This old fashioned favorite is top of the list for many gardeners. Although the peak bloom for most of this class of iris is May, they can start as early as April and flower into June (or late summer if you count the reblooming types).
Called “Bearded” because they have what looks like a bushy tuft of hair growing on it’s fall.
Named Iris from the Greek goddess who rode rainbows, because it seems to come in all the colors of the rainbow.
As you may have guessed, like the tulips and other popular flowers, the iris is classified into categories of bloom and height.
Bearded Iris Types and Classifications
How To Grow
- At least half a day of sun or they won’t bloom.
- Well-drained soil or you risk rot. Fertile, neutral to slightly acidic soil is best.
- Soil drainage is very important.
- Plant iris in mid- to late summer.
- Bearded irises can be grown in borders with other perennials, but they do best in a bed of their own.
- Rhizomes (fleshy roots) should be partially exposed, or thinly covered with soil. Plant singly or in groups of three with the fans facing outwards
- Dig a trench 4 inches deep. Make a ridge of soil down the middle and place the rhizomes on the ridge, spreading roots. Backfill depressions where roots are with soil and firm gently.
- Water thoroughly at planting time.
- Top-dress with a low-nitrogen fertilizer, and again in next early spring. When crowded, divide in late summer during dormancy.
Complete Instructions On Iris Germanica
Gardening Tips for German Iris
Wet feet, dry knees
- Don’t use high nitrogen fertilizers which will results in sappy leaf growth.
- Remove dead leaves during winter, to prevent iris borers.
- Keep the rhizomes exposed to light and air. A bit of loose, thinly laid mulch is fine, and helpful.
- Divide every 2 to 5 years.
How To Deadhead Iris
It is pretty futile to try to recommend specific varieties with any sort of consistency, because like petunias, the breeders just keep making more and more new, increasingly beautiful ones. I have one I can’t find anymore, ‘Beaux Arts’ which is the most gorgeous orchid pink with frilly petals. (used for the flower parts illustration). Looks like a Nevada Showgirl in my humble garden.
However I will say that there are “types” from clear shades of delicious color to speckled or deep jewel toned ones.
Iris germanica describes many hybrids, not a species.
One of the types of iris ( I.pallida is another) harvested for Orris root, the powdered rhyzome. Used in perfume and as a food spice.
The only flower color not available is bright scarlet red.
Interesting site to explore some old varieties, Pickle Barrel House
Hope you enjoyed this overview of a fine old perennial, one that is considered a stalwart of the garden. They do take a bit of work, but when blooming they are real showstoppers.
Do you grow them? Do you like the older varieties, or have you tried a new one that is becoming a favorite? During the years I had to let the garden go in favor of attending family needs, many of my old irises were lost (plowed under). I made sure I had three remain, and will try to get more going in the garden: Bubbling Over, Beaux Arts, Scotch Lass.