The word ‘iris; itself is derived from the Greek word for ‘rainbow’. This is an aptly fitting name for this wonderful flower, that can produce an array of gorgeous color combinations.
There are upward of 300 species of Iris, and thousands of cultivars belong to the Iris genus, which is part of the Iridaceae family.
They are perennial plants, which grow from bulbs, or rhizomes. When it comes to the appearance of the iris, they have very long flowering stems.
They can be branched, or simple, and even solid or hollow. You can get some varieties of iris that have a circular cross-section, while others manifest as flattened. The most common variety of iris have flattened leaves.
Given the vast amount of varieties, you should find it easy to locate a variety that will thrive in your garden or your home.
Why Is Iris Flower Treasured?
If you’re not overly familiar with the iris, then it is a very common plant.
They are treasured for their reliable spring performance and good vigor. They are also very beautiful flowers, in a very subtle way. Due to their long stem, they are elegant, and they are considered to symbolize faith and wisdom.
You will often find iris used in perfumes, but not as common as other flowers, such as jasmine and rose. The iris has also been used for centuries within herbal medicine.
Now you understand the iris a little more, let’s dive into the different types of iris plants you can find.
10 Types Of Iris Plants
Below, we’ll discuss 10 different types of iris plants, so you can discover which variation is best for you, and learn more about this wonderful plant.
Bearded Iris (Iris Germanica Cultivars)
The bearded iris is the most common type of iris. If you’ve seen an iris before, it’s very likely that it may have been a beared iris.
While most are inclined to think the name comes from the downward-facing petals, this isn’t true.
With further inspection, you’ll notice that this flower has a ‘fuzzy beard’ at the base of the fall petal, right in the center. It gives the appreciation of a tongue sticking out, and you’ll notice it is fuzzy to touch.
Most of the beared irises sold today are cultivars. It is incredibly rare to find the pure species growing, or even sold. Nonetheless, they are a gorgeous variation and can make a garden look incredibly colorful.
You do not have to worry about having the same color, as you can pretty much get a wide variety. Plus, if you add some reblooming irises, you witness a delightful color show all season long.
The Mediterranean and Southern Europe
Japanese Iris (Iris Ensata)
Our next variation is the Japanese iris, otherwise known as I. ensata.
This isn’t a very commonly known type of iris, but it is very beautiful. They grow higher than the bearded iris, so are ideal for gardens that are seeking a large bloom.
In fact, if you can find a variety such as ‘Freckled Peacock’, or ‘Amethysts Sister’, you can expect the iris to grow above 4 feet, which is very high for an iris.
The Japanese Iris does need certain requirements, that make it suitable for specific areas. It would thrive in a streamside garden or a pond. If you have a wetter climate, you might be able to get away with it, if you keep checking the moisture levels.
They require constant moisture, so if you’re in a hot climate without a bed of water near, it might not be for you. They also require rich soil and full sunlight.
Kazakhstan, Eastern Asia.
Full sun exposure, to partial shade exposure.
Dwarf Bearded Iris (Iris Germanica Cultivars)
Next, we’re going back to the beared iris, but this time, the dwarf beared iris.
These are very sweet iris, that can grow to around 8-15 inches high. They populate easily, so you can invest in a few plants, and you’ll soon notice the varieties multiply.
You can get miniature dwarfs, which as you can imagine, are smaller (they grow to be less than 8 inches). They’ve very pretty and would be ideal if you wanted a busier garden.
The Mediterranean and Southern Europe.
Full sun, can tolerate partial shade.
Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris Crestata)
The dwarf crested iris is another sweet and small plant, but it thrives in a different environment to the other varieties we have listed so far.
This lovely iris is better for gardens that either grow in a woodland area or have an area that will have more shade, opposed to sun.
This lovely iris will attach hummingbirds to your garden, along with the noble bee. The flower will appear from March to May. You should ensure the iris has acidic soil. This is to mimic the conditions where the plant grew in the wild (the pine groves).
Eastern United States.
Partial shade, can tolerate full sun exposure.
Siberian Iris (Iris Sibirica)
The Siberian iris is very gorgeous. You will find that most are violent, purple, or blue, and frequently have ruffled petals.
Unlike its fellow bearded friends, the Siberian iris is classified by the American Iris Society as beardless, and thus in a different subgroup.
The fuzzy beard that we discussed at the start of the article, is not present in the Siberian iris. Interestingly, these are hybrid flowers. They are said to come from I. sibirica and I. sanguinea., which are two blue-flowered Asian species.
While gardens tend to go for the bearded iris, more experienced gardens tend to appreciate the nature of the Siberian iris. This is because this type of iris will remain its beauty and elegance, even after blooming.
The beared iris tends to be considered ‘uglier after bloom, as the foliage becomes ratty. The Siberian iris is instead said to maintain its beauty, which to some, is a preference.
Hybrid species, the parent species is native to northern Asia.
full sun, and partial shade.
Yellow Flag Iris (Iris Pseudacorus)
While the yellow flag iris is a gorgeous and vibrant variety, it is problematic. The yellow flag iris grows within wetlands, but it is considered invasive in much of, not all of, the U.S.
While you can still grow the yellow flag iris, you must do so responsibly, otherwise, it can start to populate wetland areas. Control it in a container garden, it will spread fast by rhizomes.
Europe, Caucasus, northern Africa, western Siberia.
full sun and partial shade.
Dutch Iris (Iris [Dutch Hybrid Group])
The Dutch iris is more quaint, but still, a very pretty iris, who is often overlooked.
They can grow yellow, blue, or white. They are ideal as a companion plant and can be grown with early salad greens. While this might surprise you, the salad greens will shield the foliage which fades and gets ratty after blooming.
You should plant them in the fall, and these are bulbous irises, not rhizomes.
Louisiana Iris (Iris X)
The Louisiana Iris refers to a variety of hybrid of beardless irises. These stemmed from five native species, I. fulva, I. hexagona, I. brevicaulis, I. giganticaerulea, and I. nelsonii.
You’ll more likely see these hybrids in specific areas such as boggy, swampy habitats. They need a very mild temperature and slightly acidic, sandy soil to thrive. They will also thrive during the moist springtime weather.
Full sun and partial shade.
Blue Iris (Iris Spuria)
Next, we will be looking at the blue iris.
These are a type of beardless flowers, that are very elegant. They can grow in a variety of colors, but more than that, they can grow in bicolors and bitones. They are some of the grandest irises for a garden display. You will need to grow theme in clumps, and the soil needs to be rich, with medium moisture, and neutral to alkaline soil. It should also be grown in full sun.
When planting this stunning variety, you need to during the mid to late summer. It is unlikely that they will bloom in the first year, but you should get a bloom within the second year. They will attract bees and butterflies, and oddly enough, are deer resistant.
Central and Southern Europe.
Full sun can tolerate partial shade.
Douglas Iris (Iris Douglasiana)
The Douglas iris is unique in its formation. It forms arching, dark leaves which mimic a sword shape. The flowers tend to be blue, but they can vary in color.
There are yellows, pale cream, and purple. This variation looks beautiful in bloom, and out of bloom, which is not always common for the iris. It thrives within meadows and is ideal if you have a rock garden or woodland.
Northern and central California, southern Oregon.
Full sun and partial shade.
While we’ve discussed some wonderful variations of the iris, there are still so many more to explore.
This is a truly beautiful plant, which continuously produces a beautiful bloom, which such bold and gorgeous colors. It is true elegance and charm, and a very lovely plant to grow.
Keep in mind that each variation has its individual needs. Some irises will thrive within a wetland’s environment, whereas others require a warm and sunnier climate. Always do your research before committing to a variation.