Plants - Perennials

Irresistible irises: Secrets to eight weeks of blooms

Yvonne Cunnington
Photography by
Tracy Cox

With a bit of planning, you can enjoy a colourful array of bearded irises throughout spring and early summer

Plant for 8 weeks of bloom
Miniature Dwarf (MDB) Up to 20 cm tall; fresh, clear colours; effective in rock gardens or as edgers
Bloom period: Late April to 
late May
Cultivars/colours: ‘Alpine Lake’ (icy blue), ‘Coral Carpet’ (light orange), ‘Mini-Plic’ (white with purple stitches), ‘Red-at-Last’ (bright red)

Standard Dwarf (SDB) Range from 20 to 
40 cm tall; many colours
Bloom period: Early to 
late May
Cultivars/colours:‘Ballet Lesson’ (peachy pink), ‘Dark Vader’ (deepest purple with blue beards), ‘Ruby Eruption’ (ruby red on yellow), ‘Sun Doll’ (bright yellow), ‘Trajectory’ (purple with white spot)

Miniature Tall (MTB) From 40 to 70 cm tall; dainty clumps resemble clouds of butterflies; good cut flowers
Bloom period: Mid-May to 
early June
Cultivars/colours:  ‘Aachen Elf’ (yellow and lavender), ‘Ace’ (violet plicata on white), ‘Bumblebee Deelite’ (yellow with maroon spot), ‘Merit’ (lavender and bronze on white), ‘Lady Emma’ (yellow)

Intermediate (IMB) From 40 to 70 cm tall; show dwarf ancestry in early bloom time and interesting colour patterns
Bloom period:Mid-May to 
early June
Cultivars/colours:  ‘Agatha Christie’ (wisteria blue plicata), ‘Blue-Eyed Blonde’ (yellow with blue beards), ‘Elysium’ (peachy pink), ‘Fooled Me’ (stitched purple), ‘Theda Clark’ (violet, fragrant)

Border (BB) Same height range and bloom size as intermediates; round petals complement their size; good proportion of flower size to plant height for use in borders
Bloom period:Late May to 
late June
Cultivars/colours:  ‘Batik’ (purple streaks on white), ‘Brown Lasso’ (lavender and mustard), ‘Cranapple’ (cranberry red), ‘Eramosa Miss’ (apricot pink), ‘Pink Bubbles’ (flamingo pink)

Tall (TB) Stalks 70 cm tall or more, branching with many buds; huge blooms in wide variety of colours and patterns; more petal ruffling and lacing (frilled or crimped serrations on outer edges of petals) than other types
Bloom period: Late May to 
late June
Cultivars/colours: ‘Dusky Challenger’ (blue-purple)—No. 1 favourite of American Iris Society, ‘Epicenter’ (burgundy on apricot yellow), ‘Jurassic Park’ (yellow and purple), ‘Poem of Ecstasy’ (pink and mauve),‘Supreme Sultan’ (gold and dark red)

* Bloom period based on growing conditions in southern Ontario; adjust accordingly.


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