Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bloomin' Fools

'Kiss of Kisses' Reblooming Iris (Hybridized by Kerr, 1997)

Visitors to my garden are surprised by the irises. The comment I hear most often is "I thought they only came in purple!" followed closely by "they're not supposed to be blooming NOW, are they?"

'Beverly Sills,' an occasional rebloomer, (Hager, 1978) with 'Frequent Flyer' Reblooming Iris (Gibson, 1994) in July

In my Southern California garden, tall bearded irises bloom from March until January, thanks to reblooming varieties. Those of us who live in Mediterranean climates with very late or insignificant frosts can take advantage of the rebloomers to have irises as the main focus of our gardens, since they bloom practically year-round.

'Grand Circle' Reblooming Iris (Sutton, 2003)

Reblooming irises are not all created equal. Hybridizers strive to expand the color range and to create more beautiful forms of reblooming irises, but it is a tricky business. Some irises rebloom with great vigor and an abundance of blooms, others are quite stingy and may send up a single flower stalk out of dozens of fans every few years. Some bloom twice on the same plant, and some reproduce so fast that they send out new plants that bloom in the same season. Some have been known to bloom themselves right out of existence!

My best performer is, by far, 'Total Recall'. This iris begins blooming at the end of March and blooms right through to July, when it usually takes a little rest for about six to eight weeks, then it starts up again in September and blooms until frost in January. This year we have had an unseasonably cool summer, so it has not taken a break, and is in bloom right now.

'Total Recall' Reblooming Iris (Hager, 1992)

The Reblooming Iris Society, a section of the American Iris Society, has a web page that lists reblooming varieties of irises and the USDA zones in which they have been reported to rebloom. If you would like to introduce rebloomers into your garden, this is the place to start. You may also enjoy the Reblooming Iris Society Facebook Page, where lovers of these plants post information on what is reblooming where, and for how long.

'Frequent Flyer' and 'Lady Friend' occasional rebloomer (Ghio, 1980)

I am a newbie to the world of irises, and my experiences are limited to Southern California and to tall bearded irises. Do irises rebloom where you live? What kinds of irises do well there, and which are your favorites? My favorite is usually my newest. 'Rose Teall' (Holk 1995) opened yesterday for the first time, so it's my favorite today.

Many iris nurseries specialize in reblooming irises, so check the AIS website or do a Google search for commercial growers in your area.

"Are they supposed to be blooming NOW?" Yes! Plant reblooming irises suited to your area and enjoy the beauty and grace of irises, in every color of the rainbow, for weeks on end.


  1. Informative article and lovely photos!

  2. Too bad I was not into growing iris when I lived in southern California. We get only occasional rebloom in Prescott. Great article!

  3. Oh how i envy you your climate in Southern California! Bloom into January would be amazing!! Love your 'Total Recall' clump!! Thank you Renee!


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