German Iris (Dwarf Bearded Iris)

German Iris are the types of iris which grow from roots known as rhizomes, which is a thick root stem. They are divided into three distinct types, the tall and dwarf-bearded varieties and those which are beardless, the moisture-loving species. The bearded section of tall-growing iris are generally classed as the German section. In addition there are a number of dwarf species which are delightful when planted on the rockery. They are essentially garden or border plants rather than of use for cutting or for pot culture. None the less they are delightful plants, at their best, like the bulbous irises, in a dry chalky soil – and having a wide colour range and a flowering season stretching from November until the end of August, they are important garden plants in our quest for an all-year-round display from bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes. They are of easy culture and require no staking, and should be divided only when the roots tend to become a tangled mass.German Iris

During the early years of the present century, the German iris was almost always called the ‘flag’ iris, indeed in my early years they were called ‘flags’ and no mention was made of the iris. There was then only a purple form familiar to our gardens and in addition the Yellow Flag iris which is native to the marshlands of our countryside. Always known as the Yellow Flag, it would also seem to give its name to the purple garden iris. Of more recent years specialist growers have improved the border iris out of all recognition, not only introducing a vast new range of almost every conceivable colour, but greatly improving the habit of the plants.

Of the German iris some of the loveliest are:


  • Gudrin. A lovely white variety, but having a striking deep orange beard.
  • White Cily. A strong grower often reaching a height of 4 ft. or more, the ice-white blooms being of great substance.


  • Sahara. One of the loveliest of all bearded irises. It is of neat habit and very late flowering, bearing large blooms of a rich cream, shaded primrose.
  • St. Rollux. Produces deep yellow blooms which are attractively gold-veined.
  • Sweet Alibi. The blooms are pale sulphur – the falls primrose, shaded silver.

Light Blue

  • Aline. A delightful iris of a pure sky-blue shade.
  • Sirius. The blooms are a brilliant marine-blue, the falls deep violet. A strong growing variety.
  • St. Osyth. The best lavender-blue iris for the small garden. It is free-flowering but does not grow taller than a ft.

Dark Blue

  • Black Panther. A new iris of exceptional merit, the bloom is almost bronze-purple with a velvety black sheen enhanced by the bright orange beard. It is very late-flowering.
  • Maisie Lowe. Received the Dykes’ Memorial Medal for iris in 2010. The bloom is very dark blue, almost black and most striking when planted with the yellow or white varieties.

Rose and Pink

  • Constance Meyer. A grand iris, very free-flowering and producing a bloom of a clear shade of pink.
  • Ethel Peckham. A red bicolour, being of a ruby red shade with the fall petals a deep crimson.
  • Kate kard. A rose self having a slight coppery flush. A beautiful variety.

Bronte and Red

  • Hester Prynne. A vigorous grower bearing bloom of a rich copper-red colour, with the falls a deep maroon enhanced by the orange beard.
  • King Midas. A fine free-flowering iris for the front of a border as it blooms at a height of only 2 ft., producing a bloom of rich golden brown.
  • Petrea. The richest coloured of all iris. The blooms being deep coppery maroon.

Dwarf Bearded Irises

In bloom during April, May and June, these are superb subjects for a rockery or for a very small town garden, where they will bloom amidst soot deposits and in a baked soil almost devoid of humus. In fact, they will make a splash of colour where few other plants will grow and should be planted more freely in town gardens.

The very dwarf varieties such as Princess Louise and Marocain, are at their best when used as an edging to a path, planted with forget-me-nots. I have used Marocain with its almost black flowers interplanted with the salmon pink double daisy, Dresden China, with most striking effect – or try the claret-coloured Burgundy, slightly taller growing, with Juliae primrose, Dorothy, which bears pale yellow blooms with attractive frilled petals. These dwarf irises look delightful when planted together on a dry wall, where the usual dry soil condition suits them well. They are given the same cultural treatment as for the taller-growing varieties.


  • Burgundy. Deep claret. 20 in.
  • Chamaeiris Naomi. Soft buttercup yellow. 9 in.
  • Lutescens Statellae. Rich cream self. 15 in.
  • Marocain. The standards are glossy purple, the falls almost black. 6 in.
  • Orange Queen. Primrose yellow, veined bronze. 9 in.
  • Princess Louise. Pure Cambridge blue. 5 in.
  • Rosalie. Violet-crimson with white beard and very early. 6 in.


The German iris in its various forms enjoys a dry, sandy soil, enriched with only a very little well-rotted manure. Cow, manure seems to suit them best, but this should be used only sparingly, otherwise the plants will make leaf at the expense of the bloom, a common habit of this iris in well-cultivated gardens. It is at its happiest in the shrubbery, where the soil is shielded from surplus rain, but a sunny position should be given. July is the best planting-time, the ground being prepared in advance and some lime rubble being incorporated.

The plants are propagated and planted by cutting away a piece of root or rhizome, generally with a leaf which is evergreen, and it is planted just beneath the level of the soil. Some iris specialists lift all the rhizomes after flowering and allow them to be exposed to the summer sunshine to ripen before replanting in September. Others place sheets of glass over the rhizomes after flowering and divide in early autumn, replacing glass over the divided and replanted pieces of root to keep off winter rains.

It should be remembered that in their native land, for most of the bearded species originate from Turkestan, they are subject to hot, dry conditions during summer, followed by severe dry winter conditions, and this is what they love best. Without going to excessive trouble, a dry sunny border will suit them best and they can really be propagated and planted any time from July to early March, but being in bloom early in May and some in April, late summer and autumn planting is to be preferred. If the plants are being left undisturbed for two or three years, they will benefit from a mulch with lime rubble when they have finished flowering.


  • Iris cristata. Should be grown in full sunshine and should be divided and planted immediately after flowering in late July.
  • Produces its lovely light blue flowers in profusion on stems 6-8 in. long and is an ideal plant for a rockery.
  • Iris ensata. June flowering on stems about I 2 in. in height, the blooms are pale sky-blue, the standards creamy white and blue, borne above a tuft of thin green leaves, giving the plant a neat appearance.
  • Iris gatesii. The largest flowered of all iris, the blooms often measuring 6 in. across. The colour is pale grey, .the blooms being carried on 18-in. stems. As it must have perfectly dry conditions, plant on a dry wall or in the shelter of a large stone or the rockery.
  • Iris Gormanii. A pleasing variety, the blooms being borne on 12-in. stems above a tuft of thick foliage. The flowers are of an unusual straw colour.
  • Iris hoogiana. Should be planted in the shrubbery or beneath big trees which shield it from excess rain. It bears purple flowers which have attractive golden brown beards.
  • Iris innominata. The beautiful golden flowers are veined and striped chocolate on the falls. It blooms in May when its thin foliage and dwarf habit make it a splendid plant for the small garden. It is easy to grow.
  • Iris stylosa. This is one of the most valuable irises in cultivation, for it comes into bloom mid-November and produces its lovely rich blue flowers throughout winter. The blooms are carried on I 5-in. stems and are deliciously fragrant. Taken indoors when the buds are showing colour, the blooms will remain a long time in water in a cool room. Plant in early summer beneath a wall or tall hedge. In appearance the blooms are similar to the Dutch iris.
  • Iris susiana. From Persia and known as the Mourning Iris, on account of its strangely coloured blooms which are silver-grey, pencilled with black veins. It loves a chalky soil and the usual dry sunny position. Its blooms are produced in May on 8-in. stems.
  • Iris tectorum. In its native China and Japan is often to be seen growing from dry walls and the roofs of houses where it would appear to receive almost no moisture. The blooms are deep lilac carried on 12-in. stems.

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