The Iris plant

The genus known as Iris contains something like two hundred species of plants all belonging to the Iridaceae family, the flower of Iris, a Greek word meaning Rainbow, is known in Italy as Giaggiolo. Irises are commonly used, due to the particular beauty of their flowering, as ornaments for gardens, flower beds and even terraces, as they can easily be grown in pots.

History of Iris

The history of Iris is very ancient: it was, in fact, already known at the time of the ancient Egyptians and other peoples of the past. Certain news reports that in Europe the iris rhizome, also called iris, was used to perfume linen. Its name derives from Iris, the messenger of the gods who, according to Greek mythology, had golden wings shining with dew which, illuminated by the sun's rays, was clothed in all the colors of the rainbow. Also according to legend, Iris was Juno's favorite goddess because she was the bearer of good news only. For this the Goddess decided to reward her by transforming her into the iris (the rainbow) that formed the link, according to legends, between heaven and earth.

Iris from largest to smallest
Spurious irisUp to 1.5m; it grows in all terrains
Iris germanica or irisUp to 1 m; very rustic
American irisesUp to 70 cm; better moist and fertile soils
Japanese irisUp to 70 cm; moist, fertile and limestone-free soils
Iris bucharicaUp to 30 cm; ideal in rock gardens
Iris reticulata and Iris primulaUp to 20 cm; it can easily be grown in pots

Environment and exposure

With iris you have to be extremely careful, as we have already pointed out in fact there are many varieties and some of them tolerate a harsh climate much better than others. In fact, there are some species that, you think, manage to live very well even in winter with temperatures below zero, while the more exotic species from extra-European areas suffer if the temperature drops below 10 or 12 degrees centigrade. These plants should be placed in a position well sheltered from drafts that has a few hours of sun exposure and a few hours of shade, obviously the more exotic species resist better to direct sunlight unlike the others.


Even in the choice of the soil there is a difference between species, in principle we can say that the greatest difference mostly concerns the humidity of the soil, even in this case the more exotic species accustomed to the heat will obviously be much more they thrive in a drier than moist loam substrate. However, the draining capacity of the soil is of great importance, without distinction; the latter must be very draining to allow the bulb to grow properly.

Planting and repotting

In planting, the difference between rhizomatous and bulbous species is fundamental, the former must in fact be planted starting from July and must only be placed on the ground prepared to welcome them and subsequently covered with a very thin veil of earth, in fact the rhizomes if too buried they see flowering compromised and seriously risk rotting. The bulbs, on the other hand, should be buried in early autumn at a depth of about eight or ten centimeters depending on the size of the bulb. Repotting is not necessary.


Even for irrigation, the needs of the species are varied, however we are again here to underline what is valid for the vast majority of bulbs, we must always avoid excess water and dangerous stagnations, which are the true antechamber of mold. In general, in any case, the distinction between the more exotic species and the European ones is still valid, the former are more accustomed to arid climates and can be watered a little less than the latter, but remember that, as it is obvious, without water the plant does not grow and does not bloom.


Fertilization is nothing complicated, also because as you have already understood we are not talking about a particularly demanding plant, it will be enough to give strength to the plant before and during flowering by adding specific fertilizer to the water with which we irrigate; the only thing to watch out for is the difference between bulb and rhizome, because each has a different fertilizer.


The propagation takes place in the traditional ways, that is through cloves or, in the case of rhizomes, by division of the same. Obviously it is more than advisable to clean the soil every year from the bulbils that could suffocate or take away energy from the bulb.


As for pruning, also in this case we emphasize the ease of cultivation of the plant, and in fact it will only be necessary to remove the damaged or dry parts and no other pruning operation will be necessary.


The iris flower is composed of three upright inner petals and three drooping outer petals and they bloom continuously from early spring to early autumn. The leaves of this plant are long and thin with a green color, which can be more or less glossy or opaque depending on the species.

Diseases and parasites

Irises have no particular enemies in the world of plant pests and diseases, however this by no means means that they are immune to them. That said, constant prevention is a must and above all it is necessary, to avoid the onset of mold, not to overdo it with water during irrigation.

Tips for shopping

There are no particular indications to report when buying an iris plant, as this plant is rather simple to grow, however the brighter the colors of the flowers, the better the care dedicated to the plant you are about to buy.


Among the bulbous irises, the best known and cultivated species are the Iris Hollandica, with yellow, white, blue or lilac colors and spring flowering and the Iris Reticulata typical for their purple color. Among the rhizomatous we point out instead a very tall species, the Iris Germanica, which reaches even one meter in height, and a very low one, the Iris Pumila, which rarely reaches thirty centimeters.


In the language of flowers Iris means "good news", this is because Iris was the messenger of the gods. The iris is also the symbol of Louis VII's Kingdom of France and for a long time it was considered, due to its extreme beauty, as the orchid of the poor.

The ornamental interest of Iris

In the botanical community, Iris is considered a flower of great ornamental interest; In fact, it lends itself to enriching flower bed borders and for the great variety of shapes and colors, it embellishes large and small gardens, terraces and balconies. Every year different countries organize contests and award prizes to the creator of the best hybrids.

Since 1957, for example, the Italian Iris Society, on behalf of the city of Florence, has been promoting the "International Iris Competition" every year, which judges specimens from many parts of the world. A jury made up of experts from different countries (for example France, Germany, England, New Zealand, etc.) awards the most beautiful Iris.

The Germanic Iris

There are about 300 species of Iris, but one of the most widespread is undoubtedly the Germanic Iris. It is very present in the Tuscan countryside and grows spontaneously in arid and rocky places but for a long time it has also been cultivated in gardens where it stands out for its beautiful colored flowers ranging from yellow to red and brown, from white to black-purple, up to 'blue-violet.

The leaves, resembling pointed swords, are gray-green and the stem can reach a meter in height. It blooms in spring (April - May) after which the plant enters vegetative rest during which the leaves dry up keeping alive the surface rhizomes that "colonize" the surrounding soil.

The iris reticulata

Iris reticulata is widespread spontaneously in America, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, at an altitude between 600 and 2,700 m, especially as a pest in cultivated fields. The height of the plant often does not reach 10 cm in full bloom. The flowers, which appear very early (February-March), are fragrant with the inner petals with a lighter color than the outer ones.

Speaking of colors, iris reticulata is a species with a great variety of colors, ranging from blue, to red, to purple, passing through lilac, up to white. The outer petals, to enrich this beauty, have a yellow crest and a greenish stripe dotted with dark purple.

Water Iris (Iris pseudacorus)

The water iris, with its splendid yellow flowers, can be seen frequently in spring on the shores of lakes and streams; it is in fact a typical plant that grows in humid soils and shallow waters.

In many Italian regions it is a protected species because it is threatened by the progressive disappearance from its environment. It is a plant that extends very high, in fact it even reaches a height of 1 m and its leaves are green-blue.

The flowers, as already mentioned, are sometimes yellow with brown streaks, odorless, which bloom in May-June. Each stem carries a group of five, each in an alternating position, and have a very complex and particular structure.

The Japanese iris (Iris ensata)

The Japanese iris is one of the many iris still little known and appreciated in Italy but with a long history behind it. In Europe, the Japanese Iris spread in the mid-19th century. The natural habitat of this plant are wet soils and the edges of swamps and waterways.

The sword-shaped leaves (hence the name “ensata”) can measure from 60 to 90 cm with a very evident central rib. The stems bear a pair of red-violet flowers, characterized by three hanging wings furrowed by a yellow streak.

In Japan it is a sacred plant, emblem of ephemeral perfection to be contemplated during the traditional tea ceremony

Medicinal use

The part of the Iris usually used in herbal medicine is the rhizome, or the underground stem that is collected in summer. Freshly harvested rhizomes should be washed, peeled and dried in the sun. Initially, the smell may be unpleasant but changes with drying until it resembles that of the violet, thanks to the presence of an essential oil that increases with the maturing of the rhizome.

At home, a few pieces of root inside a drawer make the linen fragrant or can be added to dried flowers for a very fragrant potpourri (mixture of flower petals, natural essences and aromatic herbs).

Presby Memorial Iris Gardens

Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is a nonprofit, volunteer-run living museum specializing in iris flowers, located at 474 Upper Mountain Avenue, Montclair in Essex County, New Jersey, New Jersey, United States. The gardens are situated on 6.5 acres. Adjacent to the gardens is a Victorian house, the Walther House. The house is open to the public and is home to a museum shop and headquarters for the Citizens Committee that oversees the gardens.

Following financial problems in 2008 and 2009, ownership of the gardens was transferred to Essex county, who bought the Walther House for $ 1.1 million in order to give the gardens a better financial standing. The county then leased the gardens back to the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens for $ 1. While Essex County owns the property, the actual iris beds are maintained without taxpayer funds. Rather, they are maintained by private donations and volunteer effort. [3]

  • Specific opening days are subject to change from year to year. Check Italian Iris Society website for updates.
  • Late May - Late April: Open by appointment only. Tours can be booked at the Italian Iris Society website.

  • Bus 12 and 13 stop The David / Piazzale Michelangelo.

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  • Giardino Degli Iris Address: Piazzale Michelangiolo, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy, Florence
  • Giardino Degli Iris Contact Number: + 39-55483112
  • Giardino Degli Iris Timing: 10:00 am - 07:00 pm
  • Time required to visit Giardino Degli Iris: 01:00 Hrs
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Iris Garden

Iris Garden is a botanical garden specializing in the cultivation of iris flowers, symbol of Florence since 1251. It is located on the corner of Viale dei Colli and Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, Italy, and open daily without charge from May 2–20 every year.

The garden is owned by the Società Italiana dell'Iris, which has opened the garden to the public since hosting the annual "International dell'Iris" in 1954. It is almost entirely devoted to iris plants, with more than 1,500 (variously 2,500) varieties on display during the annual competition. The garden contains a pond is for the cultivation of aquatic varieties and provides an excellent view of Florence and its surrounding hills.

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Iris Garden.
  • Institute and Museum of the History of Science article (Italian)
  • Tuscan culture entry
  • Fodor's article
  • M. Pozzana, The gardens of Florence and Tuscany, complete guide, Florence, Giunti, 2001, p. 98.
  • Gardens and villas of Tuscany, Milan-Florence, Italian Touring Club - Tuscany Region, 2003, p. 36.

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Video: Dean Lewis - Iris Goo Goo Dolls Live Cover