Sunday, May 26, 2013

Iris - Bearded, Siberian and Japanese

My Iris are blooming profusely in the garden right now. Their tall, slender stems emerging from wide, fan-like leaves and topped off with gorgeous pops of color. They remind me of popcorn that has suddenly burst open from it's kernel. They variety I have (below) is referred to as a Bearded Iris. Bearded Irises are the most popular type, but the Siberian and Japanese types are gaining in popularity and can be equally as stunning. 

Bearded Iris in my Port Washington, NY garden
So where is the beard? If you look closely on the lower petals which hang downward (these are called "falls," while the upright petals are called "standards") you'll see little fuzzy parts in the center. These are the beards. Bearded Irises are easy to grow, require full sun and will multiply over time. They come in a variety of colors including pink, blue, red, yellow and purple.

The Siberian and Japanese Iris do not have the fuzzy beard and hence, are considered beardless. Most of the beardless irises are native to Asia.

Siberian Irises form beautiful clumps of grass-like foliage (much thinner than the fan-like foliage of the Bearded Iris) with blooms rising on slender stems. The flowers are smaller and more delicate than the bearded type, in shades of blue, purple, red-violet or yellow. Once the flower fades, the foliage remains a beautiful focal point in the garden, often resembling an ornamental grass.

Photo of Siberian Iris
from Delaware Valley Iris Society

Japanese Iris have huge, flat flowers with ruffled petals. Here, the falls are large and the standards are short. Their leaves are sword shaped with a distinct rib that runs lengthwise down the leaves - a good way to distinguish this type from the others when not in flower. Absolutely gorgeous in a mass planting.

Photo from UMASS Amherst Extension

In Greek Mythology, Iris is the Goddess of the Rainbow and because of the elegance of the bloom, it has been the symbol of royal families throughout history. The most famous use of the Iris as a symbol came from France, when it was adapted on royal banners as the "fleur-de-lis"(possibly adapted from Iris Pseudacorus)



  1. Beautiful Iris and I enjoyed the bit of history behind them too! Very informative post!

  2. Hi Kate! Your bearded iris looks stunning with the japanese maple and a beautiful evergreen in the background! I only have Dutch iris in my garden now, but I remember very well wild Siberian iris which grew near my Grandma's house in the Russian countryside, not far from China. The flowers were purple-blue and yellow. They liked to grow in swampy ares.

    1. Tatyana - I can only imagine how beautiful the Russian countryside must have been dotted with the wild Siberian iris. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Thank you for this post! I've been itching for an iris in my balcony garden, but didn't know the difference between all the different types. This certainly cleared things up! I love how graceful the siberian iris looks and it's grassy leaves will double as a handsome garden interest for the container. Stunning job!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Sarah and hope you can find an iris for your balcony garden. they really are stunning in bloom!

  4. A very interesting and informative post! Love your gorgeous iris and enjoyed reading the stories behind them as well. Nice share!

  5. Hi Katie,
    Found your site when searching for more information on Japanese Iris, lovely pictures. Looks like you spend alot of time in the garden!! I started growing Japanese Iris two years ago, this is the first year I have had blooms.

    check out my couple of pictures.

    thanks for sharing, nice site!!
    My Japanese Iris Pictures

    1. Hi Michael! Thanks for visiting - and sharing your photos. That Ocean Mist Iris is a beauty!

    2. thank you Cate, I enjoy visiting your blog and seeing all the great pictures!!

      did you check out my Garden Bluebird house Give-away!!

      Bluebird House Give-Away


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