If you are looking to grow an easy-care flower that is deer resistant and simple to care for, look no further than the bearded iris. Learn proper bearded iris care and 5 reasons you should try growing them this year.
Bearded irises are a type of flowering plant that is native to the Mediterranean region and known for their showy flowers that bloom in late spring.
Bearded irises are easy to grow and care for, and they make a beautiful addition to any garden.
This year, I’m working on a beautiful iris bed near the formal garden as they tend to be deer resistant and can take a little bit of shade.
While I brought a few divisions from my former garden, there are a few varieties in my new gardens too. I also just ordered a bunch of new-to-me varieties that I can’t wait to see bloom!
Here’s what you need to know to grow beautiful bearded iris flowers.
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Why I Love Bearded Irises
Truly, you can’t beat the blooms.
They are stately flowers with lots of incredible detail that sit upon a tall flower stalk. While the different varieties have lots of showy colors, one of my favorite features of the bearded iris is the ombre colors in the petals.
In addition to their colorful flowers, bearded irises also have attractive, sword-like foliage that is green or blue-green in color.
My mother-in-law gave me a clump of rhizomes when we first moved to our family home over 23 years ago and a division of those very same flowers moved with me to my current home.
They are so easy to care for, the deer leave them alone, and are a welcome site in late spring through early summer.
While the flowers don’t last more than a few weeks, if you plant different varieties you can get an extended bloom time that is just breathtaking.
To me, bearded irises look best when planted en masse in mixed borders and cottage gardens, but they also look amazing in rock gardens and near pond gardens as well.
About Bearded Iris Care
To care for bearded irises, plant them in a sunny site with well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter.
While they love direct sunlight with a full day of sun, they can also grow and bloom well in partial shade locations. They prefer soil that is neutral to slightly alkaline soils, with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5.
Water your bearded irises regularly, making sure to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged as you don’t want them to get a fungal disease.
I generally don’t fertilize my irises and focus more on good soil quality with lots of compost, leaf mold, and other organic matter.
Prune old blooms and stalks promptly after flowering so the iris devotes energy to growth. If you have a reblooming iris, removing the old flowers and stalks encourages another set of blooms.
Iris plants should be divided every three to four years to encourage healthy growth and prevent overcrowding (see below to learn how).
Bearded irises are generally pest-free, but they can be prone to fungal diseases such as bacterial leaf spot and the iris borer.
For best results, avoid overwatering and make sure the plants are sited in a sunny location with good air circulation.
Similar to spring flowering bulbs, the foliage stores energy for next year’s growth. Keep the foliage until fall but you can cut the brown tips and flowering stalk to the ground before to prevent rot and overwintering pests.
After the flowers fade, remove the seedpods as they take away nutrients needed from the rest of the plant.
Also, pull weeds around irises and remove fallen leaves from the surface so it continues to get much-needed sunlight throughout the growing season.
With proper care, bearded irises are beautiful and low-maintenance additions to your garden.
How to Plant Bearded Iris
Bearded irises grow from underground stems called rhizomes, which produce new leaves and flowers each year.
The rhizomes should be planted about 4 inches deep with a slight mound to accommodate root growth and 12 inches apart to allow for proper growth and flowering.
Keep the tops of the rhizomes exposed. When mulching, make sure there is no mulch sitting on top or they may not bloom.
I’ve seen many landscapers completely bury them with mulch and that’s a surefire way to get no blooms. If they are deep enough beneath the mulch, it can kill them altogether.
For best results, plant them in spring or fall so they establish themselves before cold winter temperatures arrive.
5 Reasons You Should Grow Bearded Irises This Year
If you aren’t convinced yet that you should grow bearded irises in your garden this year, you will be after you read this list!
Easy-to-Grow Late Spring Flowers
Bearded irises are super easy to grow and care for, making them a good choice for gardeners of all skill levels.
They are hardy plants that can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and soil conditions, and they are generally pest-free.
Bearded irises are dependable, long-living perennials that can last for several years. In fact, I’ve still got plants that my mother-in-law gave me over 25 years ago! And I’ve had a love affair with them ever since.
It’s a Beautiful Flower
Bearded Iris are known for their graceful, showy flowers that come in a variety of brilliant colors and patterns.
From deep purples and blues to sunny yellows and whites, there is a bearded iris to suit every garden. Bearded iris blooms have large, showy flowers that are typically 2-6 inches in diameter.
Bearded irises come in a wide range of colors and patterns, including solid colors such as purple, blue, yellow, pink, and white, as well as bicolors and patterns such as dots, splashes, and veining. Some varieties have fragrant flowers, while others do not.
The flowers of bearded irises typically bloom in the late spring and early summer. However, by planting a reblooming iris or different bearded iris varieties, you can extend the bloom time.
While they are mostly grown for the flowers, the sword-shaped foliage is a welcome change in gardens as it contrasts mounded forms of other plants.
Once established, bearded irises require minimal care from the gardener during the growing season.
Mulch yearly and water regularly if no rain, and divide every 3-4 years to encourage healthy growth and an abundance of blooms.
The plants last a really long time and require minimal effort from the gardener throughout the growing season.
Bearded irises are not favored by deer, making them a good choice for gardens in areas with a high deer population.
I’ve been growing them for the longest time, never protecting them, leaving them be, and have never had a problem with deer.
The former homeowners have them planted throughout the gardens and I haven’t seen a nibble on them here either.
So that’s a really good indicator that unless they are starving, they’ll dine on other things.
Easy to Propagate
Bearded irises should be divided every three to four years to encourage healthy growth and prevent overcrowding.
As irises mature, the rhizome produces more rhizomes. You’ll know it’s time to divide when the plant produces fewer flowers.
The best time to divide bearded irises is after flowering when they go dormant during late summer. This will reduce the opportunity for bacterial rot to form.
Dividing your irises also allows you to propagate new plants from your existing ones, and it can help to rejuvenate older plants that are not blooming as well as they used to.
How to Divide Bearded Irises
To reduce plant stress and encourage strong root growth, cut the foliage back to roughly a third of its height before dividing.
Carefully dig up the clumps of rhizomes using a shovel or spade. Be gentle to avoid damaging the clumps of iris rhizomes or roots by lifting them out with a garden fork. And keep try not to pierce the rhizomes while working.
Then cut the rhizomes into smaller sections, making sure each section has at least one fan of leaves and a few roots. You should be able to do it with your hands. If a knife is needed, make sure it is clean and disinfected first with a 1:10 bleach-to-water solution.
Discard any damaged or diseased rhizomes because you don’t want to plant those. Keep rhizomes that have healthy roots and one or two leaf fans.
Next, replant the divided rhizomes. When planting, dig a shallow hole that’s roughly 10″ diameter by 4″ deep. Add soil to the center of the hold so you can set the rhizome on top and spread the roots out.
Then backfill with good garden soil but make sure the rhizome top is visible to the surface of the soil. When you plant them too deeply, they may not flower.
By following these steps, you can easily divide your tall bearded irises and propagate new plants from your existing ones.
With the proper care, your divided irises should thrive and produce beautiful flowers for years to come.
How to Keep Bearded Iris from Falling Over
Sometimes the blooms are so heavy on a bearded iris, they may need extra support.
I generally love to use these grow-through plant supports because they have a grid and support the flowers really well.
But if you get to staking them when it’s too late, I grab these half-moon garden stakes and they work equally as well.
Where bearded irises are concerned, I typically just use the half-moon supports because more often than not, the plant keeps itself upright.
If there’s inclement weather or high winds they may start to lean a little too much for my taste, so I just grab the half-moon supports and you don’t even notice they’re there.
Thanks so much for dropping by the blog today!
I hope you are inspired to grow bearded irises this year. I just bought a few different varieties online and can’t wait to get them in the ground this spring!
More About Bearded Iris Care
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Want to Learn How to Grow Flowers With Ease?
If you’ve always wanted to grow flowers but struggled with where to start or how to create something beautiful, I got you. I wrote a book that shares all the things you need to know to grow a beautiful and easy-care flower garden.
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My book publishes on February 6, 2024, but you can preorder now and get a special pre-order bonus chapter you can’t get when the preorder period closes.
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Garden Supplies I Use
I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. From pruners to deer repellents, here are some of my favorites in no particular order.
- I like to use a good-quality, potting soil, garden soil, compost, and perlite when planting. While I make my own compost, you can easily buy it ready-made for use.
- I have used this deer repellent with great success. But now, I’m all about this deer repellent that is systemic instead of topical. This means the plant takes it in as opposed to it just smelling bad.
- Hands down this is my favorite hand-weeding tool. You can use it to get underneath roots and loosen soil, and it cuts down on the weeding time because you work much faster.
- But I also love this long, stand-up weeding tool to really get around roses from afar.
- I use THIS ORGANIC FERTILIZER for roses because the blooms are more prolific and it’s organic.
- And I use this organic fertilizer for my vegetables and herbs in the potager garden.
- You’ll need a sharp set of pruners when working with plants and flowers. I buy a few so I can stash them around.
- I use these garden snips to deadhead and cut flowers from my gardens.
- Where pest and disease problems are concerned, if I need to, I generally use this insecticidal soap or neem oil to help control infestations depending on the issue. When using, only apply when pollinators are less active.
- This is my favorite set-and-forget slow-release fertilizer for houseplants, annuals, and container gardens.
- Whenever I stake my peonies or other plants, I generally use these grow-through garden supports because they work really well and keep the blooms upright.
Looking for More Flower Garden Ideas?
If you love flowers and want to grow more in your garden, here are some posts that will get you on your way.
From tucking in flowering plants that are deer-resistant or ones that attract more butterflies and hummingbirds, to shade-loving flowers like the lenten rose, these posts will get you on your way to growing a garden that will bring joy for years to come.
Here are more cut flower and cottage garden growing tips, tricks, and design inspiration.
- Flower Garden Ideas for the Front Porch
- 5 Quick Ways to Grow a Cottage Garden
- Why and How to Divide Perennials
- Perennials vs Annuals
- Flowers that Bloom in Midsummer
- How My Cottage Garden Grew in 2021
- Cut Flower Gardening for Beginners
- The Complete Guide to Roses Care
- The Basics of Hydrangea Care
- Everblooming Cottage Garden Design Ideas
- The Secret to Growing an Everblooming Cottage Garden
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Want to learn more about me?
I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years. With a deep passion for gardening, I enjoy helping others find their inner green thumb with all things plants and flowers, as well as find ways to bring the outdoors inside their homes too.
Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging.