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   Cultural Information

Iris Cultural Information
Iris Groups/Types
Glossary of Iris Terms

Iris Cultural Information: (updated January 20 2014)

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 as a meeting handout for their membership.

Bearded Iris: follow this link for an article providing specific cultural tips/advice on growing this type of iris including a downloadable information sheet.
Siberian Iris: follow this link for an article providing specific cultural tips/advice on growing this type of iris including a downloadable information sheet.
Japanese Iris: follow this link for specific cultural tips/advice on growing this type of iris including a downloadable information sheet.
Growing iris from seeds: Starting iris seeds information sheet (Adobe Acrobat PDF file)

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.

Iris Groups/Types:
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. 

1. 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 height.
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.

2. Beardless iris group:
This group includes Siberians, Spurias, Louisianas, Pacific Coast Natives, Japanese and Species. 

3. Aril iris group:
oncocyclus, regelia and arilbred iris are included in this group.

Glossary of Iris Terms 
by Chris Hollinshead

This 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.  

components/parts of 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 shoulders. 
Pollen: powder-like 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 stage. 
Spur: a short side stem which may or may not be near the top of the stem or stalk 
any branch which appears off the side of the main stem or stalk.
Stalk/Stem: that which holds the flower upright. May be straight or gently S-curved. 
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. 
Rhizome: brownish, 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 flower itself.

Amoena: (bloom color category) white, or tinted white standards, colored falls. Pronounced "ame-nah". 
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 plicatas. 
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. 
Substance: thickness of petals. 
Texture: finish or sheen of the petals. 
Variegata: (bloom 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 Types:
These are the standard abbreviations that you may find used in iris articles, catalogues, etc.. 

Bearded iris: 
Border Bearded-BB, Intermediate Bearded-IB, Miniature Dwarf Bearded-MDB Miniature Tall Bearded-MTB,  Standard Dwarf Bearded-SDB, Tall Bearded-TB 

Beardless irises:
Siberian-SIB, Spuria-SPU, Louisiana-LA, Japanese-JI, Pacific Coast Native-PCN, Species-SPE

Aril iris-AR, 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 listing: HONKY 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  DM95  $price 

The catalog listing terms explained... 

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 catalogue. 
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 of registration
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.