When I think of Irises I always think about my father as these are one of his favorite flowers. I have almost a dozen different colors of bearded iris that are all gifts from dad. While bearded irises are clearly his preference there are varieties of iris available that can handle virtually any soil condition you can find in your garden; it’s all a matter of knowing which variety of iris works best in which situation. Of course, Blooming Secrets is here to help you make the right decision about which variety of iris will work best for you.
The irises that are probably the most well-known are the bearded variety. Recent years have seen a virtual explosion in terms of the different color variations that are now available for bearded irises. You can get irises that flower in one color, different shades of the same color on the same flower, flowers with stripes are also available and if you like color combinations such as yellow and red on the same flower you can get that too. Whatever your favorite color is there is probably a bearded iris for you!
One drawback that irises have is that they bloom for a few weeks and then stop blooming altogether but there are now even varieties of bearded iris that are re-bloomers; they will bloom in the spring like typical bearded irises do but then also bloom again in the fall. Bearded irises are perennials that can be grown in USDA zones 3 through 9. They require full sun conditions but if you are in the deep-south which would typically be zones 8 and 9 they will appreciate a little bit of shade in the afternoon. Once established these irises need no additional watering and they really need soil that drains well as too much moisture will cause their roots to rot.
So, what do you do if your yard has soil that stays damp and maybe even has standing water in places when you have heavy rains? Fear not, while the bearded iris isn’t a good choice for this situation their cousins will flourish in them. Japanese Irises, Siberian Irises and Louisiana Irises all thrive in moist conditions including near ponds and streams. Unlike their bearded cousins these irises have a somewhat more limited color spectrum which includes blue, violet, white, yellow, pink and maroon but this is still a lot of choices if you ask me. They usually bloom in late spring and even though they finish blooming by mid-summer they have attractive foliage and are not bothered by insects unlike the bearded iris which is susceptible to an insect known as an iris borer.
Most irises grow from 2 to 5 feet tall and I’ve found that giving the bearded irises flower stalk a little support with a stake helps prevent it from flopping over in windy conditions. Once the flowers fade you want to cut the dead flower from the plant so the plant will focus on storing energy in its rhizome rather than trying to produce a seed pod. Irises usually need to be divided every 2 to 4 years and the best time to divide them is in the late summer/early fall. Irises grow from something known as a rhizome which is a tuber and it is important to not plant the rhizome too deeply as doing so will impact their blooming capability. Try some iris in your yard this year and I bet they will become one of your favorites too!