Bearded iris come in a symphony of colors and sizes. They are spring bloomers that have a crested ridge along the top of the flower. Classified as perennials, bearded iris are hardy in zones 2 through 8. There is a full palate of colors to choose from, and they can grow a couple of feet tall or be diminutive dwarf varieties. The plant is also known as the German iris and has been thought to be the symbol on the fleur de lis.
History of the Iris
Iris plants were first introduced to the garden around 1479 B.C. King Thutmose III of Egypt saw the flowers growing in Syria and wanted some for his garden. He enlisted his botany experts and the plants were brought to Egypt where they flowered in his gardens. Louis the VII saw the flowers in Egypt during the 12th Century Crusades and had them brought to France. He also adopted the flower as a symbol of his conquest and it became his personal crest.
The bearded iris belongs to the family Iridaceae of which there are numerous varieties. It thrives in a sunny location in either sandy or clay loam with average water. The plant has sword-like leaves and can have several blooms on the stem. The large flowers are held erect on single or branched stems.
Iris Rust Identification
Iris rust is a fungus that causes small red or rust spots on the plant. These can be ovoid and are centered with yellow with a dark, powdery residue on the spots. Puccinia iridis is the spore that causes the rust. Brushing the spots can cause it to be spread by contaminating contact with other iris.
Rust will overwinter on stems, leaves and spent flowers, so it is important to remove old season growth. Like most fungus, rust needs water and can be splashed from plant to plant by water spatters. It can be controlled with a fungicide, planting resistant iris varieties and cleaning up around the plants. Water during the day to give the plant time to dry by nightfall.
Bearded iris are considered poisonous. When ingested, it can cause severe discomfort or illness. The sap can cause skin irritation, so glove use is suggested, or careful handwashing after contact.