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Order these spring-planted bulbs NOW for delivery in APRIL.

ENDURING PERENNIALS — Tough, beautiful, and diverse, heirloom iris thrive without care in old gardens and graveyards across America.

TO BLOOM THIS YEAR — Though iris are usually sold bare-root in summer and don’t bloom till the next, we ship freshly dug plants in April that, with good care and a bit of luck, may well bloom their first summer.

HISTORY & TIPS — Grown here since colonial days, iris became one of the “it” flowers of the Arts and Crafts era. They like full sun and well-drained soil. Learn more.

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Immortal Iris sampler   
Sampler

Icons of the late-spring/early-summer garden, bearded iris are easy to grow and richly diverse. Give them full sun and average to well-drained soil and they’ll reward you for close to forever. We’ll send you 3 of our favorite heirlooms (a few possibilities are pictured here), all different, labeled, freshly dug from our Ann Arbor micro-farm, and great for zones 3a-8a(10aWC).

For more of each variety, order additional samplers. Iris care.

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Caprice iris    1898

“‘I smell ripe grapes!’ cried a freckle-faced boy” in Ella McKinney’s 1927 Iris in the Little Garden – but it was actually this richly fragrant iris he smelled. It’s richly colored, too, a pure, deep, glowing rose that drew me like a beacon when I first saw it at our local Farmers Market many years ago. Just 24-26 inches tall, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Chart and care.

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Coronation iris    1927
Rarest & It’s Back!

The perfect yellow iris? Could be! It’s not too pale, not too bright, tough enough to thrive in total neglect, and it blooms and blooms – often after all the other iris here in our micro-farm have called it quits for the season. Introduced by Agnes Moore of tiny Benton, Illinois, it has become, in the words of iris expert Mike Unser, “truly an iris classic.” 28-36”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Chart and care.

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Eleanor Roosevelt iris    1933
It’s Back!

Short, early, and REBLOOMING, ‘Eleanor’ flowers at the very dawn of iris season and then again in the fall in warmer gardens. It’s an intensely deep reddish-purple with a fascinating iridescent sheen. Named for the First Lady who became one of the most admired people of the 20th century, this special iris deserves your vote! Just 20 inches tall, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), Ann Arbor. Chart and care.

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Frank Adams iris    1937
Rarest & It’s Back!

With its exotic blend of parchment, bronze, rust, rose, and oxblood, this intriguing iris adds a note of “unusual warmth and vibrancy” (Schreiner’s, 1946) to the early summer garden. It was bred in Elkhart, Indiana, by E.G. Lapham, president of the Elkhart Rubber Works, who swore that the irises he grew behind his factory weren’t a distraction but a “life-saver.” 38-46”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Chart and care.

Limit 5, please.
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Germanica iris    1500

This iconic flower could be called the original bearded iris. Fragrant and tough, it was grown in ancient Rome, carried east on the Silk Road, and by 1629 was so widely planted in England that Parkinson called it “the common purple flower-de-luce.” It’s also the iris immortalized by Van Gogh in his masterpiece Irises which sold in 1987 for a record-setting $54 million. 30-36”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Chart and care.

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Loreley iris    1909
Rarest & It’s Back!

Named for the golden-haired siren of the Rhine, this quirky flower was one of the most popular iris of the early 20th century. Its glowing, primrose-to-amber standards are held in an open, goblet-like form, and they’re often splashed with bits of the richly veined violet of the falls – two “imperfections” that somehow only add to its enduring appeal. By Germany’s Goos and Koenemann, 22-26”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Chart, care, and learn more.

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Mrs. Horace Darwin iris    1888
Rarest & It’s Back!

The violet reticulations on this elegant, not-so-big iris make it even more beautiful up close – and great for bouquets. Named for the wife of one of Darwin’s sons, it’s an enduring survivor by Sir Michael Foster “whose name shines more luminously than any other in the early history of garden iris” (Mahan, Classic Iris). Fragrant, 24-26”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Chart, care, and learn more.

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pallida Dalmatica iris    1597
It’s Back!

This is the iris of my childhood, and maybe yours – tall, pale lavender, tough as nails, with a Concord grape fragrance that, as Elizabeth Lawrence wrote, “fills the borders and drifts into the house.” In his monumental Herbal of 1597, Gerard called it “the great Floure de-luce of Dalmatia” and praised its tall stalks, “faire large floures,” and “exceedingly sweet” scent. Even its leaves are beautiful! Stately but down-home, it’s a quintessential iris – and somehow makes everything around it look better. (See it farmed in Italy for making perfumes and gin.) 36-38”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Chart, care, and learn more.

Limit 10, please.
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Quaker Lady iris    1909
It’s Back!

One of the best-loved American iris of all time, ‘Quaker Lady’ is a “dainty, charming” plant with flowers of “smoky lavender, bronze, purple, fawn, and old gold” (to quote AIS founder John Wister). And though beauty is only skin-deep, ‘Quaker Lady’ is also sturdy and care-free, multiplies quickly, and blooms with abandon. All in all, it’s a worthy monument to its creator, Bertrand Farr, the visionary Pennsylvania nurseryman who did more than anyone else to make iris one of the signature plants of the early 20th-century garden. 27-30”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Chart, care, and learn more.

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Swerti iris    1612
It’s Back!

This grape-scented beauty was first pictured 400 years ago in the lavish Florilegium of Emmanuel Sweert, a Dutch artist and nurseryman who was head gardener for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. Although it’s often confused with ‘Madame Chereau’ (see them side-by-side here), its curled, pointed falls are distinct – and charming. As for its spelling, although Sweert’s name has two Es, and ‘Sweertii’ would be correct by modern rules, we’re sticking with the historic ‘Swerti’. 30-36”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from Ann Arbor. Chart and care.

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Wabash iris    1936
It’s Back!

Simple but stunning, ‘Wabash’ won the iris world’s top prize, the Dykes Medal, in 1940, and it’s still enormously popular today, often topping the annual polls of the Historic Iris Preservation Society. Its pure white standards glow above vibrant purple falls that are intensified by gold beards and a radiant edging of silver. 36”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Chart and care.

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IRIS HISTORY — Native from Europe to Nepal, bearded iris are one of the world’s oldest cultivated flowers. They were carved on the walls of Egyptian temples, grown by the monk Walafrid Strabo in the ninth century, and included in Gerard’s great Herbal of 1597.

Colonial gardeners grew a handful, but the real glory days for bearded iris began in the mid-1800s when breeders in France developed scores of exciting new varieties such as ‘Madame Chereau’. British and American enthusiasts soon joined in, and by the 1920s iris ranked as one of the top three perennials in American gardens.

HIPS, HIPS, HOORAY! We’ve been members of the terrific Historic Iris Preservation Society since its founding in 1988, and if you love heirloom flowers we think you’ll find it well worth joining.

IRIS ARCHIVES — For customer tips and raves, the stories behind the flowers, links and books, history, news, and more, see our Iris Newsletter Archives.

IRIS AS CUT FLOWERS — For tips for longer lasting bouquets, see our Bulbs as Cut Flowers page.

IRIS PLANTING AND CARE — Unlike most sources, we ship our iris as bare-root plants in the spring. (See an example here.) Plant them right away. They’re freshly dug the day we ship them, they can take light frost, and to bloom their first summer they must get growing again ASAP. If necessary, store in the fridge for 2-3 days or “heel in” briefly in moist sand or soil.

Iris like lots of sun. Give them half a day, at least, or more for increased bloom and better health. Good drainage is essential, too, so plant in sandy to average soil. Avoid or improve heavy (clay) soil or plant on a slope or in raised beds.

Space 10-18 inches apart. Iris grow/expand outward from the leaf end of the rhizome (bulb), so keep this in mind when arranging and planting them.

Don’t plant too deep! Leave the top of the rhizome exposed. Dig a hole, mound soil in the center, set plant on top, and spread roots down the sides of the mound. Fill in and firm soil, making sure that the top of the rhizome remains exposed (or barely covered in extremely hot climates). Water well.

Though iris are drought-tolerant and will rot in soil that’s too wet, they’ll need regular moisture the first few months after planting as they reestablish themselves. So water them, but not too much. Let your green thumb be your guide.

After flowering, cut bloom-stalks to the ground. Weed carefully to avoid damaging shallow feeder-roots. For best bloom and health, trim or remove dead or disfigured leaves (but not healthy green ones!), especially in late fall and early spring, so air can circulate freely and sunshine can warm the rhizomes.

After a few years of vigorous growth, your iris may get so crowded that their bloom and health begin to suffer. To thin or divide them, wait 4-8 weeks after bloom and then either open up the clump by removing the oldest rhizomes from the center, or dig it all, replant the best new rhizomes, and give away or destroy (don’t compost) the others.

Iris have relatively few pests or diseases that trouble them. You can get helpful advice on the most common ones — iris borer (which is a problem east of the Rockies only), leaf spot, and root rot — at the excellent Iris Garden website sponsored by the iris societies of New England.