This huge family of distinctive, exquisite flowers is divided into four main groups: bearded iris (with hairy-lower petals); beardless iris (smooth petals); crested iris; and bulbous iris (grown from bulbs not rhizomes).

Suitable site and soil. There are iris suitable for most kinds of soil and site and all have their own individual requirements, so check with the nursery before planting.

Cultivation and care. Taller varieties need staking. Many need specific feeding, so again check with the nursery or a gardening reference book.

Propagation. Bulbous iris should be divided in the autumn. Rhizomes should generally be divided and replanted immediately after flowering.

Recommended varieties. Bearded iris: the hybrids offer a wide range of colour – creams, pinks, browns, and blues – and a heady scent. There are all sizes from dwarfs (20cm – 8in) up to 90-120cm – 3-4ft, including ‘Dancer’s Veil’, white with purple streaks, and ‘Esther Fay’, an apricot-pink. Beardless iris: the hybrids include ‘Cambridge’ pale blue; White Swirl’ pure white, as well as the water irises such as L. laevigata and I. pseudacorus, which grows in water up to 45cm – 18in deep and has bright yellow flowers. Crested iris are generally too tender for the garden. Bulbous iris include the rockery variety, I. reticulata, which flowers in early spring.

Pests and diseases. Aphids and fungal disorders can occur.

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