The iris is an ancient plant with cultivation dating back 3 and half thousand years to the times of the pharaohs. Over the millennia, this plant has been used in medicines and perfumes and to decorate the grand gardens of Europe.

The iris also has become stylized into the ‘fleur de lis’ which has become a well-known symbol of both the French aristocracy and the Scouting Movement. Commercial Iris grower, Steve Ward from Yarrabee Gardens & Iris at One Tree Hill tells us more about this wonderful plant.

There are many different types of Irises. The first difference is that some are Bulbs and some are Rhizomes. Bulbs usually go dormant (lose their leaves) for part of the year and the piece that lives in the ground is round and is made up of layers, like an onion. Rhizomes are horizontal underground stems that strike new roots out of their nodes, down into the soil, and that shoot new stems out of their nodes, up to the surface. This rhizome activity represents a form of plant reproduction. Most iris in this group are evergreen but some go dormant, usually in late summer/autumn.

Bulb Iris
– The most common bulb irises are Dutch Irises.

Rhizome Irises
– Bearded Irises have a fuzzy caterpillar like area at the top of the falls. This may be one of many colours such as blue, red, yellow etc. Occasionally this beard extends out into a pointed part called a horn.
– Crested Irises form a much smaller group, but they have a small raised area called a crest instead of a signal or a beard.
– Supuria Irises and are admired for their ease of growth and enormous size. Their exquisite flowers are highly sought by both florists and arrangers
– Louisiana Irises are water plants that produce beautiful long stemmed blooms.

Irises are extremely hardy and ideal for a waterwise garden. For more information on growing irises, head to the South Australian Iris Society website!


About The Author

In the Garden is an exciting new local South Australian TV program on Channel 9 this Summer & next Autumn showcasing the best ‘green’ stories this state has to tell. Check out the latest in garden trends, new plants and top tips to keep those gardens blooming.