Learn everything you need to know about growing and caring for bearded iris, from planting and watering to fertilizing and dividing. Discover expert tips for troubleshooting common problems and ensuring your irises bloom beautifully year after year.

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.

Bearded irises (iris germanica, also known as German iris) 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.

(Posts on stacyling.com may contain affiliate links. Click HERE for full disclosure.)

A garden with three tall iris flowers featuring white and purple petals. The background includes a wooden sculpture, a well-maintained garden bed with mulch, small plants, and a backdrop of lush green trees and bushes. Growing bearded irises in a zone 6 garden.

Truly, you can’t beat bearded iris 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. The iris flower colors are vast and beautiful so shop around for the colors that speak to you for your garden.

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.

Angels rest and dream of you bearded irises
Angels Rest and Dream of You Bearded Iris Flower in my zone 6b garden

Understanding Bearded Irises

Bearded irises are popular perennials known for their striking, colorful flowers and hardy nature. Suitable for hardiness zones 3-9, bearded irises thrive in full sun and well-drained, loamy soil. These plants typically grow to a height of 1-3 feet and spread 1-2 feet wide, making them excellent for borders, beds, and as standalone specimens.

Bearded irises bloom in a variety of colors, including blue, purple, white, yellow, and more, typically from spring to early summer.

These irises are generally low-maintenance and resistant to deer, making them a reliable and attractive addition to any garden. With proper care, bearded irises can provide years of stunning blooms and elegant foliage

  • Genus: Iris
  • Common Name: Bearded Iris
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Light: Full sun
  • Soil Requirements: Well-drained, loamy
  • Height: 1-3 feet
  • Width: 1-2 feet
  • Flower Color: Various colors (blue, purple, white, yellow, etc.)
  • Foliage Color: Green
  • Bloom Time: Spring to early summer
Purple and white iris flowers bloom in an intricately landscaped garden, with green shrubs, a small rock bed, and red-leafed trees in the background. Large, carved wooden sculptures stand near the flowers, adding an artistic element to the serene scene. Growing Bearded iris in your flower garden

The Benefits of Growing Bearded Irises in Your Flower Garden

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!

Bearded Iris: 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.

close up of yellow bearded iris in the garden - How to Take Care of Plants While on Vacation

Bearded Irises Are Stunning Flowers

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.

Bearded Irises Are Low-Maintenance

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.

close up of angel's rest bearded iris in the garden
‘Angel’s Rest’ Bearded Iris flower

Bearded Irises Are Deer Resistant Plants

Bearded irises are not favored by deer, making them a good choice for gardens in areas with a high deer population.

In my gardens, we get herds of deer. Both here at the new house AND our former home. 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.

bearded iris dream of you
Dream of You Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris Is 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.

bearded irises in the zen garden by the koi pond

How to Plant Bearded Iris Bulbs: A Beginner’s Guide

Plant bearded irises in a sunny location to ensure they receive at least 6 hours of sunlight daily, which is crucial for abundant blooming. While they love direct sunlight with a full day of sun, they can also grow and bloom well in partial shade locations.

When caring for irises, plant them in a sunny site with well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. They prefer soil that is neutral to slightly alkaline soils, with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. The soil should be well-drained to prevent rhizome rot; raised beds or slopes are ideal planting sites if your garden soil tends to retain water.

Bearded irises grow from underground stems called rhizomes, which produce new leaves and flowers each year. Bearded iris rhizomes should be planted about 4 inches deep with a slight mound to accommodate root growth and 12-18 inches apart to allow for proper growth and flowering. And make sure the fanning of foliage is facing in the same directions when you plant.

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 bearded iris rhizomes in spring or fall so they establish themselves before cold winter temperatures arrive.

bearded iris dream of you
Iris Germanica Mother Earth – a Reblooming Iris

Bearded Iris Care: Nurturing Your Flowers

Caring for bearded irises involves understanding their specific needs to ensure they thrive and produce beautiful blooms year after year. Here’s what you need to know!

Watering Bearded Irises

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. It is important to water it regularly during the first year of growth to help establish its roots. In the following years, it may only need watering during periods of prolonged drought.

Golden rule to follow: aim for watering the roots at the base of plants, not the foliage. This is why drip irrigation and soaker hoses work incredibly well in flower gardens. Overhead watering can encourage pest problems and fungal diseases. Instead, use watering cans, soaker hoses, or drip irrigation systems to deliver water directly to the root zone where the plant needs it most.

One of the reasons you want to avoid watering from above is because when the foliage stays wet and the sun goes down, that water does not evaporate as well which causes fungal diseases. The same goes for the soil. When plants sit in wet soggy soil overnight it encourages pest and disease problems. And we don’t want that with our beautiful bearded iris blooms!

In addition to watering the base of plants, it’s also really important to water in the earlier part of the day instead of later in the day. It is better for your flower garden and plants because they will have a chance to dry out before nightfall when the temperatures cool.

close up of purple and white bearded iris

Fertilizing Bearded Irises

I generally don’t fertilize my irises and focus more on good soil quality with lots of compost, leaf mold, and other organic matter. I’m a huge proponent of focusing on soil quality instead of feeding perennials, shrubs, or trees with fertilizers. If you’ve already taken a soil test, follow any recommendations those results provided. Add compost, aged manure, leaf mold and other organic matter yearly to help improve your soil, improve drainage, and supress weeds.

The only situation I recommend fertizling bearded irisses is when they are grown in pots. In that circumstance, I would use a balanced slow-release fertilizer in the spring in addition to adding compost and other organic matter.

Mulching Around Your Bearded Irises

It’s always a great idea to mulch around your bearded iris. I recommend using organic mulch like wood chips because it will break down and help improve your soil over time while suppressing weeds, maintaining soil temperature, and helping plants retain moisture.

When you mulch, make sure you keep it away from the base of plants and do not cover the rhizomes. Mulching right on top of the base of plants encourages pest and disease problems – which we don’t want, am I right?

After our landscapers mulch the beds, you’ll frequently find me outside uncovering all my rhizomes because they are usually buried under the fresh mulch.

A vibrant garden scene featuring purple and white bearded irises in bloom. Surrounding the flowers are lush green plants, blooming alliums with spherical purple flowers, and various shrubs. A wooden sculpture is partially visible on the left side of the image. Bearded iris care

Weeding Around Bearded Iris

It is important to pull weeds around bearded iris bulbs and remove fallen leaves from the surface so it continues to get much-needed sunlight throughout the growing season.

Pruning Bearded Irises

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.

Staking Bearded Irises

Sometimes tall bearded iris blooms are so heavy, 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.

A vibrant display of yellow irises in full bloom against a soft-focus background of mixed garden greenery and purple flowers. Bearded iris care

Common Pest and Disease Problems

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 iris bulbs 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.

With proper care, bearded irises are beautiful and low-maintenance additions to your garden.

close up of war chief bearded iris in the garden with nepeta flowers in vibrant garden. Growing bearded iris
Bearded Iris War Chief

How to Divide Bearded Irises: Step-By-Step Instructions

Iris bulbs should be divided every three to four years to encourage healthy growth and prevent overcrowding (see below to learn how).

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.

close up of light purple and white bearded iris in the lush zen garden with potted flowers and stone mulch. growing bearded iris

Troubleshooting a Lack of Bearded Iris Flowers

There are a few reasons bearded irises may not bloom. So here are a few things to consider when troubleshooting why yours are not flowering.

  • They need full sun (6-8 hours) and well-draining soil to thrive. If you lack blooms, take a serious look at where they are planted and note how much sun that area receives.
  • Make sure the bearded iris rhizomes are not planted too deeply or covered with mulch.
  • If they are newly planted, they may need some time to establish themselves – so be patient. This has happened to me before with my bearded irises, peonies, and hydrangeas. Sometimes, patience is all that’s required.
  • It’s always a good idea to check your soil to make sure it has a strong basis for your plants. Get a soil test to determine if the soil is lacking nutrients and amend the soil accordingly.
close up of bearded iris with purple and white petals in vibrant garden. bearded iris care

Growing Bearded Iris in Pots

Growing bearded irises in pots is an excellent way to enjoy their stunning blooms even if you have limited garden space. Choose a pot at least 12 inches in diameter with good drainage to prevent root rot.

Fill it with well-drained, loamy soil and place the pot in a sunny location where the irises can receive at least 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. Water the plants thoroughly after planting, then allow the soil to dry out between waterings to avoid overwatering. Regularly deadhead spent blooms and divide the rhizomes every few years to ensure healthy growth and abundant flowering.

Since pots tend to dry out quicker in the summer, I also recommend running drip irrigation set on timers so it’s easier to maintain.

In colder climates, potted bearded irises will need protection from freezing temperatures. To successfully overwinter them, choose varieties that are two zones hardier than your growing zone This means, if you garden in zone 6 you’ll want a variety that can handle zone 4.

You can also try moving them to a sheltered location like a garage or unheated shed and insulating the pot with burlap or bubble wrap.

light purple and white bearded irises in the backyard zen garden by small koi pond with japanese maple and hardscaping with stone mulch - bearded iris care

Top Bearded Iris Plant Varieties

There are soooooo many types of bearded irises to love. I planted a bunch of new to me varieties last year that I cannot wait to see bloom this spring! My goal is to have a garden filled with the bearded iris flower.

Here’s a sample of my favorites that I’m growing here in my zone 6b garden in New Jersey!

  • Angel’s Rest
  • Mother Earth
  • Dream of You
  • War Chief
  • Whale’s Tale
  • All Night Long
  • Champagne Elegance
  • Silken Trim
  • Cafe Bleu
  • Petalpalooza
  • Skirting the Issue
Pink and purple irises blooming in a garden with lush greenery and a fence in the background. Angel's Rest with mother earth. Bearded iris care
Angel’s Rest and Mother Earth Bearded Irises

Companion Planting for Bearded Iris

If you are adding bearded iris flower to your garden this year, there are lots of great flowering annuals, spring flowering bulbs, and perennials that look amazing with the German iris. Here are some plants that I think look pretty with it.

For more information about growing and caring for bearded irises, check out the following extension articles:

close up of bearded iris that is white and purple with globemaster allium and siberian iris

Bearded Iris Care FAQ: Answers to the Most Common Questions

When is the best time to plant bearded iris?

The best time to plant bearded iris rhizomes is from late summer to early fall, typically August to September. This timing allows the plants to establish roots before winter. For those in colder climates, planting in early spring is also an option, giving the plants ample time to grow before the blooming season.

What type of soil is best for bearded irises?

Bearded irises prefer well-drained, loamy soil. Good drainage is essential to prevent root rot, which can occur if the soil is too waterlogged. Planting them on a slope or in raised beds can help improve drainage, especially in areas with heavy rains or snowfall​.

Do bearded iris spread?

Yes, bearded irises do spread. They grow from rhizomes, which are horizontal underground stems. Over time, these rhizomes multiply, producing new shoots and creating a larger clump of irises. Typically, bearded irises will spread and form dense clusters over a few years. They do not spread in an invasive or aggressive manner.

To manage their growth and ensure healthy blooming, it’s important to divide the rhizomes every 3-5 years. This division not only controls their spread but also rejuvenates the plants, leading to more vigorous flowering.

A vibrant garden scene featuring delicate pink irises in full bloom, with a blurred background of various green plants and a wooden structure, under bright sunlight. - Angel's rest and Dream of You Bearded Irises - growing bearded iris

Final Thoughts About Growing and Caring for Bearded Iris

Bearded irises are a stunning addition to any flower garden, renowned for their vibrant, ruffled blooms in a wide array of colors. Their beauty and resilience make them an easy-to-grow favorite for gardeners of all levels.

With minimal care, including full sun exposure, well-drained soil, and occasional division of rhizomes, these perennials reward you with an abundance of elegant flowers each spring. I absolutely love having bearded irises in my garden; their striking appearance and low maintenance needs make them a joy to grow.

If you’re looking to add a touch of elegance and color to your garden, consider planting bearded irises. You’ll fall in love with their effortless charm and beauty. Start growing your own bearded irises today and experience the joy they bring to your garden!

Do you grow bearded iris? What varieties are you growing if you do? If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below. And if you think someone else would love this post, feel free to share it with them or pin it to your favorite Pinterest Board.

To drill down on more beginner gardening techniques and tips, please read these post:

For more information about bearded iris care, please see this article from the University of Illinois Extension Service.

Thank you so much for following along.

Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

Stacy Ling bricksnblooms logo
Angels rest bearded iris with dream of you iris flower in my zone 6b garden
Bearded iris care and 5 reasons you should grow them with closeup of yellow bearded iris
my former cottage garden in the backyard with purple and white and yellow bearded iris in front of garden shed and wood picket fence
close up of my former front yard flower garden with bearded iris, smoketree and zebra grass
Bearded iris with columbine, smoke tree, and zebra grass
Smiling gardner Stacy Ling in a straw hat and overalls cutting zinnia flowers in her lush cottage garden with wood picket fence in front of garden shed
yellow bearded irises in front yard perennial garden in the happy gardening tour
yellow bearded iris is a great early spring blooming perennial to grow in the garden
The bricks \'n Blooms guide to a beautiful and easy-care flower garden book by stacy ling
The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy Care Flower Garden
  • Have you never met a plant you couldn’t kill?
  • Have you dug around in the dirt with nothing to show for it except a sunburn and a sore back?
  • Do you currently enjoy growing flowers, but are looking for more tips and ideas to level up your gardening game?

Then the Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide is for YOU

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. The absolute easiest flower there is! I have some from my grandmother and from other family members that have been handed down for at least 75 years.

    1. Right? Those are the best ones – with lots of memories. It’s the kind of flower that does that! And wow 75 years! I believe it!

  2. Stacy, I have been wanting to add these to my flower garden. Bearded Iris were one of my Grandmother’s favorite to grow in her garden. This type of Iris is magnificent with it’s showy blooms. So beautiful in a garden. You have me adding them to my spring “To Do List”.

    1. I’m so glad you are adding them! The really do last the longest time! I moved a clump of the ones my mother in law gave me when we moved to our former family home over 23 years ago! Can’t wait to see them in your garden!

  3. These are so gorgeous Stacy. I am so excited to see mine this year. The yellows and purples are stunning.

    1. Do you grow the reblooming varieties? IDK why but I’ve not planted them before! I really want to do a whole bed over the next few years. Get a few varieties, let them establish and grow, and then divide them.

  4. Mine are beautiful but the stocks are weak and fall over and break and it breaks my heart every summer

  5. I am not sure you have ever grown an iris if you recommend planting them 4 inches deep. That is a sure fired recipe to kill it. An iris rhizome should not be planted more than 1 inch deep. I grow over 800 varieties.
    I am a member of the American Iris Society and if you wish to have better information on how to plant an iris check with them.

  6. I would have just cut them off after starting to lean they also make good cut flowers for a vase and any blooms that have not bloomed will in the vase

    1. Oh I couldn’t agree more! They are beautiful in a vase. I just enjoy seeing them in the beds and sometimes have a hard time cutting them…even whent they are flopping over. LOL!