The Bearded Iris, also known as the Iris Germanica, include tall, intermediate and standard bearded irises. Tall bearded irises have a complex hybrid ancestry and no recognized Latin name. They are divided into six classes, by height.
Those 27 inches tall and taller are “tall bearded.” The “median” irises include the classes “miniature tall,” “border,” “intermediate,” “standard dwarf,” and “miniature dwarf,” which range in height from 26 cm to 6 inches. “Dwarf” refers to the plant height, “miniature” to the flower size.
Tall bearded irises have three distinctive features:
- 3 Standards which stand up from the center of the flower
- 3 Falls which fall down from the center of the flower
- 3 Beards which serve to attract insects for the purpose of pollination
Each Iris also has unique features – different color standards and falls, smooth or ruffled petals, and small or large beards.
The life of an individual flower is only 2 to 5 days. The Iris is remarkable for its hardiness. It is as easy as a weed to grow, and, given a suitable situation, it is one of the longest-lived perennials, one of the “live-forevers.”
The variety of colors the Iris offers is unmatched and unsurpassed by any other hardy plant, even its rival, the orchids. The colors range through shades of blue, bronze, claret, crimson, lavender, mauve, maroon, pink, purple, red, rose, yellow, violet, and white.
Some of the varieties are of solid color, the standards and falls being of the same or a different color; some are margined or bordered, and many are mottled, penciled or veined. A well-established plant will produce many spikes of bloom.
Bearded irises all have thick spreading rhizomes and stiffly vertical leaves arranged in flat fans. For best results, they need to be divided every few years, during the summer. They tolerate hot, dry weather often by going dormant. When planting, spread and bury the roots, but position the rhizome right at the soil surface. Space 6 – 18 inches apart, depending on plant height. May not bloom until the second year after planting.
Irises that rebloom in late summer and autumn are relatively new to the gardening world. However, iris hybridizers have developed some iris varieties that often produce a second and even a third burst of bloom. Most of these are tall bearded irises, but there are also some dwarf and intermediate reblooming varieties. Reblooming irises require full sun and weekly watering, and they are more likely to rebloom in milder winter climate areas.
- Walter Stager – Tall Bearded Iris (Fleur-de-Lis): What, When, Where, and How to Plant and Subsequent Plant
- Frances Tenenbaum, Rita Buchanan, Roger Holmes – Taylor’s Master Guide to Gardening
- Katharina Notarianni – The Beauty of Irises
- Julie Ryan – Perennial Gardens for Texas
- Bonnie Lee Appleton, Lois Trigg Chaplin – New York/Mid-Atlantic Gardener’s Book of Lists