Bearded Iris

by Jan Koehler, SCMG Intern

Scientific Name: Iris germanica
Other Common Name: Bearded iris, German iris
Type: Perennial
Family: Iridaceae
Native Range: Eastern Mediterranean
Zone:  3-10
Height: varies with cultivar; less than 8” to 48”
Bloom Time: Mid-April to May
Bloom Description: standards, falls and beards vary in color and size with individual cultivars
Sun: Full sun (afternoon shade may be beneficial in NM heat)
Water: Low
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Sunny beds, borders, along walls, cut flowers,
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Upright, sword-like, parallel veined
Tolerate: Drought

Culture and Care

Bearded Irises come in a plethora of named color varieties allowing any gardener an almost unlimited choice of color combinations to insure every gardener an individually unique palate in their garden space.  These stunning large flowers are also relatively easy to grow with minimal effort.

Bearded irises rhizomes respond well if planted in late August through September after the intense heat of the summer begins to wane allowing them enough time to form an adequate set of roots prior to the end of the growing season.  It is also the best time to divide and replant iris beds that have become overcrowded after three to five years.

For a generous display of blooms each year, these plants need between 6-8 hours of direct daily sunshine.  They will grow in densely shaded areas, but will not produce grand displays of flowers, if any.  They may, however, benefit from some afternoon shade in the intense NM heat.

Planting these beauties in a well-drained bed with good air circulation is a must.  These plants do not tolerate standing water.  Rhizomes should be planted 12-24” apart, root side down just below the surface of the soil in our hot climate having no more than a one inch covering of soil and sufficiently watered so as to promote a healthy root system.  Planting too deeply and overwatering are the most common mistakes when cultivating the plentiful color combination varieties of the Bearded iris.

As soon as the bloom season is over, break off the bloom stalk which will prevent the named varieties from possible bee crosses permitting unwanted seeds to become established in the garden over time.

When bloom displays are no longer profuse, it is time to divide the rhizome clump, divide, replant and perhaps share the extras with fellow gardeners.  The best practice is too remove the entire clump, divide the rhizomes and replant again spacing them 12-24” apart.  If the bed will not be enlarged, leaf trimmed rhizomes can be set aside usually in a dry shaded area until they can be given to another gardener.  These showy flowers which share their name with the Greek goddess who personifies the rainbow will definitely enhance the Spring beauty of any garden in a grand manner and their upright stiff leaves will look equally as lovely  in the border for the rest of the gardening season.

For more information:
http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=IRGE
http://aces.nmsu.edu/pes/lowwaterplants/iris.html
http://www.irises.org/About_Irises/Cultural%20Information/Grow_Bearded.html
http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/bearded-iris-for-the-home-landscape.pdf
http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=281085&isprofile=0&