Friday, June 3, 2016

Growing Bearded Iris in Colorado by Carol King

Iris photo Carol King
What a year it is for the Bearded Iris (Iris hybrida) in gardens along the Front Range! Also called “flags”,  multiple blossoms and colors abound on these easy to grow periennals.

Iris is the name of the Goddess of the Rainbow in Greek mythology, and because of the great elegance of the iris bloom, it has been the symbol of monarchs and royal families throughout history. From King Minos' palace on the Greek Island of Crete in 2100 BC. to the symbol of power and position of the Bourbon Kings of France, including Louis XIV; the iris was adapted on royal banners as the “Fleur de Lys”. It still proudly adorns the beautiful flag of the French-founded Province of Quebec in Canada. Great Britain also uses the motif. Edward III added the iris to his royal coat of arms during the 14th Century. 

Irises also have a medicinal history, the roots having been used in preparation for medicines for skin infections, syphillis, dropsy and stomach problems. Today, it is still a staple in herbal medicines.
"Beard" on Iris photo by Carol King
The iris flower’s three upturned petals are called standards, while the three downward-facing petals, or sepals, are called falls. The groups of fuzzy hairs growing from the upper bases of the falls are called beards, leading to the common name of bearded iris. The beards, which can be either the same color as the petal or a contrasting color, may help attract bees to perform pollination.

Bearded iris grow well in full sun and dry, alkaline soils which are prevalent for us in Colorado. Iris are a carefree periennal but they should be divided every three to four years. 

Here are some helpful links to assist you in developing and caring for your very own Iris bed.

And this video from CSU and Tagawa Gardens will show you the best practices for dividing them (which can happen as soon as they quit blooming!