The Iris is a large genus of plants that include hardy perennials and hardy bulbs.
Due to the large size of the Iris plant genus they vary immensely in size, from 15 to over 180 cm. This makes Iris ideal for all sections of the garden, and they make very attractive border plants.
Iris have sword shaped leaves and beautiful flowers of all colours and shades.
Iris Photograph by Lisa JG.
Common Names: Iris, Flag.
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial. Half hardy perennial. Hardy bulb.
Height: 4 to 72 inches (10 to 180 cm).
Native: Northern Hemisphere: Europe, Asia, Africa, North America.
Growing Region: Zones 2 to 9.
Flowers: Species dependent: Spring/summer/autumn and/or winter.
Flower Details: Purple, brown, maroon, white, blue, yellow; many different pastel colours. Showy. Fan-shaped inflorescences. Six lobed.
white, red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, lilac. Small. Clustered. Fragrant. Daisy-like ray and disc florets. Bell-shaped. Tubular. Trumpets. Inconspicuous pale green; plants are grown for their attractive silvery or bronze spearheads.
Growing Iris Outside: Bulbs: 2 to 5 inches (5 to 12 cm) depending upon species. Rhizomes: level to the soil surface. Early in autumn. Spacing: small 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm); medium to large species 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm).
Sowing Iris seeds: Germination time: one to eighteen months (sometimes longer).
Seed: Method 1: Seeds should first be sown into flats in the autumn or winter. Next sink the flat into the ground in an area that offers shade, preferably close to a wall that faces north. Provide a glass/plastic covering. Keep an eye on the flats to ensure that the soil remains moist. Bring the flats indoor at the beginning of spring and keep at 60 to 70°F (16 to 21°C).
Seed: Method 2: In the spring or summer, mix seeds in a moist growing medium, then put in flats, wrap in a large plastic bag, then stratify by refrigeration for three weeks. Next bury the flat as described above. Once seedlings emerge allow them to grow for two years before transplanting them in the autumn.
Requirements and care: is so variable Full sunlight; some species in partial shade. pH 5.5 to 8.0 (species dependent). Dry or wet soil (species dependent). Provide a low nitrogen spring feed. Regular watering during dry periods. Deadhead. Provide support for taller species. Propagate: by dividing rhizomes once flowering has finished; or by division of bulbs in the autumn.
Miscellaneous: As members of this genus require different growing conditions and care it is recommended to buy a specialized Iris growing book. The name Iris comes from the Greek word for Rainbow. Flowers have evolved to be especially attractive to insects. Rhizomes often used in perfumery.
It is easiest to grow Iris from purchased bulbs or rhizomes. The depth that the bulb should be buried is dependent upon species, but in the range of 5 to 12cm. When planting Iris bulbs best results are obtained by planting in the early months of autumn. If you are growing from rhizomes then these should be planted level with the soil surface in the spring.
It is difficult to grow Iris from seeds but if you intend to do so, first soak the Iris seeds for a full day in warm water. Then sow into flats in the spring, place the flats in a black plastic bin bag, then place carefully in the fridge for three weeks.
The flat should then be sunk into the ground in a shady area of the garden and covered with glass. It can take anything from one month to one and a half years for the Iris sees to germinate, so be prepared to be patient, and keep an eye on the flat to keep it moist. Once seedlings emerge allow them to grow for two years, before moving to their final location in the garden.
There is a little minor work involved in looking after Iris once they are growing in the garden. They should be fed in the spring (low nitrogen fertilizer); watered during prolonged dry spells of summer; staked; and deadheaded following flowering. If you require more Iris plants then they can be propagated by division of the bulbs (autumn) or rhizomes (once flowering has completed).
I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Iris plants. Updated September 2020.