The Bearded Iris

Irresistible Bearded Iris also known as Flag.

The Chinese fell in love with this flower thousands of years ago, and today's gardeners still love to see their striking blooms today. The name, Iris, comes from the Greek goddess of rainbows. They probably have the widest color range of any plant group, lacking only pure red.

bearded iris a.k.a. flagsGrowing from rhizomes, bearded Iris reach a variety of heights and bloom in every season, too. The plant ranges in height from 8-inch dwarf varieties to the soaring 40-inch-tall. Plants have sword-shaped, usually broad leaves and simple or branched flower stems; bears multiple flowers, each with a prominent "beard" of white or colored hairs in the center of each fall (lower petal).

They are low-maintenance and need only minimal care to thrive. The tolerate drought very well and after they are done blooming the green leaves still make a nice show in the garden.

Care tips for irises -

Pests and Diseases

Although most varieties are deer resistant, irises can attract a number of pests, including aphids, iris borers, iris weevils, slugs and snails, thrips, verbena bud moths, and whiteflies. The most significant of these pests, however, are iris borers, which chew on leaves and bore into the plant stems, leaving the plant wide open for soft rot, a foul-smelling bacterial infection that kills more plants than borers themselves actually do. The best way to avoid an infestation of borers is to keep the area around your irises clear of debris. If you notice any signs of infestation, dig up your plants and cut off and dispose of any infected parts, check the soil for additional borers, and enlist the help of beneficial nematodes, which will destroy these pests.

While easy to grow, bearded irises or flags, do have some needs:

  • Plant bearded iris in a sunny spot in late summer. They need well-drained soil and at least five to six hours of sunlight.
  • Bearded iris, are typically planted with the top of the rhizome poking out just above soil level. An easy way to do this is to dig two shallow trenches with a ridge between them. Place the rhizome atop the ridge and spread its roots into the trenches. Fill the trenches with soil, then top-dress with a low nitrogen fertilizer.
  • Bearded irises prefer moist, well-drained soil.
  • Soft rot attacks during wet seasons in poorly drained soil, entering through wounds in the rhizome made from premature leaf removal or planted too close together.
  • When preparing their bed, bearded iris likes Ph slightly less than 7, which is neutral. Water only if it is extremely dry or after transplanting.
  • When the flower is done blooming break or cut off the head. You do not want the iris to form a seed head.
  • Give them room. Plant them a minimum of 16-18 inches apart for the large ones. Closer together for the dwarf irises.
  • Divide clumps of bearded irises every three or four years waiting at least 6 weeks before dividing. Lift the entire clump with a garden fork. Using a sharp knife, cut apart the new, younger sections from the original center rhizome, then replant.
  • Dig a shallow hole so that the rhizomes will be no more than 1 inch below the surface of the soil. Newly divided rhizomes that are planted right away will have time to establish themselves and not heave out of the soil with the freezing and thawing.
  • They grow best in zones 3-8. Mostly spring- to early-summer.

Other types of Irises -


Beardless-rhizomes are planted just below ground level.

Siberian-Blue, purple, white, yellow, pink, or deep red flowers with large falls and smaller, white, purple irises

Laevigatae (a.k.a. water irises)-Simple stems bear blue, pink, red, purple, white, or yellow flowers.

Louisiana-Often have zigzag stems that bear flowers in a large range of colors; prefers damp conditions.

Unguiculares-Evergreen, almost stemless plants bear blue, violet, lavender-pink, or white flowers from autumn to spring; develops from a mass of rhizomes aboveground.

Crested (a.k.a. Evansia irises)-Relatively flat flowers in shades of blue, violet, or white that have a crest or ridge on each fall instead of a beard.


Beardless flowers with deciduous leaves; appear from late winter to midsummer.

Dutch - Slender, graceful flowers in a variety of blues and yellows, with broad, sword-shaped foliage.

Dwarf - Flowers are yellow, blue, white, or reddish violet; bulbs are covered with netted tunics.

Juno (rare)- Plants have flat or channeled leaves and grow from fleshy-rooted bulbs.

Have you looked at our otherHow To Flower Articles or our Flower Picture Gallery?