Irises are a vast group of plants ranging from bold-flowering specimens with 4 ft stems to tiny alpines peeping above the earth. Classification is complex, but getting a working knowledge of the main types is not difficult. There are two basic groups – the Bulb group and the Rhizome group described below, which spread by means of a thickened underground stem which creeps along horizontally. This latter group contains the most popular ones and they are dominated by the Bearded Irises . The thick rhizomes bear a fan of flat, broad leaves at the tips and should be planted soon after the flowers have faded, choosing a day between midsummer and early autumn when the soil is moist. Set the rhizomes about 1 ft apart – leave the top half uncovered but if the soil is sandy completely cover the rhizome. Trim the tops off the leaves. Most gardeners look no further than the Bearded Irises but as listed below there is a wide range of interesting Beardless Irises.

VARIETIES: The Bearded Irises have been given many true and false names – Flag Iris, German Iris, I. germanica and June Iris. The 3 sections are based on height and are derived from several species. The Tall section (2.5 ft or over, June flowering) includes thousands of hybrids – a few names are “Party Dress (flamingo pink), ‘Jane Phillips’ (pale blue), ‘Frost and Flame’ (white, red beard), ‘Top Flight’ (apricot) and ‘Staten Island’ (gold standards, red falls). The Intermediate section (9 in.-2.5 ft. May flowering) also has many named hybrids – such as ‘Golden Fair’ (yellow) and ‘Piona’ (purple). The Dwarf section (under 9 in., April flowering) are for the front of the border or the rockery. These Irises are much less popular than the taller ones – look for ‘Blue Doll’ or ‘Bright White’. A bearded novelty is the evergreen Gladwyn Iris (I. foetidissima), grown for its decorative orange seeds. The Beardless Irises are separated into several sections – some of the popular ones include the Sibiricas (I. sibirica ‘Perry’s Blue’, 3 ft. June-July, moisture-loving), Winter-llowering Irises (l.stylosa, 1 ft. November-February, sun-loving). Water Irises (I. pseudacorus,2.5 ft. May-June. Water-loving) and Bog Irises (I. kaempferi, 2.5 ft. June-July, wet soil-loving).

SITE AND SOIL: Bearded Irises require well-drained soil and full sun.

Standards (3 inner petals, generally standing erect)

Falls (3 inner petals, generally hanging downwards)

PROPAGATION: Divide rhizomes in late summer every few years. Discard old and damaged portions.

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