Guest Author - Nikki Phipps
The bearded iris is probably the most commonly grown variety seen in the garden. The shaggy-like beard on the lower portion of its blooms easily identifies this iris. The bearded iris can be found in a wide range of heights, from miniature dwarf to tall varieties. The smallest variety, the miniature dwarf, grows up to 10 inches and is normally the first to bloom, in early spring. Other varieties include the standard dwarf, intermediate, and tall, which all typically bloom later in the spring or early summer. The beardless varieties of iris include the Siberian and Japanese species as well as the Louisiana iris, Yellow Flag and Blue Flag iris, Dutch iris, and dwarf crested iris.
The majority of irises, especially the bearded varieties, prefer to be sited in locations receiving at least 6-8 hours of full sun. However, with some varieties, such as the Siberian and dwarf-crested iris, lightly shaded areas can be tolerated as well. The soil in an iris garden should always drain easily. With exception to the Siberian, Japanese, and Flag varieties, most irises do not like a wet environment. These types of iris will actually flourish in wet, boggy settings. If you are growing one of the other types, however, raised beds or sloped areas, amended with compost, will offer the best drainage options. The particular type of iris that you choose to grow is especially important as they differ in their growing needs. For instance, bearded irises prefer a more alkaline-based soil, whereas beardless varieties do best in acidic soil.
Since it is generally better to allow an irisfs root system to establish itself well before the end of the growing season (winter), most of them are planted between July and September. However, container-grown irises should be planted in the spring. Plant irises with the rhizome placed high in the soil, just beneath the surface, and anchor the roots firmly. However, Louisiana and Dutch irises may require deeper planting. Irises require little maintenance, once established. Water thoroughly after initial planting but take care not to over water. Too much water can encourage iris rhizomes to become soft, endangering the plant rather than helping it. There is no need to fertilize, but if you choose to, do so sparingly. Irises are seldom affected by disease with exception to root rot, normally due to poorly drained soils, and they are generally unaffected by insects or other pests.
Not only are irises a sight to behold in the garden, but many of these dazzling beauties emit breathtaking aromas. The wonderful scents and diversity in colors make the iris a great specimen for cutting. Place them in a sunny border with the tallest varieties located in the back. Paint the garden with several colors in mass plantings or choose only one. Dwarf iris varieties look stunning as edging in flowerbeds or in rock gardens. Dwarf crested irises add color to woodland areas, and even bog gardens have a welcome place for the iris. Siberian, Japanese, Yellow Flag, and Blue Flag irises are all moisture-loving plants and can easily thrive in a moist environment.
None is as versatile and colorful as the iris. Its ability to adapt to different types of soil in a range of climates makes the iris an exceptional garden plant. Not only will the iris feel right at home in nearly any landscape, but this beautiful flower will also make a lovely addition to your home.