With its huge and beautiful flowers, the iris or iris is one of the most popular flowering plants in our gardens, with rare exceptions in our climate it is definitely hardy and not difficult to care for. But did you already know that in addition to the well-known varieties, there is a selection of around 300 varieties, with Iris for dry, sunny locations and Iris for shady pond edges? Find out more about the wonderful iris, about the and the planting, care, propagation and cutting.

Planting irises

Irises want to be planted in a location in the sun, preferably with occasional shade.

The soil should be humus with a proportion of sand, in loamy garden soil it is better to mix in some sand before adding iris. Since the irises do not like waterlogging, the soil must be well drained, very heavy soils should be provided with a drainage made of gravel. You can also loosen the soil a little with the digging fork in between, but when loosening it you should make sure that you never dig too deep into the soil, because you would then damage a lot of the sensitive roots.

The best time to plant the iris is from August to October, iris rhizomes should be trimmed a few centimeters before planting, about half of the foliage is cut off. The rhizomes are set so flat that you can still see a third, a distance of about 40 cm is recommended between the individual irises.

Taking care of the iris

A freshly planted iris should first be watered additionally, when the plants have grown in well, you only need to water them if there has been a long period of drought outside.

You don’t really need to fertilize at all, if only very carefully, the iris roots are sensitive and overfertilizing quickly leads to root rot. This is why you should only use organic fertilizers when you want to fertilize, and they should be low in nitrogen. Synthetically produced fertilizers are mostly sold as concentrates, which are very quickly given too much fertilizer.

Otherwise you should just leave the irises alone, the more undisturbed they are allowed to grow, the better they usually develop.

Winter preparation with the irises

The irises want to be prepared for winter, and that includes flower care first: the iris usually lasts around four weeks to bloom. When the flowers have wilted, they are removed. You should cut off the flower stalk up to 10 cm above the root (the rhizome), and all brown and otherwise strongly discolored leaves and leaf tips are now also removed – you can easily cut away parts of leaves. This incision prevents the iris from forming seeds, if you do not want that, you can also omit the incision. However, you should then be prepared for the fact that the iris, which is very willing to reproduce, will multiply rapidly in your garden.

Most of the leaves are not cut off until the next spring, just before the plant wakes up from its hibernation. Because these foliage is a winter protection for the plant and a nutrient reserve, which it processes over the winter in order to be able to develop new flowers in spring.

You should never tear off plant parts of an iris, you could quickly cause wounds on the sensitive rhizome.

Transplant, divide and multiply

If you want to transplant your iris, this should also be done in August or October.

If you notice that the blooms of your irises are weakening at some point, you should divide the irises, also in late summer. Usually after about five years it is so far that the flowering strength of the iris suddenly decreases noticeably. If you now divide the iris, you will stimulate the growth again completely, the flowers will also develop in full splendor again. To do this, you very carefully remove the iris plants from the ground, which works very well with a digging fork. Now take a well-sharpened knife and simply cut the rhizomes apart, cutting as smoothly as possible. You should take sharpening seriously, blunt blades make unclean cuts that leave the iris with lots of wounds, which usually lead to diseased plants.

This division of the rhizomes is also the best way to multiply the irises, but you can also purchase seeds of most varieties.

Profile and varieties of the iris

The irises are not related to the lilies (otherwise they would not be botanically called irises), but are a plant genus (now) in the subfamily Iridoideae in the iridaceae family within the monocot plants. The “lily” known from heraldry, z. B. the famous coat of arms of the Bourbons (Fleur-de-Lis) is a (stylized) iris.

The classification of irises is anything but uncomplicated, it starts with the fact that the genus Iris is botanically divided into six sub-genera, while the gardeners differentiated between two main groups, the onion iris (which in reality does not form bulbs, but bulbs) , and the rhizome iris. Onion iris species are hardy, like sunny locations, but need a lot of moisture, rhizome irises are also mostly hardy and like sunny places, but not necessarily moisture.

Because it was so beautiful, the rhizome irises are first divided into three subgroups:

1. The beard iris , so called because there is a few hairs at the bottom of the three outer hanging leaves of the iris flower, which are called beards. Often hardly to be seen, but sometimes also a real tuft in strong colors opposite to the flower. The flowers of the bearded iris come in almost all color nuances except a distinct red, and these irises are actually always very easy to care for.

The bearded iris is botanically called Iris Barbata, and it is not an original iris species, but a group of irises that consists only of hybrids, cultivated cultivars. Depending on the variety, these irises reach heights of 15 centimeters or 1.20 meters, like sunny, normally dry to moist soils and bloom from April to July.

The breeders were really hardworking here, now the range is so large that even connoisseurs can no longer see through, so that this is not noticeable, the bearded irises are divided into three groups:

  • The Tall Beard Iris (Iris Barbata Elatior Hybrids), which grow to over 70 cm high and bloom from the end of May.
  • The medium-high beard iris (Iris-Barbata-Media-Hybrids), which are between 40 and 70 cm high and in the flowering period are between dwarf iris and high beard iris.
  • The low bearded irises or dwarf irises (Iris Barbata Nana hybrids), which are only 15 to 30 cm high and bloom as early as the second half of April.

In addition to the beard rhizome iris plants, there are also beardless iris shapes and the comb iris, which form an upright comb instead of a beard. The gardeners prefer to divide the “other” rhizome irises according to their location preferences, into irises for dry and irises for moist soils:

2. A number of irises prefer a very moist soil, so they grow best in a swamp bed or on the edge of a pond. These irises reach heights between 50 cm and one meter, like sunny and partially shaded locations and nutrient-rich soils. These include B. the following varieties:

  • Native iris iris (Iris pseudacorus)
  • Meadow Iris or Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica)
  • Japanese Magnificent Iris or Swamp Iris (Iris ensata or Iris haematophylla)

3. Iris species for dry soils like the sun, reach heights of 15 to 120 depending on the species and, in contrast to the other irises, want to be planted about 5 cm deep. Some varieties from this group:

  • Grass iris or plum-scented iris (Iris graminea)
  • Steppe iris (Iris spuria)
  • Variegated Iris (Iris variegata)
  • Bastard iris or steppe iris (Iris Spuria hybrids)

The iris species – a complete mess

So many varieties have been grown from around 280 natural species to date that even recognized experts have problems with classification and classification.

Because the irises have been crossing happily for a long time, even without a breeder: in the Middle Ages, irises were planted on the castle rocks as “magic plants”, where they were supposed to scare enemies to death. Unfortunately they never succeeded, and as a punishment they were dug up by the attackers and taken to their own castle, where they crossed with the alien species.

A whole series of old hybrids such as the elderberry iris (Iris × sambucina), a cross between the pale iris (I. pallida) and the variegated iris (I. variegata) emerged from this original war ruse. The iris is also an old cottage garden plant, which often overgrown and then crossed … and new cultivated forms are constantly being added, currently mainly cultivars from England and the USA.

In addition to the varieties already mentioned, you could also use irises with beautiful names such as naked stem iris (Iris aphylla), terracotta iris (Iris fulva), rainbow iris (Iris innominata), great iris (Iris magnifica), butterfly iris (Iris orientalis), bristle iris (Iris setosa) or representative iris (Iris vicaria) into your garden, where it would be exciting to find out who the representative iris should represent.

The wide field of irises is a bit confusing, but if you are not looking for the right iris name for a crossword puzzle, but simply want to plant the iris in your garden, you may not care much about the relationships. Except for one point: You should explore the “line of descent” as far as possible until you know whether “your” iris prefers dry or moist soil, otherwise the flowers will not be affected.

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