Plant Profile: German Iris (Iris germanica)

German iris, bearded iris…whatever you choose to call them, they’re beautiful. I’ve never met a person that doesn’t like German iris. What do they have going for them? Let’s see, they’re perennial, very drought tolerant, extremely low maintenance and have beautiful blooms in April. Chances are that you’ve had German iris in your garden at one point or another. And if you’re like my family, you’ve passed them along from person-to-person. German iris are just one of those plants that belong in every garden, if it has the least bit of sun.

Let’s discuss the cultural needs of German iris before we talk about specific cultivars. They definitely prefer full sun but they can do quite well in dappled shade. You may not have as many blooms in part shade but they’ll still hang around and continue to give you seasonal color. German iris musy have well-drained soil or they’ll croak. They have adapted over time to droughty conditions and have a rhizome that provides moisture to the plant even when it’s really dry outside. Don’t plant them in damp areas of the garden or you won’t have any to share.

german iris

This is how the rhizomes should look when they are planted properly

Speaking of the rhizome, it must be planted so that it is above grade. It may seem odd to have part of your plant above ground, but that’s the way it needs to be. Otherwise, the rhizome will rot and your plants will meet an untimely death. So sad.

There is one pest that will damage your German iris and that is the iris borer. It actually isn’t the iris borer that kills the plant; it’s the bacterial soft rot that the iris borer brings with it. It’s easy to diagnose the bacterial soft rot…it is a putrid smell that will turn your stomach. If your plants are attacked by the iris borer and bacterial soft rot, remove the infected rhizomes and dispose of them in the trash. The chances that all of your irises will be infected is slim to none so don’t let the threat of a pest keep your from growing them. Now that we’ve talked about the cultural requirements, let’s look at some of the beautiful cultivars that are available.

German iris enthusiasts and hybridizers have been hard at work developing cultivars that bloom in the spring and again in the fall. Check out the American Iris Society for more information on their pursuits. These newer cultivars are known as rebloomers. Probably the best known of these is ‘Immortality’. It is pure white and gorgeous.

german iris

Photo courtesy of www.perennialnursery.com

One of my favorites is ‘Loop de Loop’. Besides the catchy name, I love the white blooms that are trimmed in purple.

 

german iris

Photo courtesy of www.veseys.com

If you’re into yellow, check out ‘Summer Olympics’. The blooms are ruffled and lemony yellow.

 

german iris

Photo courtesy of www.bcnursery.com

There are bicolors available and ‘Edith Wolford’ is a favorite. It has yellow standards (the top part of the bloom) and lavender falls (the bottom part of the bloom).

 

german iris

Photo courtesy of Thompson and Morgan

There are even near black German irises like ‘Superstition’. The color is actually a very dark purple but it appears black, especially from a distance.

 

german iris

Photo courtesy of www.irispatch.com

 

Do you have German irises in your garden? Are they the old-fashioned ones with the small lavender blooms or some of the newer hybrids? Either way, I’m sure that they light up the spring garden with their beautiful blooms. Let me know what’s growing in your garden by leaving me a comment below or e-mailing me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening!

 

April 18, 2012Permalink Leave a comment

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