Iris germanica is believed to be the ancestor of many, if not most, of the modern bearded irises that are so popular with gardeners the world over. German iris has typical iris flowers. Each is composed of six perianth segments: three outer sepals called 'falls', alternating with three inner petals, called 'standards.' Each sepal is bedecked with a tuft of hairs down its inner midline: the 'beard.' The beard hairs are usually white with yellow tips. The flowers are pleasantly fragrant and come with white, purple, yellow or blue perianth segments. There can be as many as half a dozen flowers on a stalk. The flowering stalk may stand up to 3 ft (1 m) tall. The sword shaped leaves are mostly basal, in two ranks, and about 2 ft (60 cm) long. German iris spreads by rhizomes; it does not produce a bulb. German iris is a widely cultivated plant and hundreds (thousands?) of hybrids and cultivars are available. These plants vary greatly in size and flower color. For a list of some cultivars, see the Michigan State University Iris germanica web page. The botanical name for German iris, including hybrids, is sometimes given as Iris X germanica, pronounced 'Iris, the hybrid species germanica.'
Location Iris germanica is probably native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, but it has become established all over the temperate world and can be found growing on road shoulders and old home sites throughout much of the U.S. and Europe.
Culture German iris is very easy to grow in most any soil type. The rhizomes seem to like a warm soil, so don't mulch. Light: German iris will do best with full sun in the morning, but can tolerate light, dappled shade. Moisture: Provide ample water during establishment. Once established, irises need little care. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4-10.
Propagation: The creeping underground stems (rhizomes) spread rapidly and German iris soon forms a large clump. Pieces of rhizome can be broken off for replanting. Plant rhizomes shallowly, barely covered with soil. Plant them too deep and leaves will emerge, but the plant will not produce flowers.
'Painted Cloud' bearded iris is one of hundreds of hybrids, cultivars and varieties - I have about six others that I hope will bloom soon so I can take photographs for this profile ( click to download a large version of this image). The ordinary blue pass-along iris I grew as a kid were nice but some of these newer ones are incredible - and just as easy to grow. - JackUsage Irises are used in mass in flower beds and in borders. Allow German irises to spread in a lightly shaded wooded area in the back of the garden. The cultivar 'Florentina' (or variety florentina, depending on which expert you follow), has white flowers and its dried and ground rhizomes, called orris, are used in fine perfumes.
Features The more than 200 species of irises, named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, are divided into two major groups: bulbous and rhizomatous. The rhizomatous irises are divided into bearded, beardless and crested. The latter have a raised crest on the sepals instead of a beard.
WARNING All parts of irises can cause severe discomfort if ingested. The sap may irritate the skin of some people.