How to Plant and Grow Bearded Iris

Follow these tips to grow bearded irises and grace your garden with long-lasting, colorful flowers.

bearded Iris fringe of gold
Photo: Kim Cornelison

It's a magical time in the garden when bearded iris flowers unfurl their pencil-slim buds to reveal a kaleidoscope of color, beginning as early as March in warmer regions. Depending on the type of bearded iris, they can be in bloom into June. Some types even rebloom in late summer and fall.

It's easy to understand why people are so passionate about bearded irises. This very diverse group of plants offers gorgeous flowers. In addition to their long bloom time, bearded irises come in an incredible variety of colors and patterns. These plants get their name from a patch of soft bristles on the lower petals of the flowers.

Where to Plant Bearded Iris

These hardy perennials flourish in USDA Zones 3-9, where winter temperatures dip below freezing and let the plant go dormant before next year's growth.

How and When to Plant Bearded Iris

Plant bearded iris in a sunny spot in late summer. Bearded irises need good air circulation so give them room to breathe. Plant them a minimum of 16 to 18 inches apart (less space for dwarf irises and more for tall beaded iris varieties). When planting multiple bearded iris varieties, arrange rhizomes with their fans pointing away from each other so that the plants don't eventually grow together (unless that is what you want).

field of multi-colored bearded irises with trees and a fence in the background
Robert Cardillo

Bearded Iris Care Tips

No matter which varieties you choose to grow, you can do a few things to help bearded irises thrive in your garden. Follow these tips for the healthiest plants and best blooms.


Bearded Iris need at least six hours of sunlight per day. A full day of sun is even better to keep the rhizomes on the dry side. (The rhizomes are the fleshy rootlike structures at the base of the plant.)

Soil and Water

The plants need well-drained soil. Only water them if the soil is extremely dry or after transplanting. Do not mulch. Mulching helps the soil retain moisture, and too much moisture causes the rhizomes to rot.


Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer and apply it twice a year in early spring and again just after bloom when the rhizomes are forming the following year's flowers.


Prune back the foliage in the fall. This will reduce the chances of overwintering pests and diseases.

Pests and Problems

Bearded iris are susceptible to aphids, iris borers, and bacterial leaf spot. The best way to prevent these is to keep the garden area clean and the plants uncrowded.

If seedpods aren't removed after the plant blooms, seedlings may choke the surrounding soil. Seed formation also saps the energy needed by the rhizomes, roots, and leaves. It's best to deadhead your bearded irises once the flowers fade.

How to Propagate Bearded Iris

Dividing clumps of bearded iris plants every three to four years in late summer is an easy way to propagate new plants and improve the flowering of the original plant. Dig up the clump of rhizomes under the plant and separate the rhizomes by hand or with a sharp knife, leaving a few leaves on each rhizome. After trimming the leaves back to about a third of their original height, put the divided rhizomes in a shady area for a week for the cut surfaces to heal. Then you can replant (or give away) the new plants.

Types of Bearded Iris

Iris flowers have three primary structures, and the names of varieties are usually inspired by the unique characteristics of one of the parts. For example, the 'Fringe of Gold' flower has drooping "falls" that are white-edged (or picoteed) in yellow. The upright "standards" are solid yellow. And the tiny fuzzy "beard" in the middle is white and yellow. Here are a few different iris varieties to grow.

'Bumblebee Deelite' Dwarf Bearded Iris

bumblebee deelite dwarf bearded iris in glass bottle
Kim Cornelison

This variety is a dwarf tall bearded iris with yellow blooms. The petals have a white and deep purple-veined pattern that makes a bold contrast on each flower.

'Rebecca Perret' Bearded Iris

bearded iris rebecca perret flower in glass bottle
Kim Cornelison

White petals fade into light purple on the tips of this softer bearded iris variety. This mid-height selection also looks beautiful indoors in a vase where you can get a closer look at its multicolor petals.

'Perfect Pitch' Bearded Iris

bearded iris perfect pitch flower in glas bottle
Kim Cornelison

'Perfect Pitch' is a true purple bearded iris with ruffled petals. It's a tall variety, and it looks especially stunning planted alongside a few paler purple irises.

'Ozark Dream' Dwarf Bearded Iris

bearded iris miniature ozark dream flower in glass bottle
Kim Cornelison

If you love purple, 'Ozark Dream' is the bearded iris for you. The top petals of the bloom are a light purple, while the falls are dark violet.

'Latin Hideaway' Bearded Iris

bearded iris latin hideaway flower arrangement
Kim Cornelison

This tall bearded iris variety has a stark contrast between the top petals (which are white) and the falls (in a brick-red hue). The red falls petals have a hint of magenta near the center, and the inside of the white petals has a light pink shade.

'Gallant Moment' Bearded Iris

bearded iris gallant moment flower in glass bottle
Kim Cornelison

The scarlet blooms of this bearded iris variety make it stand out in the garden. The petals fade into orange and gold tones toward the center of the bloom. The outer edges of the petals become such a dark red that they almost look chocolate brown in places.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When does bearded iris bloom?

    Bearded iris varieties fall into three bloom classifications: early, midseason, and late. Depending on the area of the country, early bearded iris plants begin blooming in early spring, while others wait until early, mid or late summer. Some of the early bloomers bloom again in late summer to early fall. The best solution for continuous color is to plant some of each of the three classifications.

  • Do bearded iris attract deer, rabbits, or other creatures?

    The good news is the plant is resistant to deer and rodents. Although rabbits may nibble on the plant, it is toxic to them and causes them to vomit, so the problem doesn't usually persist. A very hungry vole or mole might dine on a rhizome, but aren't a major problem for most iris growers. Bearded irises are low-maintenance, drought-resistant plants that thrive in gardens despite the wildlife.

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