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How to Mix Colors in Iris Plants

By Jacob J. Wright ; Updated September 21, 2017
A bi-colored bearded iris with white standards has lavender-blue falls.
Iris after rain image by Lucy Cherniak from Fotolia.com

Regardless if you grow bearded, Siberian, spuria, Japanese, Louisiana, dwarf Dutch or sweet flag iris, it is the array of flower colors that draw the eye. Petal color options, either solid or bi-colored, bring the opportunity to group iris plants for vivid and stunning displays. Focus on contrast when mixing irises that bear different flower colors. This contrast heightens each flower's color and shape. Avoid planting irises that bloom in the same color next to each other as you risk "washing out" the effect of their color and diminishing the subtle tints and shades of that color.

Iris provides no hint to its flower color until blooming.
Iris leaves in rain image by Lightcatcher from Fotolia.com

Search out the general flower color for each iris plant in your collection. Look on plant labels that accompanied the plant rhizomes from the nursery or look up their variety names in perennial books, catalogs or online to glean their expected flower color.

Mark plants so you remember their flower colors when transplanting.
iris image by ynartseo from Fotolia.com

Stick a small dot or other sticker on the dry leaf of the iris to help you quickly identify its general flower color. Chances are you are transplanting irises in late summer when they are not in flower. For example, any light blue flowering plant should get similarly coded stickers different from other plants that may bloom white, yellow, dark purple or bi-color.

This violet iris has a spot of yellow for natural contrast.
purple iris close image by Trevor Goodwin from Fotolia.com

Plant irises with contrasting colors next to each other in the planting bed. For example, if you plant a purple flowering iris, nearby irises should have white, yellow or orange blooms. If the iris is bi-colored, match one of the petal colors with a nearby iris. For example, if the bi-colored iris is yellow and purple, plant it next to solid-color purple or yellow flowers.

Adding a white or yellow iris among these purple irises heightens contrast.
IRIS image by DELAVOGE from Fotolia.com

Use white or pastel colored iris to unify large collections of plants that may all be similarly blue or purple. This also pertains to green-leaf and variegated leaf iris plants. Planting the occasional white or pale iris flower will contrast the darker flowering irises and supply a color reference to help visually differentiate among all the tones. A variegated leaf iris that randomly occurs among many solid green leaved types is more visually punctuated.


Things You Will Need

  • Iris literature, such as books, catalogs or websites
  • Pack of small dot stickers in different colors


  • Use the color wheel to determine complimentary combinations such as yellow and purple. White goes with all colors, as does green. Remember that foliage unifies all irises in the garden even if colors may be wildly dissimilar. Black irises should not be too close to dark rust- or royal purple-colored ones.
  • Remember the flowering times of the types of iris. Color combinations of early blooming types like Dutch iris will not been seen later when the bearded iris bloom, following by Louisiana iris.
  • Take notes once the irises are blooming as to which plants' flower colors look especially nice next to each other or look awful. Transplant irises as needed to improve the display for next year.


  • Consider using a colored string tie or wire cable flag to help organize and identify irises if you will plant them later. Stickers will wash off in rain.

About the Author


Jacob J. Wright became a full-time writer in 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. He has worked professionally at gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Wright holds a graduate diploma in environmental horticulture from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware.