Iris: a very popular garden plant

Photo of Iris

Irises have got to be the most common plant in French gardens. Every garden seems to have a clump of them somewhere and some gardens have great long Iris beds that look absolutely fabulous in early spring. Though sadly not very nice the rest of the year. They are a plant that really needs to be mixed in with other plants as their leaves tend to get slug eaten and wilted as the season progresses.

Generally seen in purple, blue, white or yellow there are in fact an enormous variety of Irises each with slightly different mixes of colours, some are really exceptional.

An unusual one is Iris 'Cable Car' which has lovely orange/brown flowers in May/June.

bearded iris

For high drama in your borders Iris chrysographes is a black flowering iris which flowers in May/June. It loves water and so plant with a clump of white Arum lilies for a real statement.

The reticulata irises are bulbs rather than rhizomes and are great for winter colour in the garden. However the traditional blue and purple bearded irises remain firm favourites and look great in any flower border.

Iris growing guide

Iris Reticulata varieties are bulbs and flower in late winter. They like full sun and well-drained soil. Bulbs should be planted about 5 cm deep during the autumn. Iris Reticulata are fully hardy.

Siberian Irises are moisture loving irises and grow well in boggy ground or near water. They can grow in full sun or partial shade and flower in May or June. They are fully hardy and are clump forming and so can be propagated by division.

Bearded irises like full sun and well-drained slightly alkaline soil.  Plant bearded iris so that the top half of the rhizome is visible. They like to 'bake' throughout the summer. If your soil is acidic top dress with lime before planting. The irises will form clumps and become congested quite quickly resulting in poor flowering. Divide clumps  in the autumn keeping the young rhizomes from the edges and discarding the older rhizomes from the centre of the clump. Keep the irises well weeded and shade free so that they feel the full benefit of the sun.

Tidy up clumps of bearded irises in the autumn even if you are not about to divide them. Remove any old brown leaves and if the rest are looking untidy cut back to two-thirds of their length.

Irises are equally at home in many different styles of garden including cottage gardens and Mediterranean style gardens.