Do you covet the beautiful bearded irises gracing the yard of your neighbor or local public garden? Bearded irises provide bursts of color in the spring and attractive grey-green spear-like leaves throughout the growing season. They make ideal plants for use in water-wise Mediterranean gardens, especially when paired with plants with similar cultural requirements, such as roses, lavender and rosemary. Bearded irises are easy to grow in Mediterranean climates and have few pests and diseases provided that a few important cultural requirements are met.
Soil: Bearded irises grow from rhizomes. They want soil with good drainage; standing water near the rhizomes can induce rot. If your soil does not drain well, plant bearded iris on a slope or in a bed.
Watering: Bearded iris prefer deep watering at spaced intervals. Once established, bearded iris are drought tolerant. In Mediterranean climates, gardeners need to ensure that bearded iris receive deep, regular water, whether through rain or irrigation, through the spring bloom; gardeners can reduce water during the summer. Too much water induces rot.
Sun: Bearded iris generally need at least a half day of sun to bloom well. In extremely hot areas, such as many of California’s inland valleys, they perform best in part shade. In areas along California’s coast, bearded iris should be planted in full sun.
In hot summer areas, plant bearded iris in September or October, after the heat breaks, allowing roots of new plants to establish in cooler, wetter conditions. Gardeners in cool to moderate summer areas can plant bearded irises from July through October.
Be aware that different types of plants we commonly call “iris” may have significantly different cultural requirements; these requirements only apply to “bearded irises.”
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