The bearded iris is a beautiful flowering perennial that blooms in gardens in spring to early summer. Some repeat flower in autumn (known as remontant). In warm climates iris may begin flowering in late winter.
While individual flowers only last a day or two, each stem produces multiple flowers and each clump can have several stems extending the flower show over many weeks.
Commonly grown irises have dark purple, yellow or white flowers but there are many colours and colour combinations including pink, orange, brown and blue. Petals may also be frilled or double adding to their appeal.
The iris flower is made up of three upright petals (known as standards) and three hanging petals (known as falls). The falls have a raised ‘fuzzy’ section, which give these flowers the common name of ‘bearded’.
Bearded irises grow from rhizomes, which are positioned close to the soil surface so they are slightly exposed to the sunshine. Rhizomes produce fans of tall rigid light green leaves. Clumps increase as the rhizome grows and can be lifted and divided every three years to propagate more plants and to avoid overcrowding.
Bearded iris plants combine in a planting with other perennials, bulbs including liliums, and with shrub roses.
Aspect Choose a full sun position with protection from strong winds. Some tall varieties may need to have their flowering stem staked to avoid wind damage.
Soil Irises need very well-drained soil. Avoid heavy mulching around the rhizome and keep plants free of weeds. While irises are tolerant of a wide range of soil they grow best with a neutral pH (6-7).
Climate Iris thrives in temperate climates but tolerate summer heat so do well in inland and also coastal gardens. They are generally frost tolerant.