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 are they exactly? Are they really Irises? What’s the beard about? Do they come in different sizes, colors and bloom times? What do they need to thrive? How much sun, water, fertilizer? If you understand where and why they’re happy, you’ll be able to find companions that will be a good match, keeping your garden beautiful and easy-care, like the Bearded Iris.

About Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris (Iris germanica) is a member of the genus, Iris, named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris. 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, and Bearded Iris, with thousands of colorful combinations, is one of the most popular garden perennials. With almost infinite choices of color, texture, pattern, and form, Bearded Iris opens the doors for garden creativity.

To communicate clearly about Bearded Iris (aka “Beardies”), it’s helpful to know a little nomenclature.

  • There are six petals – the three upward reaching, 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, bushy ‘beard’ located at the upper base of the falls.
  • Bearded Iris grow from rhizomes - bulb-like, tuberous roots, with a fan of leaves.

Bearded Iris also have a great pollinator story. Their namesake “beards” are also the entry mat or landing pad for its pollinators, the bumblebee. The bee enters over the beards to the nectar at the flower’s base and picks up fresh pollen. The large flower size of these Iris is both to attract and support the bumblebees they depend upon. Many are sweetly fragrant too!

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, great for a rock garden or border.
  • Standard dwarf ranges from 8-16 inches and are great with later blooming tulips.
  • Intermediate and Border Bearded Iris grow from 16-27 inches.
  • Most stately, from 28-48 inches in height is the Tall Bearded Iris, blooming from late spring to early summer with large 4-7 inch 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.

The best time to plant Bearded Iris is from July to September, or as many say, “Anytime you can get a shovel in the ground.”

 

What’s a 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.


bearded irisbearded iris

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

  • 5-7 hours of sun per day, or very light shade.
  • Rhizomes that are planted even with the soil level, leaving some exposed (unless you are in a very hot climate).
  • Fertile, well-drained soil.
  • Plenty of room to grow.
  • Regular fertilization. While Beardies are known for being easy-care, tough, long-lasting perennials, they will do their best when given regular doses of compost or a natural fertilizer.
  • Proper watering. Once established, Bearded Iris are water-thrifty plants, needing only occasional deep watering. Over watering can cause the rhizomes to rot.

our top picksour top picks

Now that we know what’s making our Iris tick, we can consider copmanion plants. Here are some helpful tips to think about:

  • If you're using one Bearded Iris as a focal point, it will be important to know when it blooms and if it reblooms. 
  • Whether you're creating a formal garden or an informal garden, consider the placement of flowers for a more structured look or a more natural effect.
  • Consider the look of plant foliage, as well as plant blooms.
  • What colors do you want to accompany your Bearded Iris? Do you want to harmonize with similar colors, or contrast?
  • How tall do you want your companion plants to be? We gerenally recommend placing taller plants behind your Bearded Iris, and shorter plants in front. 
  • Choose a selection of flowers that will bloom before, with, and following your Bearded Iris flowers to extend the flowering season in your garden.

Our Top Picks for Tall Bearded Iris Companions

Oriental Poppies

Oriental Poppies offer deep clear red flowers that are 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, to pop color, and a peachy salmon colored flower to harmonize. 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).

Lupine

Lupine will help create a lovely wildflower look to your Iris, with their tall, colorful stems of long lasting flowers. Plant Lupine Seeds or Lupine Plants (plants available seasonally).

Allium

Allium is available in several heights from short to very tall. Easy to grow and long lasting pollinator favorites. For a formal look, choose Allium of medium height that will hold a formal structure and plant them in a linear or defined way. If it’s an informal setting, the tall, wavy Allium make great garden features. Plant Allium Bulbs in pink, purple, blue, white, or yellow (bulbs availavle 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 Beardies in blues and purples or other contrasting colors. Plant Indigo Seeds or Baptisia Plants (available seasonally).

Peony

Peonies, with dark green foliage and round, almost spherical blossoms that open to a colorful long lasting flower, are an excellent Bearded Iris companion. See our selection of Peonies.

Daylilies

Daylilies are an easy, fun choice if chosen with a matching season of bloom. Some even rebloom along with the Bearded Iris. See our current selection of Daylilies.

Salvia

Salvia will add a colorful border to your Iris garden with its deep, colorful and long lasting 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.

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. Reblooming Bearded Iris Immortality, Iris germanica

    A celebrated classic, 'Immortality' Reblooming Bearded Iris is famous the garden-world over for its fragrant, pure white blooms and soft yellow beards on each petal. Reblooming in la...

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    Immortality Reblooming Bearded Iris Immortality Reblooming Bearded Iris Iris germanica Immortality
    $18.98 Sale $12.34
    Per Plant - 3.5" Pot
    A celebrated classic, 'Immortality' Reblooming Bearded Iris is famous the garden-world over for its fragrant, pure white blooms and soft yellow beards on each petal. Reblooming in late summer, 'Immortality' impresses with the overall volume of flowers it shares each season and looks great when planted in large groups. Very easy to grow, like other Bearded Iris this one is a tough, resilient plant that tolerates a variety of soils and requires little care from the gardener. Deer and rabbit resistant. (Iris germanica)
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  2. Bearded Iris Magic Man, Iris germanica Magic Man

    Magic Man Bearded Iris adds cool tones to the early season garden with bi-color purple blooms. Plant this easy-to-grow iris in the border of your garden, along a walkway, stone wall ...

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    Magic Man Bearded Iris Magic Man Bearded Iris Iris germanica Magic Man
    $18.98 Sale $12.34
    Per Plant - 3.5" Pot
    Magic Man Bearded Iris adds cool tones to the early season garden with bi-color purple blooms. Plant this easy-to-grow iris in the border of your garden, along a walkway, stone wall or in a small space garden. Bearded iris thrives in most well-draining soil and prefers plenty of sun. Magic Man’s prolific blooms are perfect for cutting and bringing indoors for bouquets. (Iris germanica)
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  3. Bearded Iris Matinata, Iris germanica

    The deep purple blooms of 'Matinata' Bearded Iris add rich, cool color to the spring garden and pair beautifully with their strong, upright foliage. A great candidate for planting en...

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    Matinata Bearded Iris Matinata Bearded Iris Iris germanica Matinata
    $18.98 Sale $12.34
    Per Plant - 3.5" Pot
    The deep purple blooms of 'Matinata' Bearded Iris add rich, cool color to the spring garden and pair beautifully with their strong, upright foliage. A great candidate for planting en masse or scatttering through the border, 'Matinata' produces 8-10 blooms per plant and makes an excellent cutting flower. Like most bearded iris, this variety requires little maintenance and grows in almost any sunny spot with access to moist soil. Deer and rabbit resistant. (Iris germanica)
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  4. Bearded Iris Natchez Trace, Iris germanica Natchez Trace

    'Natchez Trace' Bearded Iris has fragrant ruffled orange standards, surrounded by deep crimson falls. A must-have for the mid-spring cutting garden, this unique iris is eye-catching ...

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    Natchez Trace Bearded Iris Natchez Trace Bearded Iris Iris germanica Natchez Trace
    $18.98 Sale $12.34
    Per Plant - 3.5" Pot
    'Natchez Trace' Bearded Iris has fragrant ruffled orange standards, surrounded by deep crimson falls. A must-have for the mid-spring cutting garden, this unique iris is eye-catching both when planted in the garden and when featured in an arrangement. Swordlike foliage is attractive throughout the season and adds texture even when the plant is finished blooming. A very easy growing, low-maintenance plant. Deer and rabbit resistant. (Iris germanica)
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