The iris family includes several fascinating members well worth growing in the greenhouse. Whenever there is room. We like to have some Wedgwood, White Excelsior, and Golden Harvest for cutting. These should be planted now (November) for flowering from midwinter on. The blooms give a delicate touch of color to mixed bouquets and are especially effective with daffodils, tulips, and snapdragons.
We usually plant our bulbous iris in deep clay bulb pans but they would occupy less room in 4-inch-deep flats. The bulbs are planted in rows about 3” inches apart both ways about 1” inch below the surface of the soil.
Iris Gets a Thorough Watering
After a thorough watering. They may be stored in the cold frame until late November to form roots. When they are brought into the greenhouse, a night temperature of 50° to 55° is about right, but for later flowering, they grow cooler, at 45° to 50°.
This same treatment would also be right for ixias, which are available in a wide range of delicate colors—from white to pink, red lilac, and yellow. The corms are smaller than bulbous iris and should be planted about 2” inches apart.
Hybrids, which are available from many suppliers, are usually grown, but you will particularly like Ixia viridiflora. This species has a most unusual pale green flower with a black throat.
Another iris that has become popular for the greenhouse is I. reticulata. Its large, red-purple flowers on 6-inch stems make a showy compact pot plant when the bulbs are set about an inch apart. The bulbs are hardy and should be treated the same as tulips and daffodils.
In addition to the usual “florists’ kind,” the iris family includes many other fascinating members worth growing in the greenhouse. Among them are evergreen types that bloom from year to year, as well as others requiring a resting period just as bulbous types do.
Most of this iris are propagated in fall by division of rootstock or offsets from bulbs so that a supply can be self-perpetuated from year to year.
We have particularly enjoyed a number of the oddities for their unusual form and growing habits. Following are brief descriptions of some of these. Rootstock or bulbs for most are available this season.
Related: Learn More The Professional Tips in Hybridizing Iris Flowers
Moraea Iris, Edulis And Ramosissima
Two moraea iris, M. edulis with its long, wiry solitary leaves and lilac flowers spotted yellow, and M. ramosissima with its clusters of bright yellow flowers that last for weeks, are most intriguing.
Cypella herbertii bears yellow flowers about 3” inches across above-plaited leaves. Like the blooms of the other plants in this group, these flowers last only a day but keep coming over a long period if the buds are left intact. There is also a blue variety, C. plumbea, but I have not seen it.
Ferraria undulata is an unusual dwarf from South Africa. It is similar to tigridia but much better suited to the greenhouse. It has large green and brown flowers, which are very exotic.
Iris Susiana. The most beautiful of all has a tremendous bloom of silvery gray marked with deep veins of purple-black. The bulbs are rather expensive but well worth the price. When dormant, they must be kept bone dry. Mine usually dry-rot after one season, but I still consider them well worth the price.
Then there is also Iris bucharica which has 5 to 7 bright yellow flowers on a wavy crest about 1 foot high: Schizostylis coccinea, with 10 to 14 bright scarlet flowers on 18-inch stems; babiana, a small plant with 6 to 8 red-lilac or purple flowers; and many more that I have never grown or seen!
44659 by Ernest Chabot