Posted by Aaron Barton on May 16th 2021

May 17th, 2021


Spring is in the air, with perennial gardens beginning to burst with color. One of our favorite garden staples is the Iris (eye-riss). Irises, with their striking and unusual flattened, sword-like fan of leaves, are in the family Iridaceae, an incredibly diverse family offering a wide variety of appearances for any garden site. Irises can grow either from bulbs or from rhizomes (rye-zomes), however all varieties offered at Tonkadale are rhizomatous. Differentiating different types of iris can be confusing, however they can be broadly categorized by their flower type as either bearded, beardless, or crested.

Bearded irises, also sometimes called common flag or German irises for their botanical name, Iris germanica (eye-riss jerr-man-ick-ah), are native to southern Europe, though they have been widely naturalized in parts of the U.S. and Europe. These plants earn their name from their large ‘beards,’ which are the short, tufted, filament portion of the stamen of their flower. These irises prefer to be grown in full-sun, planted in well-drained, slightly acidic soil, and will reward you with blooms in mid- to late-spring, offering a variety of colors in the garden such as the lovely peach-colored blooms of Iris germanica ‘Peggy Sue’ or the striking orange and purple flowers of Iris germanica ‘Sharp-Dressed Man.’

Beardless irises encompass a variety of Irises, including the noteworthy Iris sibirica (eye-riss sigh-beer-ick-ah), or Siberian Iris. Siberian Irises, native to areas of central Europe and Asia, are very robust plants, blooming from early spring to early summer, and tolerate a variety of conditions. Siberian irises generally prefer slightly acidic, moist, well-draining soil and full sun, but can tolerate short periods of drought. Siberian Irises provide an array of wonderful blooms for any garden, including the lovely blue blooms of Iris sibirica ‘Bennerup Blue.’

Crested irises, Iris cristata (eye-riss kriss-tah-tah), commonly referred to as dwarf crested irises, are native to many parts of eastern and central North America, and are known for their yellow crest on the sepal of the iris flower. These irises are a great option to add some irises into a shadier or woodland garden, preferring part to full shade in well-drained, evenly moist soil, and are even deer-resistant.

Whichever iris you decide to welcome into your garden, don’t forget to give them the nutrients they need. Be sure to fertilize at planting with compost or Espoma Plant Tone, and again once they are bloomed out for the season.

Happy Planting!