Iris 101

By Denise Stewart AKA Dee (irisloverdee) on March 30, 2010

So you want to learn about iris. This is letting you see that there are allot of different types of iris, not only do they grow in Oregon, but they will grow in so many different places, from rock gardens to really moist areas.

            Here in the Willamette Valley we are blessed with one of the best iris growing conditions, and this is one of the reasons we are quite often called the iris capital of the world.  We are home to some of the best know hybridizers in the world.  The temperature, rainfall, and soil conditions are conductive to growing bearded irises.


            Did you know that the beautiful tall bearded iris most of you know is derived from just one of hundreds of species irises of the Iridaceae family?  These families include Arils, Iris aphylla where many of the miniature tall bearded originated, pumila which where many dwarf species originated from, and those are only a few of the bearded species.  There are also Siberians, versicolor (the blue flag native if the U.S.), pseudacorus (Yellow Flag Iris from Europe and Asia), and so many more.  I will touch base on many irises and species that we can grow with ease here.


            Usually the first iris to appear is the little purple iris in the 4 inch pots about the time that you will see the potted daffodils.  These are iris reticulata, a bulb iris that is known to bloom even with snow still on the ground in some places.  Shortly after the reticulate bloom, the beautiful Dutch iris, which is one of the better cut flowers in the iris world, begins to bloom.


            If you love beauty of an iris that is quite unique then a must see is the iris group Californicae (AKA Pacific Coast Natives).  This group starts to bloom here in Willamette Valley in late March or early April.  These iris not only have unique colorations they have the presence to stand out.  I have a bright beautiful yellow one named RAFFLES that you can see clear across the garden.


            In the Spring of the year, while driving or taking a walk, you might see our native iris douglasiana or iris tenax.  Both these species iris are native and also do well in plantings.  Iris douglasiana can be seen from pale blue to dark blue and occasionally white and rarely yellow.  Growing from six to 28-inches the delicate graceful flowers are a splendid treat to see in the wild.  Iris tenax can often be seen in rode side parks such as Minto Park or even in township like Three Sisters. In many of the nurseries you might find the Iris innominata as well.  It is a rich shade of pale to bright golden-yellow, with darker veins.  A woodland iris that likes pine forest and open woodlands, but grows well in the garden.


            Late March and into April you will start to see the miniature and standard dwarf iris, followed by the intermediate, miniature and border bearded iris.  These classes of bearded iris are much shorter with miniature dwarf as small as 4” to 8”, standards dwarfs to 16”, while the miniature tall bearded, border bearded and intermediate bearded grow to 27”.  The classes of bearded iris are determined by height and season.


            When May comes around our statuesque tall bearded iris start to put on their show! And what a show they give us.  With over 40,000 cultivars there is something for just about everyone to enjoy.


            Louisiana Iris usually starts blooming in late April or May.  They are quite drought tolerant even though they are also perfectly happy in ditches and wetland areas as long as these areas have some dry time.


            Many gardens here in the valley are growing a Spuria iris without even knowing it.  You know that tall white floppy iris that has flax like leaves.  That is the Iris orientalis.  From that species of spuria has come some really beautiful and colorful Spurias, such as INNOVATOR and ARTIC BLUE.  These beauties, which can be left alone with little or no care for years.


            Come June to July the Siberians in a large variety of colors start to put on a show.  These are also an excellent cut flower.


Finally the lovely Japanese iris starts to unfurl their beauty.  These can be grown in ponds, at the edge or in a garden.  Unlike bearded species the Japanese iris can do well in acidic conditions.  The wide variety of sizes make placing them in a mix be ideal since the shorter varieties can be on a border while the taller, sometimes 4-foot, varieties can enhance a rear area that might get less attention.


I have just covered the better known types of iris that we can grow.  Give them a try; you will be rewarded with beauty and a long season of bloom.

About Denise Stewart AKA Dee
Denise has always had a love affair with gardening. First in Calif then in Oregon. She began a small commercial Iris Grower in 1999 and continued to grow.

She is interested and enjoys quilting, sewing and jewelry making.

« More articles

Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Thanks, Dee... Sharon Mar 31, 2010 12:29 PM 2
Great article! PollyK Mar 30, 2010 9:55 PM 1


The place to talk about everything iris! Iris sales, trades, and growing info. Iris chat and lots of gorgeous pics!

» Home
» Forums
» Articles
» Pages
» Database
» Links

Cubit owner: irisloverdee

Admin team:

» Contact the admins

A little advertising :)

Dee's website Click here for Snowpeak Iris!