The Iris

Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Want a graceful garden plant that’s easy to grow in a variety of landscapes? Consider iris. This low-maintenance perennial comes in so many colors and cultivars that there is literally an iris, of some type well suited for just about any garden imaginable.

The bearded iris is probably the most commonly grown variety seen in the garden. These irises are easily identified by the shaggy-like Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½beards’ on the lower portion of their blooms. Bearded irises come in a wide range of heights, from miniature dwarf to tall varieties. The smallest of the bearded iris, the miniature dwarf, grows up to 10? and is normally the first to bloom, in early spring. The other bearded iris varieties, consisting of standard dwarf (10?-15?), miniature tall or intermediate (15?-25?), and tall (25?-28?) typically bloom later in the spring or early summer. The beardless varieties of iris include the ever-popular Siberian and Japanese species. Also, within this group of beardless beauties, you will find 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, some varieties, such as Siberian and dwarf crested iris, can tolerate lightly shaded areas as well. The soil in an iris garden should drain easily. Most irises do not like a wet environment with exception to the Siberian, Japanese, and Flag varieties. These types of iris will actually flourish in wet, boggy settings. If you’re growing one of the other types, raised beds or sloped areas will offer the best drainage options; however, amending the soil with compost is also effective. Those with clay-like soil might also consider adding Gypsum to the soil as well. This often works well as a soil conditioner. The particular type of iris, be it bearded or beardless, that you choose to grow is especially important in terms of your soil’s pH level as these irises differ in their growing needs. The bearded iris varieties prefer a more alkaline-based soil, whereas beardless irises do best in acidic soil.

Since it is generally better to allow an iris’s 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. 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. Watering intervals should remain infrequent, yet, deep. There is no need to fertilize, but you can do so, if desired; however, do not apply any nitrogen as this is harmful to iris roots and encourages root rot. Also, if you choose to fertilize, do so sparingly. If manure is to be used, make sure that it has been aged for at least a year. This, too, can encourage iris rhizomes to become soft, endangering the iris rather than helping it. Irises are seldom affected by disease with exception to root rot, normally due to poorly drained soils, and they are generally not bothered by insects or other pests. Although irises spread rather quickly, creating a dense carpet of foliage and blooms, providing a cover of mulch will help to minimize any weed growth. Other than the occasional removal of spent blooms in re-blooming iris varieties, to encourage additional flowering, that’s it. The show-stopping, colorful iris will pretty much do all the rest.

Not only are iris blooms a sight to behold in the garden, but many of these dazzling beauties also 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 in flower beds, as edging, or in rock gardens. Dwarf crested irises add color to woodland areas. Even bog gardens have a welcome place for the iris. Japanese iris, Yellow Flag and Blue Flag irises are all moisture-loving plants. Japanese irises will even thrive in shallow water. Siberian iris will also thrive in a moist environment, but this iris does not like standing water. It does, however, tolerate most garden terrains and is ideal for landscaping in a perennial flower border. Don’t overlook this species foliage once its blooms have faded; it’s just as attractive.

None is as versatile and colorful as the iris. Its ability to adapt to different types of soils 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.

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