Thursday, September 27, 2018

Unusual Spring Bulbs: Dwarf Iris, Iris reticulata

Tulips and daffodils are classics but adding a few unusual choices can add a real flourish to the standard repertoire of spring bulbs. 

Dwarf Iris, Iris reticulata are among the earliest flowers to emerge each spring. The pictures you see here were taken in early to mid-April. 

These Dwarf Iris have delicate little blooms that somehow manage to withstand the frosty weather of early April alongside Crocus, Snowdrops, Winter aconite and Hellebores. Last year a late snowfall did damage some of the flower petals, but the flowers held their ground until the snow gave up and melted.

Dwarf or Netted Iris, Iris reticulata are native to Turkey, the Caucasus mountains of southeastern Russia, Northern Iraq and Iran. 

The flowers appear on leaf-less scapes. They have narrow upright standards and falls that fly outward and then down at the tips. These blooms are as silky as a fine lady's scarf and have a beautiful iridescent shine in the sunlight.

Dwarf Iris 'Clairette'

Plant the bulbs pointy end up.

Planting Dwarf Iris in the Garden

Dwarf Iris should be planted in the fall along with other bulbs like tulips and daffodils.

The pointy bulbs remind me a little of onion sets. When purchasing your Iris, bare in mind that these are relatively tiny flowers that can get lost even in a small garden, so plan to have groups of 10 or more bulbs for a more impressive show.

Dwarf Iris perform best in light soil that has excellent drainage. Plant the bulbs 3-4 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart. Full sun or part-shade.

Once the flowers fade the fine, grass-like foliage grows to a height of about 10-12 inches. The leaves are not terribly attractive at this stage but don't be tempted to cut them back. This green foliage feeds the bulbs that will produce next year's flower.

By early summer, the leaves have done their job. As the iris falls back into dormancy, the foliage begins to yellow. Other spring perennials will usually hide the unsightly leaves, but if they don't, you can now cut them back to the ground at this point.

Dwarf Iris bulbs can be lifted and divided after they bloom, but this extra work really isn't necessary. If the soil is relatively dry in the summer, tiny bulblets will form all on their own. They mature after a few years and will eventually produce new flowers.

Dwarf Iris 'Harmony' has royal-blue flowers with splashes of white and a yellow crest on each fall.

Plant type: Bulb

Height: 6-8 inches (15- 20 cm)

Spread: 3-5 inches (8-13 cm)

Main Flower Color: White, Yellow, Purple, Blue and Rusty-orange (with accents of other colors)

Lightly fragrant

Bloom period: April/May

Leaf: Thin green leaves

Light: Full sun or Part-shade

Companion Plants: Daffodils, Crocus, Snowdrops, Hellebores

Planting time: Fall

Deer resistant

Problems: None

USDA Zones: 5-9

Winter aconite and Snowdrops
Companion Plants

When massed Dutch Iris look great all on their own, but you can also mix them in with other bulbs that have complementary colors.

It's also a nice idea to accentuate the colors that typically mark iris flowers by choosing companion bulbs that are that same color. For example, play up the yellow crest of a royal blue Iris by planting yellow Winter Aconite.


Fancy Daffodil


Early risers are such a welcome sight at the end of a long Canadian winter! You know that spring is finally on its way when Dwarf Iris start to bloom. 

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