Learn about the beautiful blooms of iris flowers.
Stir up some spring color by including iris flowers in your landscape. This large group of bloomers includes plants that grow from bulbs (Dutch iris, Iris hollandica), as well as traditional perennial types of iris, such as bearded iris (Iris germanica) and Siberian iris (Iris sibirica). There are even reblooming iris, which produce multiple floral displays during the growing year.
Iris plants unfurl their stunning flowers from spring to early summer. When iris flowers appear depends on the specific types of iris and varieties. In general, dwarf bulb irises flower first in very early spring. This includes Iris danfordiae and reticulated iris (Iris reticulata). The remaining iris flower from spring to early summer, usually in this order: bearded iris, Siberian iris, Louisiana iris (Iris fulva, I. brevicaulis, and others), Japanese iris (Iris ensata) and Dutch iris (Iris hollandica).
Reblooming iris introduce another dimension to the iris show in home gardens. These non-traditional bloomers boast second and even third or fourth flower stems in summer or fall. Many reblooming iris are bearded iris types, but there are rebloomers that fall into Japanese and Siberian iris categories.
Iris flowers have an unusual structure and appearance. The petals resemble a classic fleur-de-lis symbol, with some petals rising up while others cascade down. The center petals stand upright and are known botanically as standards. These tall petals stand like signal flags, waving in potential pollinators.
Downward dropping petals known as falls dangle beneath the standards. Falls petals function as a landing pad for pollinating insects. These petals feature markings that help direct insects toward the flower’s reproductive parts. On bearded iris, the beards—a series of hairs arranged in a line—act as a gripping agent, giving pollinators a surface to grab and hang onto as they ascend the falls petals toward the flower’s center.
Many gardeners like to include iris flowers in cutting gardens. Dutch iris and bearded iris are probably the most favorite iris for using in bouquets. Cut Dutch iris flowers when buds are showing halfway out of the green covering and the flower bud tip is starting to unfurl. Snip bearded iris stems as soon as the first blossom on a stem has started to unfurl. With both types of iris, any other buds on the stem showing a nose of color should open in the vase.
Expect Dutch iris stems to show color for up to a week. Bearded iris should have a strong display up to 10 days as subsequent buds open. When cutting iris flowers for bouquets, use sharp clippers and snip stems as closely to soil as possible. Take care not to damage leaves, though, because they’re needed to build up food reserves in the roots to fuel future flower shows.