Popular Types of Iris Varieties

Two-toned and ruffled irises are some of the most popular.

Two-toned and ruffled irises are some of the most popular.

Classification of iris plants is a bit confusing for the newcomer. First, irises grow either from bulbs or rhizomes. Rhizomatic irises, the most popular, are further classified into beardless, bearded and crested. The beard on an iris is the appendage on the lower petal that looks a bit like a caterpillar. It is either the same color as the flower or a contrasting color. The most popular of the rhizomatic irises are the Japanese beardless iris, the German bearded iris and the tall bearded iris. Iris is Greek for rainbow, which is exactly what you’ll find when considering which color of iris to grow.

Celebration Song

Celebration Song (Iris germanica “Celebration Song”) is a highly popular iris that quickly sells out in nurseries and garden catalogs. Celebration Song is a type of German iris that produces more stems than others in the group. It gains its popularity, though, from its two-toned apricot and blue flowers. So enchanting are the Celebration Song’s flowers, the plant earned the prestigious Dykes Memorial Award in 2003. Slender false dragonhead makes an attractive companion planting for Celebration Song.

Yaquina Blue

Yaquina Blue is another award-winning iris that sells quickly, primarily because of its intense blue flowers, known in the floral industry as marine blue. This tall bearded iris produces large, ruffled flowers that measure 4 inches across. Best of all, the flowers are sweetly fragranced. To keep the color and fragrance coming all season long, snip off flowers as they fade. Yaquina Blue has won multiple awards, including the granddaddy of them all, the Dykes Memorial in 2001.

Freckled Geisha

Freckled Geisha (Iris ensata “Freckled Geisha”) is a Japanese iris and, thus, beardless. It bears amazingly ornamental flowers that are large -- up to 6 inches -- and white, splattered with purple freckles. The edges of the flowers are rimmed in the same deep purple. Freckled Geisha plants bloom from early to mid-summer and can grow to 34 inches in height. Freckled Geisha does best when provided with morning sun and afternoon shade. Grow it with one of the solid-colored irises in a deeper shade of purple or a contrasting shade to add a pop of color to a shady garden spot.

Dusky Challenger

Dusky Challenger, a tall bearded iris, was chosen by the members of the American Iris Society as the best tall bearded iris of 2010. Dusky is the operative word in this plant’s nomenclature as it bears huge, 36-inch flowers in a deep, dusky denim-like blue. Plant this beauty alongside orange milkweed for a striking display of contrasting colors. Dusky Challenger is a bearded iris, so be careful how much water you give. Bearded irises are susceptible to rhizome rot. They are also big eaters and need to be fed in spring, again after blooming and again in the fall.

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