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378


IRIS


How to Grow Bearded Irises


July to October is best plant- ing period; in regions with mild winters and cool to mod- erate summers, you can plant throughout this time. In cold- winter zones, plant during July or August; where sum- mer temperatures are high, plant in September or Octo- ber. Plant in full sun in cool climates; in hottest regions, they’ll accept light shade dur- ing the afternoon.


I


SOIL Bearded irises need good drainage. They’ll grow in soils from sandy to claylike; but if your soil is clay, plant in raised beds or on ridges to ensure drainage, avoid rhi- zome rot.


PLANTING Space rhizomes 1–2 ft. apart; set with tops barely beneath soil surface, spreading roots well. Growth proceeds from the leafy end of rhizome, so point that end in direction you want growth initially to occur. For quick show, plant three rhizomes 1 ft. apart—two with growing ends pointed outward, the third aimed to grow into the space between them. On slopes, set rhizomes with growing end facing uphill. If weather turns hot, shade


bearded irises are the most familiar of these, but they repre- sent just one subdivision of the entire group. Eating any part of these causes gastric upset, and plants have poisoned live- stock; in addition, some people get contact dermatitis from handling the rhizomes.


DWARF AND MEDIAN IRISES


These irises generally have fl ow- ers shaped like the familiar tall beardeds, but fl ower size, plant size, and stature are smaller. Median iris is a collective term for the categories of standard dwarf, intermediate and border bearded, and miniature tall bearded.


newly planted rhizomes to prevent sunscald, possible rot. Where winters are severe, mulch new plantings to prevent heaving from alter- nate freezing, thawing.


CARE Water to settle soil and start growth. Thereafter, water judiciously until new growth shows that plants have rooted; then water regu- larly until fall rains or frosts arrive. From the time growth starts in late winter or early spring, water regularly until about 6 weeks after fl owers fade; increases and buds for next year’s fl owers form dur- ing postbloom period. During summer, plants need less water. In heavy soil, it may be suffi cient to water every other week in hot climates, monthly in cool ones. In lighter soils, try watering weekly in hot areas, every other week in cool ones. For best performance, feed plants with moderate-nitrogen commercial fertilizer as growth begins in spring, then after bloom has fi nished. In cool, moist spring, leaf spot may disfigure foliage; use an appropriate fungicide at fi rst sign of infection. Remove old and dry leaves in fall.


Miniature dwarf bearded irises. Grow to 8 in. tall; fl ow- ers large for size of plant. Earli- est to bloom of bearded irises (about 6 weeks before main show of tall beardeds). Hardy, need winter chill. Plants multiply quickly. Shallow root systems need regular moisture and peri- odic feeding.


Standard dwarf bearded irises. Grow 8–15 in. high. Flowers and plants are larger than miniature dwarfs. Profuse bloom. Easier to grow than miniature dwarfs in Western gardens but perform best with some winter chill.


Intermediate bearded irises. Grow 15–28 in. high, bear fl owers 3–5 in. across.


Flower later than dwarfs but 1 to 3 weeks before tall bearded irises. Most are hybrids of stan- dard dwarfs and tall bearded varieties, and resemble larger standard dwarfs rather than border beardeds. Some give second bloom in fall.


Border bearded irises.


Grow 15–28 in. high—propor- tionately smaller versions of tall beardeds in the same wide range of colors and patterns. Bloom period is same as for tall bearded.


Miniature tall bearded irises. Grow 15–28 in. high and fl ower with tall beardeds. Their small fl owers (2–3 in. wide), narrower foliage, and pencil-thin stems give them appearance of tall bearded irises reduced in every propor- tion. Good for cutting and arrangements—hence their original name, “table irises.”


TALL BEARDED IRISES


Among choicest perennials for borders, massing, cutting. Most are hybrids, but they are often incorrectly listed as I. germanica varieties. Easy to grow. Mid- spring fl owers, on branching stems 21⁄2–4 ft. tall. All colors but pure red and green; pat- terns of two colors or more, blends produce infi nite variety. Countless named selections are available. Modern hybrids often have elaborately ruffl ed, fringed fl owers. Available varie- gated foliage selections include ‘Pallida Variegata’ (‘Zebra’), with green leaves striped with cream; and ‘Argentea’, produc- ing green leaves with white stripes. Both bear smallish blue- lavender fl owers on stems to 2 ft. high. Remontant (repeat blooming or reblooming) tall bearded irises fl ower in spring, again in


Bearded iris blooms are gorgeous, but they don’t last long. One solution: put them at the backs of borders, where they’ll disappear among other plants after their fl owers fade.


mid- to late summer, fall, or win- ter, depending on variety and cli- mate. In mild climates, some are nearly everblooming. Plants need fertilizer, regular moisture for best performance. These now account for a large segment of the tall bearded irises sold.


ARIL AND ARILBRED IRISES


The aril species and interspe- cies hybrids (characterized by an aril, or collar, on their seeds) offer strange and often remark- ably beautiful fl owers on unat- tractive plants. Exacting cultural requirements. Most species come from semidesert areas of the Near East and central Asia; they need limy soil, perfect drainage, full sun, and no sum- mer water (and thus do best in areas with scant or no summer rain). There are two main groups: Oncocyclus and Rege- lia. Oncocyclus group includes a number of species with huge, nearly globular fl owers in laven- der, gray, silver, maroon, and gold, often intricately veined and stippled with deeper hues. Regelia group has smaller, narrower-petaled fl owers, veined or unmarked; they come in brighter shades than Oncocyc- lus, often with a lustrous sheen. Oncocyclus is more diffi cult to grow; somewhat easier are Regelia group and hybrids between the two (Oncogelia). Arilbreds—hybrids between the arils and bearded irises— offer some of the arils’ exotic beauty on plants nearly as easy to grow as tall beardeds, given well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil. Amount of aril ancestry can determine ease of culture: hybrids containing half aril ancestry or more usually are more demanding than those of one-quarter or three-eighths aril ancestry. Specialists’ catalogs sometimes state hybrid ances- tries for this reason.


Beardless irises Flowers in this group all have smooth, beardless falls but otherwise differ considerably in appearance from one type or species to another. Rhizomes have fi brous roots (unlike fl eshy roots of bearded types); most prefer or demand more mois- ture than bearded irises. Many can perform well from crowded


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