Best Companion Plants for Bearded Iris

customer question customer question

"Last August I planted some Bearded Iris in two very different spots on my property - one bed is very formal, and the other is more of a wild & natural look. I chose to plant shades of blue in the formal bed and multiple colors in the natural area and was delighted by how beautiful they looked when they flowered this spring. Now I would like to make them the focal point of these gardens, both of which are quite new. Can you recommend some perennial plants that may complement my Bearded Iris plantings?" - Stacey B., Vineland, New Jersey

Great question! Whenever a question of good companion plants arises, we find it helpful to learn more about your centerpiece plant, in this case, Bearded Iris. What do they need to thrive? Read on to learn what Bearded Iris plants need to thrive, as well as our favorite companion plants that will be happy in similar conditions, for a beautiful and easy-care garden.

All About Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris (Iris germanica) is a member of the genus, Iris, named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow. As the myth goes, when the gods wanted to communicate with humans, they sent Iris, who arrived with golden wings. As she stepped to earth, colorful flowers sprung forth. It’s almost hard to imagine a better name for this kaliedoscopic species! With thousands of colorful combinations, Bearded Iris is one of the most popular garden perennials. With endless choices of color, texture, pattern, and form, this flower opens the doors for garden creativity.

To communicate clearly about Bearded Iris, it’s helpful to know a little nomenclature.

  • There are six petals. The three upward reaching petals are called “standards,” and the three petals that drape downwards, are known as the “falls”.
  • The most distinguishing feature of Bearded Iris is their fuzzy "beard" located at the upper base of the falls.
  • Bearded Iris grow from rhizomes - bulb-like, tuberous roots, with a fan of elegant sword-shaped leaves.
bearded iris anatomybearded iris anatomy

Bearded Iris comes in several size ranges with differing bloom times.

  • Miniature Dwarf Bearded Iris are tiny, ranging in size from 5-15 inches tall. These great for a rock garden or border.
  • Standard Dwarf Bearded Iris range from 8-16 inches. These are great with later blooming tulips.
  • Intermediate and Border Bearded Iris grow from 16-27 inches.
  • Tall Bearded Iris grow from 28-48 inches tall. These blooming from late spring to early summer with large flowers.

Actual bloom times will vary, depending on the weather. Each flowering stem will hold several buds that will come into bloom sequentially, usually lasting 3-5 days. Once it is finished, simply snap it off with your fingers to keep a clean look and to keep more flowers coming. After all the buds have bloomed, cut the stem back near ground level.

Reblooming Bearded Iris

Many new hybrid Bearded Iris are offered as rebloomers. This means the Iris will bloom at its usual bloom time in the spring, and then come into bloom again at the end of the season, towards fall. The plant will grow new fans of leaves, putting up fresh flowering stems. It’s important to note that reblooming is not guaranteed and can be affected by location, sunlight and even the weather.

Tips For Happy, Healthy Bearded Iris

If you have Bearded Iris that are growing and blooming happily, it’s probably because they have:

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Sunlight

Full sun: 5-7 hours of sun per day, or very light shade.

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Level Soil

Rhizomes are planted just a couple of inches below the soil level, leaving some exposed (unless you are in a very hot climate).

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Soil Type

Bearded Iris need fertile, well-drained soil.

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Spacing

Give your rhiozomes plenty of room to grow, as these plants will spread and multiply each year.

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Fertilization

  • Bearded Iris are known for being easy-care, long-lasting perennials. They do best with regular doses of compost or a natural fertilizer.

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Watering

Once established, Bearded Iris are water-thrifty plants, needing only occasional deep watering. Overwatering can cause the rhizomes to rot.



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Now that we have covered the best growing conditions for Bearded Iris, we can consider companion plants. Here are some helpful tips to think about:

  • If you're using one variety Bearded Iris as a focal point, it will be important to know when it blooms and if it reblooms. 
  • Choose a selection of flowers that will bloom before, with, and following your Bearded Iris flowers to extend the flowering season in your garden.
  • Consider the placement of flowers for a more structured, formal look or a more natural, casual effect.
  • Consider the look of plant foliage, as well as plant blooms. Bearded Iris have unique, sword-shaped foliage that brings an elegant texture to the garden.
  • Harmonize with similar colors, or contrast with complementary colors.
  • We gerenally recommend placing taller plants behind your Bearded Iris, and shorter plants in front. 

Our Top Picks For Tall Bearded Iris Companions

Oriental Poppies

Oriental Poppies offer deep clear red flowers -- the one color Bearded Iris do not have. Tall and showy, with similar needs, they are great companions. Use white flowering Oriental Poppies for a calming effect, red for a pop of color, or peach colored flowers for a soft look. They will die back in summer, so plant other perennials in front of them to hide the dying foliage. Plant Oriental Poppy Seeds or Perennial Oriental Poppies (plants available seasonally).

Lupines

Lupines will help create a lovely wildflower look to your Iris, with tall, colorful stems of long lasting flowers. Lupine are available in both warm and cool colors, with flowers blooming in spring. Plant Lupine Seeds or Lupine Plants (plants available seasonally).

Allium

Alliums give a sculptural element to the garden, and are available in several heights, from short to very tall. They are easy to grow and long lasting pollinator favorites. For a formal look, choose Allium of medium height, and plant them in a linear or defined way. In an informal setting, tall Allium planted throughout a perennial garden make great garden features with a whimsical feel. Fall-planted Allium Bulbs are available in pink, blue, white, yellow, or classic purple (bulbs available seasonally).

Delphinium

The lovely tall wands of Larkspur (Delphinium) are excellent choices to grow with Bearded Iris. Shades of purples, blues, pinks, and white offer lovely accompaniment for a late spring display. Plant Rocket Larkspur Seeds or Perennial Delphinium (plants available seasonally).

Baptisia

Baptisia, also known as Indigo,  is a great choice in shades of yellows and blues. Try yellow Baptisia with white, gold or blue Iris. Blue flowering Baptisia is lovely with Bearded Iris in blues,purples, or other contrasting colors. Plant Indigo Seeds or Baptisia Plants (available seasonally).

Peony

Peonies are one of the most well-known spring blooming perennials. With dark green foliage and blossoms that open to a lush, fragrant, and long lasting flower, Peonies are an excellent Bearded Iris companion. While slow to establish, these long-lived plants will live for decades in the right conditions. See our selection of bareroot Peonies (available seasonally).

Daylilies

Daylilies are an easy-to-grow choice to pair with Bearded Iris. These plants also have long, strappy foliage that help to fill in a garden. Some even rebloom along with the Bearded Iris. See our current selection of Daylilies (available seasonally).

Salvia

Salvia will add a colorful border to your Iris garden with its colorful, and long lasting flowers that attract a parade of pollinators. Typically available with dark purple or red flowers. In a formal setting, a nice border can be created, if informal, plant them in groups of 3’s or 5’s for a more natural look. Plant Salvia, also known as Sage (plants available seasonally).

More Bearded Iris!

With their wide array of colors, sizes and bloom times, mixing more Bearded Iris into your existing bed can increase the season of blooms with a kaleidoscope of colors, patterns, and textures.

If you have a reblooming variety, remember to add in some late season bloomers like Agastache, Aster, and Salvia.

And, most importantly, have fun! Experiment – sometimes it’s important to break the rules. Pay attention to the foliage, too. Bearded Iris adds a beautiful vertical element to your garden with its upright foliage.

Shop Bearded Iris

  1. Deschutes Bearded Iris, Iris germanica Deschutes

    Deschutes Bearded Iris casts a glow to harmonize and enhance the perennial garden. Ruffled twilight blue petals and sky-blue beards create a calm, serene presence in the late spring ...

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    Deschutes Bearded Iris Deschutes Bearded Iris Iris germanica Deschutes
    $7.99 Sale $5.99
    Per Bag of 1
    Deschutes Bearded Iris casts a glow to harmonize and enhance the perennial garden. Ruffled twilight blue petals and sky-blue beards create a calm, serene presence in the late spring garden. Prolific blooms with up to 7 flowers per stalk will add a unique color to your garden and cut flower arrangements. A deer and rabbit resistant and drought tolerant perennial. (Iris germanica)
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  2. On Deck Reblooming Bearded Iris, Iris germanica On Deck

    'On Deck' Reblooming Bearded Iris stands out with vividly contrasting blooms. Ruffled white standards are accented with hints of gold, and falls streaked with cobalt blue. This rebl...

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    On Deck Reblooming Bearded Iris On Deck Reblooming Bearded Iris Iris germanica On Deck
    $9.32 Sale $6.99
    Per Bag of 1
    'On Deck' Reblooming Bearded Iris stands out with vividly contrasting blooms. Ruffled white standards are accented with hints of gold, and falls streaked with cobalt blue. This reblooming variety opens in late spring, with a repeat performance 'On Deck' in late summer or fall. A low maintenance beauty with upright lancelike foliage for added texture after flowers fade. (Iris germanica)
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  3. Reblooming Bearded Iris Collection

    Our Reblooming Bearded Iris Collection will have you daydreaming of wide blue skies and fluffy white clouds. Spring days can fly by quickly, so you'll be pleasantly surprised when al...

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    Reblooming Bearded Iris Collection Reblooming Bearded Iris Collection Iris germanica
    As low as $46.66 Sale $34.99
    Per Collection of 5
    Our Reblooming Bearded Iris Collection will have you daydreaming of wide blue skies and fluffy white clouds. Spring days can fly by quickly, so you'll be pleasantly surprised when all 5 varieties rebloom, continuing their magic through summer into early fall! Enjoy a harmonious palette of indigo, pale purple, blue violet, with bright white and hints of yellow. These are perfect for an easygoing garden and long-lasting cut flower arrangements. Collection of 5 or 15 bulbs. (Iris germanica)
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  4. Dangerous Moon Bearded Iris, Blank and Lavender

    Dangerous Mood Bearded Iris is a blue-lovers delight. Deep velvet-blue ruffled falls (downward petals) are lit by three upright petals (standards) of pure white blushed with indigo b...

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    Dangerous Mood Bearded Iris Dangerous Mood Bearded Iris Iris germanica Dangerous Mood
    $7.99 Sale $5.99
    Per Bag of 1
    Dangerous Mood Bearded Iris is a blue-lovers delight. Deep velvet-blue ruffled falls (downward petals) are lit by three upright petals (standards) of pure white blushed with indigo blue. The light lingers over these stately, sultry flowers, making them a striking focal point in the mid-to-late spring garden. Deer and rabbit resistant. (Iris germanica)
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