Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > August 2014 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--Bearded Iris


My grandparents lived in Victoria, about an hour away, so we saw them fairly often.  In the front of their huge sloping front yard was a ditch filled with what I called “ditch” lilies—traditional orange daylily.  Behind them, on the bank, were blue bearded iris.  They both bloomed about the same time and, to this day, I still think orange daylilies look best when contrasted with blue bearded iris.

Irises are a genus of over 250 flowering plants.  The word “iris” is from the Greek word for rainbow—appropriate since iris come in a wide range of colors—from crystalline white to purple-black.  Iris are perennials and grow from either rhizomes or from bulbs.  Nearly all iris are native to the Northern Hemisphere from Europe to Asia.

The Egyptians believed that the three upright petals of the iris stood for faith, wisdom and valor.  The French King Clovis the first was said to have used the iris as his inspiration for the fleur-de-lis in the early 500s.  In the United States, iris date all the way back to 1600’s Virginia brought over by European settlers. 

Iris flowers have six petals—three upright petals called ‘standards’ and three lower petals called “falls.”  Bearded iris are so called because of the fluffy line down the middle of each fall.

Bearded iris—sometimes called German Bearded Iris—are sturdy and easy-to-grow plants needing only a sunny spot and well-drained soil.  The rhizomes are usually available in late-summer/early fall.  Bearded iris have bigger showier flowers than other iris.  Depending on the variety, they will bloom anytime from mid-May to mid-late June.  We will be getting our freshly dug rhizomes in here, at the Great Big Greenhouse, in about a week.

To plant Bearded Iris, choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil.  The rhizomes come with roots and a fan of leaves at the top.  Plant the stem with the root side down, but the top of the stem exposed to light and air.  Top dress lightly with Bulb-tone.  Feed iris again in the spring, when they start to come up.  For regular iris, you can just forget about them after they bloom, except in periods of drought. Keep all iris beds weeded since they don’t like to complete.  If you mulch, do not mulch over the top of the rhizomes and be sure to not let leaves accumulate in the iris bed as they can encourage rot, as well as giving iris borers a place to lay eggs.

 There are Bearded Iris called Remontants—these are rebloomers that will bloom in the spring and, if conditions are to their liking, again in late summer/early fall.  If you have reblooming iris, then feed them lightly after they bloom the first time and keep them watered over the summer—remembering to dry out partially. 



Posted: 8/18/2014 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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