Bearded Irises: A Guide to Grow and Care for These Beauties

There’s something truly magical about the beauty of bearded irises. These stunning flowers come in a wide array of colors, from deep purples to bright yellows, and their intricate patterns and velvety petals make for a truly mesmerizing sight. But growing and caring for bearded irises isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s a rewarding experience that allows you to connect with nature and cultivate your own little slice of paradise.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, this guide will provide you with all the tips and tricks you need to grow and care for these breathtaking blooms. From choosing the right soil and sunlight to pruning and dividing your plants, we’ll cover everything you need to know to ensure your bearded irises thrive and flourish. So, grab your gardening gloves and let’s dive into the beauty of bearded irises!

Types of Bearded Irises

chart different iris type heights
Diagram courtesy of Sharlene Sutter at Dasirisfeld in Switzerland (

Bearded irises are a type of perennial flower that are known for their distinctive beards, which are fuzzy patches on the lower petals of the flower. There are three main types of bearded irises:

# Dwarf Bearded Irises

Dwarf bearded irises are the smallest type of bearded iris, growing to only about 8 inches tall. They are ideal for rock gardens, borders, and container gardens. They bloom early in the season, usually in April or May, and come in a wide range of colors, including white, yellow, pink, and purple.

# Intermediate Bearded Irises

Intermediate bearded irises are the middle-sized type of bearded iris, growing to about 16 inches tall. They bloom in mid-season, usually in May or June, and come in a wide range of colors, including blue, purple, pink, and yellow.

# Tall Bearded Irises

Tall bearded irises are the largest type of bearded iris, growing to about 28 inches tall. They bloom late in the season, usually in June or July, and come in a wide range of colors, including red, orange, yellow, pink, and purple.

Choosing the Right Location for Bearded Irises

Bearded irises are easy to grow and care for, but they do require the right location to thrive. Here are a few things to consider when choosing the right location for your bearded irises:

# Sunlight

Bearded irises require plenty of sunlight to grow and bloom. They should be planted in an area that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. If your garden doesn’t receive enough sunlight, you can still grow bearded irises, but they may not bloom as well.

# Soil Drainage

Bearded irises require well-drained soil to prevent rot and disease. They should be planted in a location with soil that drains well, such as a raised bed or a slope. If your soil doesn’t drain well, you can improve it by adding compost or sand.

# Wind Protection

Bearded irises can be damaged by strong winds, so it’s important to choose a location that provides some protection from the wind. Planting them near a fence or a wall can help protect them from strong gusts of wind.

Bearded Irises

Soil Preparation for Bearded Irises

Once you’ve chosen the right location for your bearded irises, it’s time to prepare the soil. Here are a few tips for preparing the soil for your bearded irises:

# Soil pH

Bearded irises prefer soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. You can test your soil’s pH with a soil test kit, which can be purchased at most garden centers.

# Soil Amendments

Bearded irises prefer soil that is rich in organic matter. You can improve your soil by adding compost, aged manure, or leaf mold. These organic materials will improve soil structure, increase soil fertility, and help retain moisture.

# Soil Texture

Bearded irises prefer soil that is loose and well-drained. You can improve soil texture by adding sand or perlite to heavy clay soils. If your soil is sandy, you can improve its ability to retain moisture by adding compost or peat moss.

Bearded Irises

Planting Bearded Irises

Planting bearded irises is easy and straightforward. Here’s how to do it:

# Timing

Bearded irises should be planted in the fall, usually in September or October. This allows the roots to establish themselves before the winter.

# Digging the Hole

Dig a hole that is about 12 inches wide and 6 inches deep. If you are planting multiple bearded irises, space them about 18 inches apart.

# Planting the Iris

Place the bearded iris in the hole, making sure that the rhizome (the thick, fleshy root) is facing downwards. Cover the rhizome with soil, leaving the top of the rhizome exposed. Water the iris thoroughly.

Watering and Fertilizing Bearded Irises

Bearded irises require regular watering and fertilization to grow and bloom. Here’s how to do it:

# Watering

Bearded irises should be watered regularly, especially during the first year after planting. They prefer moist, but not waterlogged, soil. Water deeply once a week, and more often during hot, dry weather.

# Fertilizing

Bearded irises should be fertilized twice a year: in the spring and in the fall. Use a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 fertilizer, and apply it according to the package instructions.

Bearded Irises

Pruning and Deadheading Bearded Irises

Pruning and deadheading bearded irises is important to ensure healthy growth and blooming. Here’s how to do it:

# Deadheading

Deadheading is the process of removing spent blooms from the plant. This encourages the plant to produce more blooms and prevents the plant from wasting energy on producing seeds. Deadhead bearded irises by cutting off the spent blooms just below the base of the flower stem.

# Pruning

Pruning is the process of removing dead or damaged leaves or stems from the plant. Prune bearded irises in the fall, after they have finished blooming. Cut back the leaves to about 6 inches above the ground, and remove any dead or damaged leaves or stems.

Common Pests and Diseases of Bearded Irises

Bearded irises are generally hardy and disease-resistant, but they can be affected by a few common pests and diseases. Here are a few to watch out for:

# Aphids

Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that can suck the sap from the plant, causing stunted growth and distorted leaves. They can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

# Iris Borer

The iris borer is a type of caterpillar that can burrow into the rhizome of the plant, causing it to rot. Infested plants should be dug up and destroyed.

# Leaf Spot

Leaf spot is a fungal disease that can cause brown spots on the leaves of the plant. It can be controlled with fungicides.

Propagating Bearded Irises

Bearded irises can be propagated by dividing the rhizomes. Here’s how to do it:

# Timing

Bearded irises should be divided every three to four years, usually in the fall.

# Digging up the Rhizomes

Dig up the rhizomes using a garden fork or a spade. Gently shake off the soil and remove any dead or damaged leaves or stems.

# Dividing the Rhizomes

Use a sharp knife to divide the rhizomes into sections, making sure that each section has at least one healthy fan of leaves and a portion of the rhizome.

# Replanting

Replant the divided rhizomes in a new location, following the planting instructions above.

Bearded Irises

Tips for Displaying Bearded Irises

Bearded irises are a stunning addition to any garden, but they can also be used in other ways to add color and beauty to your home. Here are a few tips for displaying bearded irises:

# Cut Flowers

Bearded irises make beautiful cut flowers. Cut them when the buds are just starting to open, and place them in a vase of water. Change the water every few days to keep the flowers fresh.

# Flower Arrangements

Bearded irises can be used in flower arrangements to add color and texture. Pair them with other flowers, such as roses or peonies, for a stunning display.

# Dried Flowers

Bearded irises can also be dried and used in wreaths or other decorative crafts. Hang the flowers upside down in a warm, dry place until they are completely dry.


Bearded irises are a beautiful and rewarding addition to any garden. With a little bit of care and attention, these stunning flowers can thrive and bloom for years to come. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, we hope this guide has provided you with all the information you need to grow and care for bearded irises.

Are you interested in adding rare flowers to your garden? Check our rare flower guide. Also, don’t forget to learn more about the benefits of visiting Lavender Farms.

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