Bearded iris – The varieties! (Part II)

Photo by Erl Svendsen. Dwarf iris are 7 to 15 cm (3-6 in.) high with flowers borne singly on short stems hidden by the foliage.

Sara Williams, Saskatchewan Perennial Society

Last week’s article covered the origin, classification, description, care, propagation and placement of the various types of bearded iris. Here I introduce you to some of the many varieties within each group.

Dwarf iris, generally classified as Iris pumila (sometimes found among the bearded iris in catalogs and greenhouse benches), are 7 to 15 cm (3-6 in.) high with flowers borne singly on short stems hidden by the foliage. Native to Europe and Asia Minor, they are nearly always hybrids involving I. chamaeiris as a parent. They are among the most dependable iris on the prairies and should be much more widely available at local nurseries and greenhouses. If you can’t find them locally, try the plant exchanges and sales of your local horticultural society. Or purchase them on-line through the catalogs of several Canadian nurseries that specialize in iris.

Dwarf iris are ideal in a rock garden or placed at the front of a border. They are generally divided into two groups. Miniature dwarf iris are 15-20 cm (3-4 in.) in height. Standard dwarf iris are 20-40 cm (4-16 in.) in height. Both are ruggedly hardy in prairie gardens, blooming in early spring. Plant them in well drained soil in full sun.

Among the Miniature Dwarf Bearded Iris are:

‘Snow Tree’– pure white petals with outstanding olive-green veining, 30 to 40 cm (12-16 in.)

‘Eramosa Pepper’ – pale blue, darker around the blue beard, 20 cm (8 in.)

‘Forever violet’- smooth violet self with dark violet beard, 18 cm (7 in.)

 ‘Azurea’ – originated before 1881; very early with light blue flowers, 15 cm (6 in.)

‘Sleepy Time’ – pale light blue self (standards and falls are same colour) with white beard, 14 cm (5.5 in.)

‘Wise’ – dark purple with white-gold beard, ruffled, 18 cm (7 in.)

A sampling of Standard Dwarf Bearded Iris:

‘Cat’s Eye’ – mauve rose standards with fine black cherry veins and feathered edges, dark cherry red falls veined black and widely banded in mauve rose and violet beards with brown tips. 38 cm (15 in.)

‘Fireplace Embers’ – dark yellow standards, dark maroon falls and gold beards, 25 cm (10 in.)

‘Blue White’ – blue standards and falls that are white with blue veins edged blue with white beards, 15 to 30 cm (6-12 in.)

‘Brassie’ – chrome yellow standards, chrome yellow falls faintly overlaid green and yellow beards, 36 cm (14 in.)

‘Adoring Glances’ – light grey standards, falls with chartreuse infusion; blue beard, 12 in (30 cm)

‘Ahwahnee Princess’– pale pink with wisteria blue beard and soft orange throat, 12 in. (31 cm)

‘Autumn Maple’ – medium pinkish orange, beards dark orange, 28 cm (11 in.)

‘Azure Like It’ – wisteria blue with white beard, 33 cm (13 in.)

‘Bantam Prince’ – dark royal purple, 25 cm (10 in.)

‘Bazinga’ – mid-clear yellow, white throat, 38 cm (15 in.)

‘Beginners Surf’ – light butterfly blue, darker beard, 28 cm (11 in.)

‘Being Busy’ – yellow standards, maroon falls, white beard, 36 (14 in.)

‘Black Lightning’ – dark purple black, striking purple beard, 36 (14 in.)

‘Blissful’ – clear mid yellow, tangerine beard, 15 in (39 cm)

Among the many intermediate bearded iris are:

‘Aqua Taj’ – dark blue with bronze beards, 56 cm (22 in.)

‘August Treat’ – blue-lavender, 51 cm (20 in.)

‘Lakota’ – orchid-peach, 58 cm (23 in.)

‘Anaconda Love’ – pink-purple, 60 cm (24 in.)

‘Blue Flirt’ – white with blue beard, 64 cm (25 in.)

‘Bounce’– garnet to rose amethyst, 64 cm (25 in.)

‘Batik’ – purple streaked with white and yellow beards, 60 to 65 cm (23-25 in.)

‘Lenora Pearl’ – soft salmon pink, 70 cm (27 in.)

‘Anaconda Pearl’ – light pink standards lightly splashed with beetroot-purple, beetroot-purple falls streaked silver white and orange beards, 60 cm (24 in.)

The above are just a very small sampling of what is available. There are many many more!

A gentle reminder: Many tall bearded iris are available in prairie garden centres. They bear spectacular flowers in a wide array of colours. But only about 25% of these can be expected to survive more than one or two seasons in our Saskatchewan gardens. Mulching plants deeply and placing them in a protected area (in full sun)is recommended.

Sara Williams is the author of many books including Gardening Naturally with Hugh Skinner, Creating the Prairie Xeriscape, and with Bob Bors, Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens. She gives workshops on a wide range of gardening topics throughout the prairies.

This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society (SPS; Check our website ( or Facebook page ( for a list of upcoming gardening events.