Iris Basics: Choosing Your Irises

Iris Basics: Choosing Your Irises

Now that your iris area is prepared, it’s time for the fun part: choosing which irises to grow!  There are thousands of bearded irises available, and here we’ll give you some ideas on designing your own personal iris garden and where to find the irises you want.  Since we are HIPS, we encourage you to consider growing at least some historic irises, but the planting procedures are the same for all bearded irises.  We’ll use historic irises for the ideas presented here.  Information on where to get irises is at the bottom of the page.

Start by looking at this page on Iris Color Classifications.  Once you understand the different color patterns of irises, it will make it easier to choose what you want. (Or, in the case of most HIPS members, harder to choose because you’ll want them all.)

Here are some ideas for brand-new iris gardens.

A Simple Starter Iris Garden:   One way to gain confidence growing irises is to start with some varieties that are super-tough. We’ve picked out a few that HIPS members recommend and tend to grow well in many areas. Click on the name to go to the HIPS Gallery for more information.

Purple: ‘Lent A. Williamson’ ‘Eleanor Roosevelt’ and  ‘Sable’
Yellow: ‘Coronation’ (bright), ‘Flavescens’ (soft), and ‘Baby Blessed’ (dwarf)
Red/Pink: ‘Rota’ (bright), ‘Indian Chief’ (plum-red) and ‘Queen of May’ (pastel)
Blue: ‘Allegiance’ and  ‘Blue Rhythm’
Gold/Brown: ‘Knotty Pine’ (dwarf) and  ‘Glen Ellen’
Variegata (yellow standards, red or purple falls): ‘Accent’, ‘Staten Island’, and ‘Romeo’
Amoena (white standards, colored falls): ‘Mrs. Andrist’ and ‘Wabash’

This is just a starter list.  You’ll find many, many more choices in our HIPS Gallery.

A Theme Garden: Many iris lovers plant “theme beds” of irises.  This is a fun way to personalize your garden. Here’s an article on creating a theme bed, with suggestions to get you started.

A Breeder Collection: Iris gardeners love to collect irises, and lots of irisarians will collect the introductions of a specific hybridizer.  This is not only a fun challenge, but it helps keep these historic irises around for future generations to enjoy.  An easy way to get started is to look though the HIPS Gallery for irises that you find particularly beautiful, and then look for other introductions by that hybridizer.  Before you know it, you’ll be hunting down irises to add to your collection!

An Eclectic Garden: There is nothing wrong, and everything right, with simply planting the irises that you find most appealing!  Many iris gardens start this same way, and any long-time irisarian will tell you there are special irises that they simply won’t give up.  Consider using all types of irises in your garden, from the tall beardeds down to the miniature and dwarf varieties.  Gardens evolve over time, and yours will, too as you find what grows well for you and what you particularly enjoy.  Have fun, and don’t forget to check into our Member Forum and chat with other iris lovers.


There are a number of ways to obtain the irises you want.  Start by visiting our Commercial Sources page, which has information and links to help you.  Our Commercial Sources Databank is a listing of all the irises grown by commercial vendors. Their contact information is also available on the Commercial Sources page. Please patronize their businesses, because these vendors are helping to keep historic irises in commerce!

You can also check with your local iris society to see if they hold an annual sale.  Not sure if you have an iris club near you?  Contact the AIS Director for your region.  You’ll find contact information here.

Our Members Forum has an area where HIPS members can swap and share irises.  If you can’t find something you want, consider posting a notice in that section of the Forum.

Now that you’ve selected some irises, it’s time to plant them.  Visit our Iris Planting and Care page next.



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