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Iris: the flower with a message

The Iris is not only unique; you could even call it magical. It can be found in every color of the rainbow including the most stunning color of all: blue. Did you know that there are both large-flowering and small-flowering irises?

Rainbow

The name ‘iris’ is Greek for ‘rainbow’. And a very apt name it is since irises come in every color of the rainbow. Besides the literal meaning of the word ‘iris’, Iris is also a character from Greek mythology. This was the goddess who transferred messages between the gods and people. To do so, she slipped down from heaven to earth on a rainbow. And this is also the source of the Iris’ symbolic meaning: ‘I have a message for you’.

Straight into its heart

The enchanting Iris belongs to the Iris family and was first mentioned around 1500 BC. This charismatic flower has three petals. As it opens slowly but surely, you can you look straight into its heart. The natural beauty of irises adds a beguiling element to a garden, and their colors are bright and expressive. In addition to their various blues, irises are also available in yellow, lilac, purple, brown and white. Some even sport two colors.

Groups

Bulbing irises are classified into two groups: the large-flowering and the small-flowering irises. Large-flowering irises grow to a height of 20 to 28 inches and produce flowers in May and June. The small-flowering irises are also known as dwarf irises. These produce small flowers with intricate markings, grow to only 6 inches in height, and bloom in February and March. The leaves of both groups are tubular and pointed.

Planting

If you want to enjoy magnificent irises in your garden early in the spring, be sure to plant them in the fall. Large-flowering irises should be planted in a sunny position, at a depth of 2 inches and about 3 inches apart. If your region has harsh winters, protect them with a layer of straw. Small-flowering irises will bloom profusely in either sunny or semi-shady locations. Plant these bulbs three times as deep as they are tall. To create a pretty carpet of flowers in the garden, plant them in dense clusters.

Interesting facts

  • Botanists have discovered more than 200 species of irises. Most of them grow from bulbs while some emerge from rhizomes.
  • Perhaps you don't have a garden. That’s no problem either since irises can also be planted in containers on balconies and patios.
  • Varieties of Iris hollandica are commonly grown for their cut flowers. This makes them a fine choice for your cutting garden.
  • In addition to bulbing irises, there are also irises that grow from rhizomes. These perennial plants are varieties of Iris germanica.
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