The beautiful and easy-to-grow Japanese Irises: Though theyre sometimes overshadowed by the larger Bearded Irises, many gardeners think the Japanese types are the most beautiful. First, lets dispel the confusion that surrounds this group:
Kaempferi, Butterfly, or Japanese? Even this groups name is confused. Once they were known as Kaempferi Irises, today many call them The Butterfly Irises, but the correct common name is simply Japanese Iris. This group are cultivars of the species Iris ensata, cultivated in Japan for over 500 years, and once restricted to enjoyment by royalty only.
No, theyre not water dwellers. Many people think Japanese Irises are for growing in the water in ponds, but they are not. They require about the same conditions as ferns, astilbes or impatiens--just moist ground, which most all gardeners can easily provide.
The Flowers: As you can see by the photos, these iris blooms are quite different from the tall stand-up flowers of the big Bearded Irises. The standards (the top layer of petals) stand up tall on the Bearded Irises, and the falls (the lower layer of petals) droop elegantly. With Japanese Irises, both sets of petals are more flat, forming a simpler, flatter--and many think more beautiful--flower.
Growing Japanese Irises: Unlike the big bearded iris, which are planted in late summer, Japanese types are usually planted in spring. (They are some of the most popular Beardless irises, along with the Siberians and Louisianas.) They form large lavish clumps and are highly decorative, blooming in late summer. Theyre also great for cutting. They definitely deserve a place in your garden.