Iris Cultural Information:
(updated February 28 2009)
This page provides access to some articles on
growing information for your iris. The cultural requirements do vary
somewhat depending on the type of iris involved. We have provided growing
information for three main and most popular types; Bearded Iris, Siberian
Iris, Japanese Iris and now also one on starting iris seeds. Garden clubs/horticultural groups may wish to
download and print off copies of the different growing sheets for their
Iris: follow this link
for specific cultural tips/advice on growing this type of iris.
growing information sheet
(Adobe Acrobat PDF
Iris: follow this link
for specific cultural tips/advice on growing this type of iris
Iris growing information sheet
(Adobe Acrobat PDF
Iris: follow this link for specific cultural tips/advice on growing this type of iris
growing information sheet
(Adobe Acrobat PDF
Starting iris seeds information sheet
(Adobe Acrobat PDF
Note: The above files are provided as a
downloadable Adobe Acrobat PDF type file. You will need Adobe Acrobat
Reader to view this file. Adobe Acrobat Reader is free
software for viewing and printing Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF)
files on all major hardware and operating system platforms. If you need to
get the Adobe Acrobat Reader program use this link.
Click here to get Adobe Acrobat.
There are three main groups of irises; Bearded iris, Beardless iris and
Aril iris. A number of types are found within each of these main
groupings. Growing the different types will add interest and diversity
to your garden as well as providing an extended bloom period.
Bearded iris group:
Within this large group there are found a number of the most well known
and popular iris types.
MDB (Miniature Dwarf Bearded): The smallest and
earliest of the bearded iris. They make good rock garden and border plants. up to 8 inches
SDB (Standard Dwarf Bearded): These iris quickly form clumps and have
many colors not seen in other types. They do well in borders and rock gardens. From 8 to
15 inches in height.
IB (Intermediate Bearded): These iris are intermediate between the SDB
and TB both in height and bloom time. From 15 to 28 inches in height.
BB (Border Bearded): These iris are shorter than the TB but bloom at the
same time. They display well near the front of the bed and are more resistant to rain and
wind damage. Good for exposed areas. From 16 to 27 inches in height.
MTB (Miniature Tall Bearded): Charming with thin graceful stems and small
delicate flowers they are often called table iris with reference to their popular
use as cut flowers and in flower arrangements. From 16 to 25 inches in height.
TB (Tall Bearded): These are large, tall, showy and spectacular iris. The
most popular and well known. 27 inches plus in height.
Beardless iris group:
includes Siberians, Spurias, Louisianas, Pacific Coast Natives,
Japanese and Species.
Aril iris group:
oncocyclus, regelia and arilbred iris are included in this group.
Glossary of Iris Terms
by Chris Hollinshead
information is provided for the many people who are new to irises and who would like to
understand iris terminology.
The following information and definitions should be helpful when reading iris related
articles and or catalogues.
an iris plant:
Falls: the lower three
petals of the iris flower.
Standards: the upright
top three petals of the iris flower.
Beards: the fuzzy, caterpillar like hairs on the falls, may be
thick or thin, self colors or contrasting.
Hafts: the parts of
the iris falls to either side of the tops of the beards, also called
grains which form on the anther.
Anther: stiff, tiny stem like aperture under the style arm
Style arm: the three
style arms rest above the anthers. They may be the same color as the iris
or may be contrasting colors.
Style crest: the
upward curving of the top of the style arm. The style crest may be plain,
serrated or fringed.
Stigmatic lip: the lip
like petal under the style crest which receives the pollen.
Spathe: the papery,
eventually brown, covering of the emerging bud. This papery covering
eventually covers the ovary of the iris as the flower emerges from bud
Spur: a short side
stem which may or may not be near the top of the stem or stalk
Branch: any branch which appears off the side of the main stem or
Stalk/Stem: that which holds the flower upright. May be straight or gently
Leaves/Fan: grouping of leaves, growing from the iris rhizome underneath that
fan of leaves.
Increase: new plants
which begin as white waxy looking pointed buds on the sides of the
rhizome. Increases provide an
exact clone of the original mother plant.
potato-looking, fleshy portion of the plant that grows at or just below
the surface of the soil.
Roots: The true roots that feed and nourish the plant
grow downward into the soil from the rhizome.
Above you have the basic
iris components from top to bottom. For those who want more details
continue on... there are quite a few more terms! These are
used primarily to describe the visual attributes, color and style of the iris
Amoena: (bloom color
category) white, or tinted white standards, colored falls.
Bicolor: (bloom color
category) two different colors.
Bitone: (bloom color
category) two tones of the same color.
Blend: (bloom color
category) combination of two or more colors.
Fluting: gentle dips
and rises in the petal edges.
Glaciata: (bloom color
category) a pale color from plicata breeding-no plicata marking.
Haft marks: veining on
the hafts; sometimes considered unsightly.
Halo: a rim of color
around the petals, usually contrasting to the main color, not found on
Lace: lightly laced
irises have serrated edges; heavy lace gives a crinkled, serrated effect
which may affect the opening of the petals.
Luminata: (bloom color
category) pale yellow or near white style arms with pale white or yellow
veining on falls.
Midline stripe: a
stripe of usually contrasting color down the middle of the falls.
Mid-rib: the stiffened
mid-section of the standards which hold them upright.
Peppering: found on
plicatas-as if you shook a pepper shaker of contrasting color over an iris
with a yellow or white background color.
Plicata: (bloom color
category) stitched, stippled or banded color in contrast
to the base color.
Reverse amoena: (bloom
color category) darker standards and white or tinted white falls.
Ruffles: waving and
fluting of the iris petals; some irises more heavily ruffled than others.
Self: (bloom color
category) refers to an iris with all petals of one color.
Stitching: may go with
"peppering", as if one had button-hole stitched around the edges
of the falls or all of the petals. "Stitches" may be so close
together as to look like a thin or thick solid rim around the petals.
Texture: finish or
sheen of the petals.
color category) yellow or near-yellow standards with deeper falls color,
which may be either varied or solid tones of brown or purple. Variegatas
are normally yellow over maroon.
Wire-edge: a minute
rim of color around the edges of the petals.
Abbreviations of Iris
These are the standard abbreviations that you may find used in
iris articles, catalogues, etc..
Border Bearded-BB, Intermediate Bearded-IB, Miniature Dwarf
Bearded-MDB, Miniature Tall Bearded-MTB,
Standard Dwarf Bearded-SDB, Tall Bearded-TB
Siberian-SIB, Spuria-SPU, Louisiana-LA, Japanese-JI,
Pacific Coast Native-PCN, Species-SPE.
oncocyclus and regelia are grouped together under this term.
And how about some more...
if all the above isn't enough, then consider the
descriptive terms used in the listings found in iris catalogues:
Example of an iris catalog
TONK BLUES (Schreiner 1988) A very ruffled flower with a novel blend of
shades of blue and white. H=37 S=M HM90 AM92 WM94
The catalog listing terms
Height: the height in
inches/centimeters as designated by the hybridizer. In the bearded iris
categories the iris are divided into sections dependent on their height.
Hybridizer: the person
who created the iris. This name immediately follows that of the iris.
Name of the iris: that
name chosen by the hybridizer, registered with the AIS and approved by the AIS registrar.
RE: this term
generally indicates rebloom at some time other than Spring.
Year of introduction:
the year which immediately follows the name of the hybridizer. This is the
year that the iris was first introduced, which is defined as offered for sale and advertised in a
Year of registration:
the year in which the hybridizer registers the iris with the AIS
Registrar. This may or may not be the same as the year of introduction.
Almost all catalogues show the year of introduction rather than the year
Season: E-M-L: Early,
Mid-season and Late. By adding the letter V, we may have terms such as VE
which would mean very early, etc. These terms may be used as a guide. It
indicates the time of season the iris bloomed in the hybridizer's garden.
(but is relevant everywhere in terms of when the particular iris variety
flowers during the iris bloom season)
After the above comes the
description of the flower, usually in very "flowery" terms, the
more to catch your eye with and possibly your acquisition interest. Most hybridizers are very, very reputable and
usually spend many years observing and growing a potential new iris
variety before registering and introducing it. This is to insure that a
new iris is either an improvement over an existing variety or distinctive
and different enough to introduce. In addition, the iris should be
excellent in growing performance, stalk/stem and flower form.
Other notations you will find
in conjunction with irises may have to do with awards the iris has won.
HC: highly commended; HM: honorable mention; AM:
award of merit; DM: Dykes medal, highest award an iris may win.
How do irises win awards?
Each year the American Iris Society (AIS) Judges vote an AIS Awards ballot. The ballots are
tabulated and awards given. The AIS judges are encouraged to maintain high
levels of integrity and quality standards but the
popularity of the hybridizer, distribution or catalogue pictures sometimes
influence in part the voting and thus awards given. Go to
Awards area of the CIS website for the listing of iris
awards and explanation for the different category awards.
The best way to determine if
these award winners are truly worthy of growing is by growing them
yourself! Another important consideration is your own growing area. Some
irises, by their genetic background and makeup, grow better in certain
climatic zones than others. Check with a local iris CIS/AIS affiliate
group to see which
varieties perform best in your area (or a comparable zone).
Don't forget to take individual micro-climates into consideration.