Irises are wonderful garden plants. The word Iris means rainbow. Irises come in many colors such as blue and purple, white and yellow, pink and orange, brown and red, and even black. Every gardener wants this perennial. It is hardy, reliable, and easy to grow. Irises also attract butterflies and hummingbirds and make lovely cut flowers. There are some 300 species in the genus Iris. The most familiar irises are the tall bearded irises (Iris germanica).
The distinctive flowers have three large outer petals called "falls" and three inner upright petals called "standards." The falls may have beards or crests. Bearded iris are so-called because they have soft hairs along the center of the falls. In crested iris, the hairs form a comb or ridge. Most irises flower in early summer. Some, mostly bearded hybrids flower again later in the summer. Irises need at least half a day of sun and well-drained soil.
Without enough sun, they won't bloom. They prefer fertile, neutral to slightly acidic soil. If your soil is very acidic, sweeten it with a bit of lime, and forbear summer watering, which can lead to rot. Bearded irises must not be shaded by other plants; many do best in a special bed on their own.
Soil drainage is very important. Loosen the soil with a tiller or garden fork to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Bearded irises have rhizomes (fleshy roots) that should be partially exposed, or thinly covered with soil in hot climates.
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