Iris germanica (Iris, German Iris)

Iris germanica is most likely the father/mother of most cultivated irises today (of which there are thousands), including ‘Monet Blue’ and ‘Mary Frances’. These irises typically have 6 flowers that occur per flower spike in May, ranging from light blue to deep purple to gold-yellow.

Iris germanica (Iris, German Iris, Common Flag)
Deciduous: yes
Hardiness Zones: 3-8 (potentially 2-10)
Height: 60-90 centimeters (24-36 inches) tall
Diameter: typically 30-60 centimeters (12-24 inches) across
Growth Rate: moderate, improved by mulch
Age: perennial
Root System: Rhizomes with roots underneath divide every 3-4 years. The roots are soft, so heavy clay soils and poor drainage must be avoided.
Family: Iridaceae
Subspecies: ‘Monte Blue’ and ‘Mary Frances’ are pictured below. Hundreds of cultivars exist.

Tolerates: deer, drought, light shade
Problems (major): root rot in soaked and nutrient poor soils, iris borers, crown rot fungus, fungal leaf spot
Problems (minor): Clay soils severely inhibit growth. The roots are soft, so heavy and poorly drained soils should be avoided. Leaf spots may be problematic.
Poisonous: Contact may cause temporary, minor skin irritation. The rhizomes are poisonous to eat, as they contain irisin/iridin/irisine.

Soil requirements: requires light to moderate soils (not heavy), pH of 6.0-7.0, good drainage
Air requirements: not sufficiently researched
Watering requirement: Keep the soil evenly moist, but do not let these sit in water.
Sun requirement: full sun, may survive in part-shade

Leaf shape: pointed, upright, sword-shaped
Leaf size: up to 15 centimeters (6 inches) tall
Flower structure: Each flower spike/stalk produces around 6 flowers. The 3 upright petals are called “standards”; the 3 hanging sepals are called “falls”. These are colored light blue to light pink.
Flowering frequency: These bloom in May; each flower persists for about 3 days.
Bulb/tuber: rhizome/bulb
Monocot/Dicot: monocot
Annual/Biennial/Perennial: perennial

Notable characteristics:
The flowers are easy to recognize, come in a wide variety of colors, and are very attractive. Thousands of cultivars/subspecies/hybrids presumably originate from I. germanica.

Commonly used as a border plant or ornamental. Do not ingest.

Sources used:

A close-up of a single flower
Several light-purple irises (var. ‘Mary Frances’) flowering in May (picture taken by a friend, used with permission)

Multiple irises beginning to emerge in early spring
Several irises with light-blue flowers
A close-up of several emerging and unraveling flowers
Multiple mature and opening flowers

An overhead view of multiple flowers


A newly-sprouted iris in early spring
The foliage and flowers of several crowded German Irises 

All of the images provided (excluding those noted) were taken by me. They may be used for educational or informational purposes only, provided that this article/blog is appropriately cited.


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