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Bearded Iris Care: 5 Reasons You Should Grow Them

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 are 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.

yellow bearded iris is a great early spring blooming perennial to grow in the garden

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 too. 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).

Yellow Bearded Iris and Globemaster Allium in the Cottage Garden

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.

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

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 and 12 inches apart to allow for proper growth and flowering.

For best results, plant them in spring or fall so they establish themselves before cold winter temperatures arrive.

yellow bearded irises in front yard perennial garden in the happy gardening tour

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.

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

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.

close up of bearded iris

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.

my former cottage garden in the backyard with purple and white and yellow bearded iris in front of garden shed and wood picket fence

Deer Resistant

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.

close up of my former front yard flower garden with bearded iris, smoketree and zebra grass
Bearded iris with columbine, smoketree, and zebra grass

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 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.

close up of light purpled bearded iris in the zen garden by the koi pond

Next, replant the divided rhizomes. When planting, dig a shallow hole that’s roughly 10″ diamter 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.

light purple and white bearded irises in the zen garden by small koi pond with japanese maple and hardscaping

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!

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Bearded iris care and 5 reasons you should grow them with closeup of yellow bearded iris

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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.

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Stacy Ling

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6 Comments

  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.