Bearded iris companion plants


Iris are one of the most beautiful and low care flowers that is why they are gardener’s favorite and if you are growing them, learn about the iris companion plants.

There are hundreds of Iris species with different growing needs and if you want to plant iris and its companion plants, first you’ll need to know about the requirements of specific iris species you are growing.

Companion Plants for Iris

While choosing iris companion plants, experiment. Instead of focusing only on the plant’s health, consider about the plants that require similar growing conditions and complement the color and texture of irises you are growing.

Bearded Iris Companion Plants

Companion plants for tall, dwarf and other bearded iris are Columbine, sweet rocket, pyrethrum, blue salvia, coralbells and Narcissus. Lilies, hemerocallis hybrids, penstemons, phlox and chrysanthemums are also used in combination with irises. Some gardeners grow forsythia in poor soil with iris.

Japanese Iris Companion Plants

Japanese iris grows in moist soil, their soil requirement is similar to impatiens. You can grow them in moist to boggy soil. Grow moisture loving plants with Japanese iris like soft rush, tropical sage and impatiens if there is shade, you can also ferns and plants like hosta near it.

Siberian Iris Companion Plants

Siberian irises are cold hardy and low maintenance. They grow in full sun to part shade and thrive in wide range of soil, preferably moist. Grow siberian iris plants in clumps to create a beautiful color contrast with daylilies, marsh spurge, ornamental poppy, lady’s mantle and cranesbill.

Other Iris Companion Plants

Peonies are traditionally companions for irises. If you plant a garden with irises, peonies and roses it will look wonderful. One more plant is forsythia, forsythia not only helps the irises grow, but also provides the beautiful contrast of color. Forsythia flowers herald the arrival of spring and their yellow colored blooms are perfect match for reticulated iris that flowers in the spring as well.

Vinca minor plants when grown around the base of an iris plant, they crawl and grow around the iris, this creates a beautiful focal point in the garden. Pair of purple coneflowers also go along well with long-stemmed bearded irises.

My Garden Path – The Iris Virus

SERIES 29 | Episode 39

We meet Terry and Shirley Nisbet, Melbourne-based gardeners whose backyard is full of different varieties of iris. Married 37 years, they both love of this flowering plant so much they say they have a serious case of ‘Iris Virus’.

Shirley caught it from her grandfather at the age of 8, and when Terry later met the family, he got hooked too.

Terry says he loves the variety of colours; Shirley loves the huge blooms that ‘hit you in the face as you walk into the backyard’. Terry says they make a good team because Shirley concentrates on the showing and growing and he does the digging and hybridising.

There are more than 250 species of bulb and rhizome iris. The variety that grows best in Melbourne is the tall bearded iris (Iris x germanica cv.), which don’t need much water.

The Nisbets have about 200 named varieties in their backyard. Shirley loves the bicoloured flowers. Her favourite is called ‘Favourite Beau’; it has white/pale blue standards (the upright petals) and an orange ‘beard’ on the purple lower petals or ‘falls’.

There are more than 30,000 cultivars in a huge range of colours, from yellow and brown tones to reds, blues, whites, purples and more.

Terry and Shirley have been breeding iris for 37 years, hoping to grow a green iris – it’s a goal Shirley’s grandfather had and they’re following in his footsteps.

The couple enter their cut flowers in competitions each year and they are both very involved in the Iris Society of Australia.

  • Their peak flowering time in Melbourne is October and November, depending on the heat. Shirley says the most common reason iris aren’t producing flowers is lack of sun.
  • Bearded iris of all sizes need to be lifted and divided every 2-5 years because they get overcrowded as they produce more rhizomes.
  • To divide, dig the clump up with a spade, split and replant the new side rhizomes, discarding the old ones because they won’t reflower. It’s best to break them apart by hand.
  • The side rhizomes or “increases” can be replanted, even the small ones, but first trim the leaves by half and cut the roots a little.
  • Sometimes you might buy a young plant from a nursery that hasn’t yet formed a rhizome but little side buds at the base; these can still be planted and the buds will grow new roots.
  • To replant, dig a hole, preferably facing north where it will get full sun. Add a handful of pelletised chook poo and cover with some soil to protect the roots from fertiliser burn. Plant the rhizome so the rhizome is facing north and the fan of leaves is at the back, then backfill to cover the roots.
  • Keep a light cover of soil on the rhizome to protect it from the hot Melbourne sun.
  • Water in well, then just once a week; overwatering is the worst you can do for iris.

Useful links

Iris Society of Australia

Recently one of our customers has mentioned she will be using her iris purchases to under plant roses. What a great idea!

Although some sources recommend keeping the beds under roses clear, others indicate there may be some good reasons to use iris together with other perennials. Underplanting, and indeed all mixed plantings should be chosen with care, taking into account the plant’s water, nutrient and light requirements.

By choosing plants with similar requirements, caring for the beds becomes simpler. Iris, like roses, requires full sun, are drought tolerant, prefer good drainage and have few fertiliser requirements. They are a great choice for under roses, and with the wide variety of colours available, many colour combinations are possible.

Perhaps the best iris to choose are the dwarf varieties as many are rebloomers which will flower in autumn and spring, complementing your roses. They will readily multiply forming a great display and are shallow rooted, offering less competition for water and nutrients from the deeper rooted roses.

Your iris plants will also attract pollinators and may control pests – a true companion plant for your roses!

New Dutch Iris

Dutch Iris

Exotic, yet hardy garden pizzazz. These tall Dutch Iris provide you with a late spring colour boost as well as adding height and glamour to the garden. Dutch Iris are delightfully hardy bulbs which will easily naturalise to give you years of increasing colour. Dutch Iris are ideal planted at the back of borders and are also great for picking the flowers so you can enjoy them inside.

Dutch Iris are generally available from Mid January until Mid May.Dutch Iris is are the perfect complement to almost any garden style, and easy to weave among existing plantings. You can even grow them in large containers or pots. Their tall stems put on a glorious garden show.

Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris make garden styling a breeze. They offer a rainbow of options to effectively couple and accentuate existing colours in your patch.

  • Bearded Iris Mixed

    A rainbow of hardy colour.

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  • Bearded Iris Wild Vision

    Wild thing.

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  • Bearded Iris Let’s Be Brazen

    Be bold.

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  • Bearded Iris Pirates A’hoy

    Billowing gold standards.

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  • Bearded Iris Amiable

    Sweet sensation.

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  • Bearded Iris Black As

    Back in black.

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  • Bearded Iris Yaquina Blue

    Frilled and fanciful.

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  • Bearded Iris Chardonnay Ice

    A toast to spring.

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  • Bearded Iris Beverley Sills

    Sing in spring.

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  • Bearded Iris Decadence

    Floral decadence.

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  • Bearded Iris Convention 74

    Eye catching colour.

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  • Bearded Iris Astrobubbles

    A late season star.

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  • Bearded Iris Zillionaire

    Good as gold.

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  • Bearded Iris Wearing Rubies

    Indulgent colour.

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  • Bearded Iris Elvis Presley

    Get ready to rock’n’roll.

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  • Bearded Iris Pagan Dance

    Pretty in purple.

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  • Bearded Iris Who’s Your Daddy

    Strong, handsome blooms.

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  • Bearded Iris Magenta Rose

    Stippled beauties.

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  • Bearded Iris Laughter Lines Collection

    Smile through spring.

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  • Bearded Iris Romantic Affair Collection

    Blooms to fall in love with.

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  • Bearded Iris Ring Around Rosie

    Perfect for your posies.

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  • Bearded Iris Fireside Glow

    Hot, hot, hot flowers.

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  • Bearded Iris Queen Calico

    Regal petals.

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  • Bearded Iris Big On Style Collection

    Colourful and stylish.

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  • Bearded Iris Autumn Circus

    Repeat flowering.

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  • Bearded Iris Carved Cameo

    Ruffled standards and falls.

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  • Bearded Iris Who’s The Boss

    Tall, dark and handsome.

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  • Bearded Iris Panama Hatte

    Big and beautiful.

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  • Bearded Iris Romantic Gentleman

    Be swept off your feet.

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  • Bearded Iris Enchanter

    Spring enchantment.

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  • Bearded Iris Palm Reader

    Flowers of fortune.

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Rainbow Ridge Nursery

Bearded Iris

Bearded iris (tall bearded, medians and dwarfs) are hardy perennials grown from rhizomes. They will survive in most climates but they do like cold winters. They are ideal plants for the southern states (VIC, TAS, SA), inland and high country areas of NSW and QLD, coastal NSW south of the central coast and Southern WA. They are not well suited to northern coastal NSW or coastal Queensland.

Bearded iris should be planted in a well prepared and fertile soil in an open position that gets as much sun as possible. Avoid the use of animal manures near the rhizomes as this may induce rot. We like to incorporate a small handful of an 8-9 month slow release fertilizer in the soil at planting time. Bearded iris like an alkaline soil so the soil is best prepared with a liberal dosing of lime or dolomite.

Rhizomes are best planted at a distance of 30cm-50cm apart and such that the top of the rhizome is at ground level. If desired, a massed effect can be achieved quickly by planting three to six plants of the one variety in close proximity. For best results, planting should be done between November and April but bearded iris can be moved at any time of the year without risk of loss. Clumps should be lifted and divided every 3-4 years.

Once planted the rhizomes should be well watered in for about three weeks to a month and then treated as a normal garden plant.
Bearded iris are classified according to height of bloom spikes and bloom period. Dwarfs grow to a maximum height of 40cm, medians from 41cm-70cm and tall beardeds are above 70cm in height. The dwarfs flower first in the season, usually in August, followed by the medians with the talls the last to flower. Tall beardeds can be chosen for their successful cultivation in the Sydney district. They will flourish in country areas and areas which have a colder winter. Dwarf iris, in general, do not grow well unless they have two months or more of really cold winter. They are not suitable for Sydney.

The time of bloom indicated in the descriptions is when they bloom for us and height of spike is approximate for our growing conditions. Whether a variety reblooms is also based on our experience. There will be variation from area to area and garden to garden.

Iris | Bearded Iris

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Know your: Iris

Photo – Artkwin/.com

Bearded iris

Iris germanica

ID: Tall bearded (TB) are the most popular in this group. Many are bi-coloured with the central ‘standard’ petals and pendulous ‘fall’ petals in contrasting colours. Grey-green leaves are slender and sword-shaped. Most flower in spring; some (such as deep blue ‘Victoria Falls’) repeat-flower.

Grow: Plant the rhizome in full sun, in light, well-drained soil, at ground level. Don’t buy it or it will rot. Secure with coat hanger wire until roots develop. Find some beauties at

Blue flag iris

Iris versicolor

ID: This semi-aquatic plant has deep green, narrow, sword-shaped leaves and blue-violet flowers on 1m stalks from late spring to early summer. There are many species of blue flag iris found along the edges of swamps, wet meadows and stream banks or in forested wetlands.

Grow: This hardy plant is very easy to grow and prefers moist, deep, humus-rich, acid soil in full sun.

Photo – Elena Elisseeva/

Yellow flag iris

Iris pseudacorus

ID: Clumps of tall, slender foliage produce spikes of golden, scented flowers in summer. This is the Fleur de Lys iris, used as a symbol of the French kings since the 12th century.

Grow: these iris are happiest in shallow water and full sun. In cold areas they will die down during winter but in warm temperate regions like Sydney they remain semi-evergreen. Find them at and

Photo – Rainbow Ridge Nursery

Japanese iris

Iris ensata and Iris kaempferi

ID: These iris line ponds and streams in Japan. Their leaves are taller and thinner than those of bearded iris, and feature a distinct rib. The flowers, on 90cm stems, are white, blue or lilac.

Grow: Japanese iris love to be wet so plant them in sunshine on the edge of a pond. They can also be planted in containers. Feed with liquid manure in the lead-up to the spring flowering. Every three years lift and divide them after flowering.

Photo – TOMO/.com

Louisiana Iris

Iris hexagonae

ID: These water-loving plants from the Louisiana swamps flower on tall stems in spring. The impressive flowers are beardless but with standard and fall petals, which may be recurved or flat; single or double; ruffled, lacy or plain with varied patterns, colours and markings.

Grow: These iris are happiest in standing water or in boggy areas and can be grown in the garden as long as they are given plenty of water. Establish plants in pots before planting around dams or immersing in ponds. Find them at

Californian iris

Iris chrysophylla

ID: An iris native to of the west coast of the US, this one flowers in a huge range of colours. The blooms float above the foliage from early to mid-spring.

Grow: Plant in semi-shade, and feed in late autumn and early spring. Don’t let them dry out. Mass plant along paths and driveways, or grow them in pots. Find them at

Dutch iris

Iris reticulata

ID: This is the iris familiar from florists. They grow from small bulbs and flower in spring in shades of light blue, yellow, white and purple.

Grow: Plant bulbs in autumn, in groups. They like plenty of sun and rich, well-drained soil. Add some compost or soil conditioner before planting out in autumn. Dutch iris can be left in the ground for year-after-year flowering. Cut when in bud for long-lasting cut flowers.

Photo – mikeledray/
Text: Sandra Ross

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