Iris Croatica [EYE-ris, CRO-aye-ti-ka], is a species in the Iris genus and the family Iridaceae commonly known as Bearded Iris.
As with other irises, the bearded variety has a showy bloom. It produces dark violet flowers with a whitish-yellow beard.
Iris Croatica is mostly found growing in the woods and hilly parts of temperature regions in Europe, including Croatia and Slovenia.
It’s the national flower of Croatia.
It grows well in temperate parts of North America, providing a bright display of flowers in early spring or early summer.
More from the Iris Family:
Bearded Iris Care
Size and Growth
The plant produces stems varying in height depending on the variety.
- Bearded iris plants come in several different varieties ranging from dwarf to tall.
- The dwarf bearded Iris only reaches a height of about 8″ inches and produces smaller flowers with an average diameter of 1″ to 2″ inches.
- The tall bearded Iris may reach up to 38″ inches tall.
- No matter the variety, the bearded Iris produces green leaves growing from the root around the stem.
- The stem typically branches and contains several sets of smaller leaves.
Flowering and Fragrance
- Most varieties of bearded iris bloom in early or late spring.
- The tall bearded Iris may even bloom a second time in the autumn.
- The flowers appear from the branched stems growing from the basal rosette of leaves and are often dark violet or purple.
- The “beard” appears below the upper petals.
Light and Temperature
The bearded Iris needs at least six hours of sunlight each day.
It prefers full sun when grown outdoors in cool temperature regions.
It produces healthy blooms in USDA hardiness zones 3a to 8b.
In warmer regions, it may fare better indoors or under partial shade.
Watering and Feeding
- Avoid overwatering the plant. Too much moisture increases the risk of root rot.
- These plants don’t require frequent watering or feeding – only water when the soil dries completely.
- Use a granular fertilizer only in the spring as new growth appears.
- Add liquid fertilizer to the soil around the plant during the growing season.
Soil and Transplanting
Plant in well-drained soil.
Avoid planting the roots too deep. The tops of the rhizomes should remain visible through the soil.
Space the plants at least 1′ to 2′ feet apart.
Transplant in the spring if a potted plant outgrows its home or becomes crowded from too many offsets.
Divide the plant every two to three years to help prevent overcrowding and encourage fuller blooms.
For best results, the plant requires grooming a couple of times during the year.
- In the early spring, remove any old foliage before new growth starts.
- In the late spring, deadhead flowers as they start to fade.
- Cutting entire flower spikes to the base after the bloom finishes may increase the chances of a second bloom with the taller varieties.
- Trim back the foliage in the fall after the flowers are gone, and the temperature starts to drop.
- This helps protect the rest of the plant from pests and diseases during the winter.
TIP: Discard the trimmed foliage and use a mulch to protect the plant as the spent leaves may provide a home for the iris borer.
How To Propagate Bearded Iris
Propagate the bearded Iris by dividing rhizomes, bulbs, or offsets.
- As the rhizomes spread above or below ground, mature plants produce additional bulbs and offsets.
- The additional growth appears as clumps and may cause overcrowding.
- Divide the plant every few years to help maintain fuller blooms.
- Wait until after flowering starts to divide the rhizomes or offsets.
- If the ground is very dry, water around the plant before using a shovel to lift the clumps carefully.
- Shake some of the dirt free and separate the rhizomes.
- Use pruning shears or a knife to cut the rhizomes and remove any damaged leaves.
- Cut back the remaining leaves to about 4″ to 6″ inches.
- Allow the cut plants to cure for one or two days in a paper bag.
- Replant in the same location but more spread out or choose a new area with good drainage and full sun.
Bearded Iris Pest or Diseases
The main threat to the bearded Iris is the iris borer.
- The borer likes to lay eggs in the winter, using the spent leaves from the plant as a home.
- In the spring, the borers appear as small caterpillars.
- The borers eventually start to bore their way down through the leaves, damaging the plant.
- Remove spent leaves to help prevent Iris borer infestations.
- The first sign of the iris borer is streaking across the leaves.
- If the borer appears, dig up the plant and remove any rot caused by the pests.
- Kill any detected iris borers and salvage the healthy parts of the plant using the propagation techniques.
Suggested Bearded Iris Uses
Bearded irises are great additions to any garden or flower bed, adding a sea of purple or violet during the spring.