Iris Flowers - Growing, Facts and History

Bearded Iris are one of my all time favorite flowers! Their tall standing stems crowned by delicate showy flowers are just stunning. The flowers come in almost all colors and variations. They are early blooming flowers and their sword shaped leaves remain an accent in flower garden long after the blooms are gone. I would like to give you some information on the Iris flower, growing, facts and some history of one of my favorite perennial flowers.

White Bearded Iris

White bearded iris in my garden.
White bearded iris in my garden. | Source

Iris History

The iris flower is a genus of approximately 200 species of flowering plants with beautiful showy flowers. The iris has been around for centuries and gets it’s name for the Greek word for “rainbow”. This is based on the wide variety of colors found in the iris species. It is named after the Greek Goddess who is thought to be the messenger of love and used the rainbow to travel. The iris is also found in drawings on the walls of Egyptian palaces. It is also said the Moslems, took the iris to Spain in the 8th century and planted the flowers over the graves of their women to summon the goddess to guide the dead in their journey. In 1933, the Tennessee legislature designated the iris (the purple iris) as their state flower and the city of New Orleans is the Fleur-de-lis, or iris. The King of France selected bearded iris (iris germanica) as their emblem.

The iris is naturally found in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and north Africa. Irises are now being cultivated world-wide and there are many hybrids as they have become so popular. A common name for some species is “flags”.


Purple Bearded Iris

Purple bearded iris from my garden.
Purple bearded iris from my garden. | Source

Meanings of Iris Colors

Iris comes in every color of the spectrum except true red. Based on their color, iris conveys varied messages. Blue iris is symbolic of faith and hope. Purple iris symbolizes wisdom and compliments, white iris means purity while yellow iris symbolizes passion. The dark blue or purple iris can denote royalty.



Sword Shaped Leaves of the Bearded Iris

The sword shaped leaves add to the iris's beauty.
The sword shaped leaves add to the iris's beauty. | Source

Iris Groups

There are 2 major groups of irises, they are rhizomes and bulbous. Bulbous irises are normally smaller than rhizome irises and they require a dormant period in order to produce leaves and flowers as other plants that grow from bulbs. Rhizome irises grow from rhizomes or thick pieces of root that look similar to a potato. Siberian iris and bearded iris are the most common irises grown in the United States. Most iris in this category are “evergreen”, however they will go dormant only to return in early spring.

Purple and Yellow Bearded Iris

Purple and yellow bearded iris, one of my favorites.
Purple and yellow bearded iris, one of my favorites. | Source

General Description

By far the most commonly seen of the irises are the bearded iris. The blooms can be as large as 6 inches across and grow on sturdy stems which grow 8-10 inches tall. The leaves are sword shaped and can be an interesting specimen for your flower garden even after the plants have stopped blooming. The bearded iris has three sepals called “standard” which are upright petals and three “falls” which are the pendulous ones that have a spreading or downward droop. Bearded Iris refers to the bristly hairs that emerge from the throat of the flowers. They have a sweet perfume scent.



Lavender Bearded Iris

Lavender bearded iris from my garden.
Lavender bearded iris from my garden. | Source

Planting and Caring for Your Iris

Iris are one of the easiest perennials to grow and need little care. Whether your soil is clay, sandy, loam or rocky, you can grow iris. Iris like dry soil, not too much water and plenty of sun! The will grow in light shade but you will get much better results in full sun. The iris can take the summertime drought, which makes them easy to grow in many arid climates.

When to Plant Iris:

The best time to plant your iris is in late summer or early fall. As iris are planted very shallow, you want to give the roots time to become well established before winter arrives.

Preparing the Soil:

There isn't much to do to prepare your soil to grow iris. Whether your soil is clay, sand, loam or rocky, you can grown iris. Loosen you soil about two inches deep and place the rhizome on top of the loosed soil. Irises do best in soil that is slightly acidic, with a pH of about 6.8. If you soil is high in clay, you may want to add some gypsum to your soil to help break it up.


Bearded Iris Rhizome

Plant the bearded iris rhizome shallowly.
Plant the bearded iris rhizome shallowly. | Source

How to Plant Iris:

Irises are one of the easies flowering plants to grow. I have just dropped a small plant while doing some transplanting, and it grew just laying on top of the ground. The most common mistake made by gardeners when planting iris is they plant them to deeply. They need to be planted very shallow. Take the rhizome and place it in the hole that you dug with the roots spread out and facing downward. Press down and mound the soil around it, just leaving the very top of the rhizome showing. Keep the plants approximately one to two feet apart for best blooming. Be sure the soil is well drained or the rhizome may rot.

Watering Iris:

When planting new iris they need to be watered during the first season in order to get their root systems established. It's better to water deep and infrequent than shallow and often. Less is more for irises when it comes to watering established plants, and it's best to underwater than water too much. Once irises are established there they will need very little watering. Remember, over watering an iris can cause the rhizome to rot.

Fertilizing Iris:

Your soil type will really determine which fertilizer will work best for your iris. As a general rule of thumb, a fertilizer with a low nitrogen content will work best, such as a 6-10-10. Bone meal is also a good idea. Apply any fertilizer lightly. Very early spring and early fall are the best times to fertilize.

Dead Heading Iris:

Once your Iris has finished blooming, it is time to remove the spent flower and flower stalk. Cut the dead bloom of just below the flower once it dies. I personally don’t remove the stalk until it starts turning brown. Be sure to remove any leaves that have turned brown as well.

Dividing Your Iris:

Every three or four years, your iris will need to be divided. If they get too crowded the blooms will not perform at their best. Crowding also increases the odds of a disease infecting the flowers as well. To divide the plants, dig up the rhizome with as much of the roots as possible. You may find several “plants” growing from the one rhizome. In this case, just snap the rhizome apart. Now you can take the “new” plant and move it to another sunny place to add some beautiful color in spring, or share with a friend. Dividing should be done in late summer or early fall. You need to give the roots time to get well established before winter.

Iris Maintenance:

You want to keep your iris bed clean. Remove any dead or dying leaves as well as other leaves that may end up in your flower bed. Dead leaves make a great habitat for bugs. The root borer is a common insect problem for irises. Keeping your flower bed clean doesn’t give them anyplace to hide. You don’t need to mulch your irises, except over winter, you don't want the rhizomes to freeze. Remember they like it dry and mulching can cause the rhizomes to rot.


Summary

Irises are a beautiful specimen plant for any garden. When I divide mine, I will plant the extra plants in another location in my yard. I’m sure you can find plenty of sunny places to add these beautiful flowers and come spring you will have a glorious abundance of color with very little work.


Do You Have Iris in Your Flower Garden:

See results without voting

Purchase Iris Plants Now to Plant for Next Spring Beauty!

Don't put off getting some iris for next year, planting iris now will give them plenty of time to establish a good root system for beautiful plants next spring.

More by this Author


Comments 45 comments

sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 6 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you, Patsy! I appreciate you stopping by! :)


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 7 months ago from zone 6a, SEMO

Really complete information and very helpful. Fun to learn about colors.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

How kind for you to remember, Peggy! Thank you! :)


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

I did not have a Pinterest account when I first commented and shared this hub. Going to pin this to my flowers board.


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 3 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Thanks, Sheila! I was really starting to worry about them. I will get those clippings off of them. You have a great evening, too!! :-)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

No need to run outside in the rain. It would take longer than overnight to rot the rhizomes. Stay dry inside. I just moved some of mine because they weren't getting enough sun and I think around your Martin house would be a great idea! Have a great night! :)


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 3 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Sheila, thanks so much. As I type, it is raining outside, and I am thinking about running out there in the dark to scrape the grass clippings off. I still have several iris in the yard. They need to be thinned out. I may place some of them under the Martin house this fall.

Thanks so much for your advice!! :-)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Suzette! Iris are very easy to plant and grow. I love the way their large blooms stand tall above the ground. After they bloom the sword shaped leaves make a great backdrop for other flowers. Thank you for your very kind comment, I'm glad you enjoyed my hub! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Bill! Thank you for your kind comment. I have so many iris that I am constantly adding them to more areas. They are so pretty and easy to grow. Thank you for all your support! Have a beautiful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Sholland! Yes, I think your iris will come back. There are some planted on our pond dam, by the previous owner, and each year hubby mows them down after they have bloomed. They always come back. Just don't let the rhizomes get soggy due to the grass mulch. As long as the roots on the bottom of the rhizome are even slightly in the ground, they will be fine.

That is so awesome that you have "generational" iris over 150 years old!

Thank you for your kind comment, votes and share! I always enjoy hearing from you! :)


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM

Thank you for an very interesting and informative article on iris'. This is just beautiful. I don't plant them in my garden, but I certainly could now after your tutorial. Your iris photos are lovely. I do like the flower, not a favorite, but I certainly appreciate it more now after reading this. Thanks for sharing you knowledge with us.


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Sheila. Beautiful hub. We have Iris all around our driveway. They are purple, not sure about the bearded part. Great info and tips. Voted up, shared and pinned.


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 3 years ago from Southwest Missouri

This is a great hub! I have what I call "generational" iris. They are bearded iris that my great- grandmother, grandmother and mother had. They have been growing in our yards for over 150 years. They are so easy to share.

I did a stupid thing while mowing, though. My iris around my Martin house were finished blooming and the leaves were turning brown. I mowed them down, and it pulled many of the up. I was just sick (though I have many others in other areas of my yard). I went back and placed them each back in the ground - some were cut off at the root. I put some grass mulch from mowing over the top of them. Do you think they will come back?

Thanks!! Votes and shared! :-)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Peggy! I will have to check out your hub on the Louisiana Iris and re-link as well! I always know that any of your hubs are great for linking to! I am anxious to see your Louisiana Iris as I am always looking for new flowers to add to my yard. Thanks for stopping by and all your support! Have a beautiful day, my friend! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Stephanie! I have several different colored iris, purple, white and yellow. I think the purple ones are my favorites! I am glad you get to enjoy these beautiful flowers up north. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, it is always appreciated. Have a beautiful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Kathleen! I did look at your profile page and it is beautiful! I love iris, I wish they bloomed all season! It is important to clean out around them to keep the rhizomes from rotting. I'm so glad your iris are beginning to bloom! Mine are still a few weeks away and I am so looking forward to it. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, it is always appreciated. Enjoy your beautiful iris and have a wonderful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you Torrilynn! Iris are probably one of the easiest flowers to grow and they are beautiful. I'm glad you enjoyed my hub. Thank you for stopping by, commenting and the vote up! Have a wonderful day! :)


torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 3 years ago

thanks for this article about iris flowers

i think that they are beautiful and i love how

they come in many different varieties

great information

Voted up


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Iris is my favorite flower as you will see from my profile. Many of my hubs (especially poetry) feature a picture from my own garden. Thanks for the advice. Mine have not done great the past two years, but I cleared out a lot of matted leaves and put down a good dose of compost and I already have many buds. The first one opened today so what a great day to read this hub!


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 3 years ago from New Jersey

Purple irises are most popular in my region.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

Hi Sheila,

I loved growing the bearded irises when we lived in Wisconsin. What grows best in our "neck of the woods" is the Louisiana iris. I added a link from this hub to the one I wrote about them titled Pictures of Beautiful Cut Louisiana Irises ~ Growing Irises... Voted up, beautiful, useful and interesting and will share.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Pat! I think the threat of frost is over here in southern Oklahoma and I have been outside ALL day! I have cleaned out some of my flower beds, including some of my iris. I found several that the rhizomes were just laying on top of the ground, but they were still growing! These are really such great plants! I'm so glad you enjoyed my hub on the iris and I hope your iris do well! Thank you for your kind comment and have a wonderful day! :)


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

How did I miss this?? Flowers are one of my too many passions. My Momma used to have dozens of these in our yard so naturally they are one of my favorites. You of course shared a lot about these lovelies I did not know. Thanks for the tips so that I will be able to grow healthy lovely iris too.

Angels are on the way :) ps


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello thoughtfulgirl2! Yes the siberian and nelsonii are as well beautiful. I probably should have titled my hub "Bearded Iris" Flowers as the care for these is very different from caring for the nelsonii at least. I am not really familiar with growing anything but the bearded iris. Thank you for pointing that out. I may add to my hub. Thank you for stopping in and commenting, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)


thoughtfulgirl2 profile image

thoughtfulgirl2 4 years ago from East Coast

Hi there,

I think all irises are quite beautiful. The bearded are so obviously beautiful that sometimes the lesser known siberian iris and iris nelsonii are forgotten, but they are quite beautiful too:)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Christy! Thank you for your kind comment. I hope you are able to have a garden soon, it's sounds like you would really enjoy it. Have a great day!


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

What a pretty flower! You describe it well. I do not have a garden but live vicariously through everyone who does until I get one!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Steph! Iris are one of my favorite flowers. Thank you so much for your kind comment, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

I love Iris flowers too! When I lived in Seattle, Washington, they did quite well. Now, we are on the dry side of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. These blooms are so beautiful. Love all the tips, photos, etc. Excellent work! Steph


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello molometer. Thank you for your kind comment. The iris is one of my favorite flowers. Thank you for your votes and sharing. It is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day!


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago

Love these wonderful photos and your hub is very enlightening. I had no idea there were so many varieties.

Voted up interesting and sharing.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Rosemay50. Irises are very pretty, I am going to plant some different varieties this fall. I wish I could share mine with you! Thank you for your kind comment. Have a wonderful day! :)


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

I love iris's so lovely and delicate. Some wonderful tips and advice here thank you.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello b. Malin. Iris are very pretty flowers and they are so easy to grow. You should try them. They need very little care! I think you would like them. Thank you for your kind comment, it is always appreciated! Have a beautiful day! :)


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 4 years ago

The Iris is such a Beautiful, yet delicate Flower. Wonderful tips on how to grow them successfully Sgbrown. It's tempting. Thanks for sharing!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello prasestio. Thank you so much for your kind words and vote! They are actually Iris flowers. :) I always enjoy hearing from you. Have a wonderful day! :)


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

I had never heard about Irish flowers. But through this hub, I enjoy all the beauty of these flowers. My friend, you describe this information very well. I learn something new about Irish Flowers. Including the tips and the pictures as well. Good job and you deserve to get my "vote". Take care :-)

Best wishes, Prasetio


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Lesley! Thank you for your kind comment. You really should give them a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to grow. I know you have a green thumb, you will really like these! Thank you for your kind comment and vote! Have a beautiful day!!! :)


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

A beautiful hub Sheila, you know how much I love gardening and flowers yet I have never grown Iris!

Thank you for the advice on planting and caring for the plants, you have inspired me to give them a go.

Voted up

Best wishes Lesley


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Pat! Iris are one of my favorites too! I'm glad you like my picture and my article. Thank yo for your kind comment! Have a wonderful day!


pat 4 years ago

IRIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE FLOWERS.EVEN FOR A PICTURE I WILL PICK AN IRIS ONE. SO NICE TO SHARE AND EXCHANGE WITH FRIENDS.ENJOY Shela's STIFLES ON FLOWERS.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Dolores! Thank you for your kind words. Irises are one of my favorite flowers. I wished they bloomed all year, but they make a gorgeous spring! I think everything was early this year. Thank you for reading and your kind comment, it is always appreciated. Have a wonderful day! :)


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

Enjoyed reading this one - I love iris and your pictures are beautiful. I have several myself but my favorite is a gigantic pink one that usuaslly blooms around Mother's Day. It was early this year!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Faith Reaper. Thank you so much for your kind comments. Iris would have to be one of my favorite flowers to grow. I think you would really enjoy them. Thank you for stopping in and commenting, it is always appreciated! Have a blessed day! :)


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

Love the Iris and your hub is so very insightful, providing great tips to grow the Iris, which I do not have in my garden, but now I believe there is no reason why not!!! Your photographs are lovely! The variety of colors of the Iris are stunning. Well done. In His Love, Faith Reaper

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working