut flowers.
Tall bearded Iris and Spuria are 27 inches plus with the ‘Flag’ Iris Germanica often reaching above 40 inches tall.
Species of Iris
Iris Pallida with grey-green leaves and Varigata have been used to create most of the vast number of hybrids we see today.
Iris Albicans is a scented white with yellow beard and unbranched stems while Iris Amoena and Aphylla make interesting garden plants.
Iris Suavolens, Attica and Reichenbachii are historically interesting species.
There are many other species worth growing for their own sake including Iris Plicata, Pumila and Subbiflora
Iris Flavescens is known as a good doer without excelling in any one area.
Most garden Iris will be a hybrid, like ‘Braithwaite’ above and there are some very strong contenders for best in the show.
- Plant Iris in groups of three forming a triangle with the toes pointing into the center. The toe of the Iris is the opposite end of the fan of Iris leaves.
- Space 12” apart, with 18″ to 24″ between each group of 3 rhizomes. If you prefer to plant in rows all should face the same direction so rhizomes will increase in the same direction without crowding each other.
- Iris like sun and well drained soil. I have them planted on a raised bed but extra grit would work just as well.
- Smaller varieties flower sooner and most except the smallest usually flower on branching stems creating say 8 buds on 4 branches.
- Limited varieties of Iris will flower again in Autumn and some are scented.
- Water your Irises well after planting in Autumn to get new roots growing.
- It is a good idea to record the name and location of your Irises to tell your friends when they ask for their names.
Read more about Iris on Gardeners Tips.