Monday, August 17, 2015

Reblooming Iris Program in Zone 6: "But That's Too Old!"

by Betty Wilkerson

Over the past thirty years, I've grown most of the irises reported to rebloom, and used many of them in breeding. I've produced and grown many iris seedlings that I thought would rebloom, but most have not.  Over the past ten years, as I've tried to encourage others to breed rebloomers, I've often suggested certain strong rebloomers. Ninety percent of the time or more, I'm answered with, "That's to old." or "That's to plain." Of course, they are right, but if we want rebloom, it seems this is the path we must take in zone 6. Most of the rebloomers, introduced in the past thirty years, either don't ever rebloom in my garden, or miss most years. In order to breed rebloomers you may want to use some of the older and more tailored rebloomers.  

My advice would be to grow a handful of strong rebloomers, and experiment with the crosses.  Grow some known rebloomers that are strong in the type of rebloom you want to produce, even fall rebloom if that makes you happy.  Add a few good color genes if you can, but know that the closer you stay to strong rebloom, the more rebloom you are likely to get in your seedlings. Mainly, be happy with your crosses, otherwise there is no point.

'Blatant' (Byer's 1990)

'All Revved Up' (Wilkerson 2007) 

Several years ago, John Van Hook visited my garden on a regular basis, and he often urged me to use 'Blatant' as a reblooming parent. Like everyone else, I didn't want to use it because it was "older & plainer." Eventually, I put pollen from 'All Revved Up' (Wilkerson 2007) onto 'Blatant' (Byer's 1990).  I lined them out, fertilized well, and watered on a regular basis.  The cross is approximately 75% plicata so I got plicatas, selfs, saturated variegatas, one white with yellow standard rims and fall rims, and one white glaciata.  A total of 13 rebloomed, including the glaciata.  

'Cool Character' (Wilkerson 2013)

1907-10Re (sibling to 'Cool Character'

1910-10Re (sibling to 'Cool Character.') 

Another rebloomer that I've been reluctant to tell people to use in breeding is 'Violet Returns' by Earl Hall. It's a half sibling to 'Feed Back.' It's both older looking and more tailored, but it produced one of my best reblooming seedlings, 1625-01Re.  'Star Gate' is the pod parent and my 'Violet Returns' X 'Breakers' child is the pollen parent.  Again, it's plainer and shorter than desired.  

2006-01Re is from ('Chinese New Year' x 'Theme Master') X 1625-01Re.  All this one really needs is a touch more form.  It has great height and branching which I attribute to 'Chinese New Year.'  

2006-01Re seedling

2008-01Re Wilkerson seedling

Another child of 1625-01Re is just above, 2008-01Re.  It's not particularly modern, but did rebloom a lot. Yes, it is hard to get modern form when using these more tailored varieties, but this is where the reblooms seems to reside.  Also, rebloom passes most easily when working with plicatas.  I've had really good luck with 'Earl of Essex,' and 'Over and Over.'  'Earl of Essex' is good for working with fall/cycle rebloomers, while I expect 'Over and Over' to work better when working for summer/whenever rebloomers.  More work with 'Over and Over' is in the future.

I've recommended 'Over and Over,' since it's one of the strongest rebloomers I've grown. Most people say they don't want to use it.  Few say it's because it's too plain, but don't offer other reasons.

'Over and Over' (Innerst 2001)

The picture above is not one of the best pictures, but does show some of it's potential faults. It would probably be best to make the cross both ways, just to satisfy your own curiosity as to which way is best.  If you have better pictures of 'Over and Over,' and you are willing to let me use them in my blogs, please send them to me at, with permission to use.  

Keep in mind that my reports are from work in my own garden in south central Kentucky.  I'm on a ridge, above a creek. The garden was a former pasture. Your results may be different than mine.   


  1. Lovely article, Betty! I keep historic iris for this very purpose. This is important work that you are doing! Thank you.

  2. I enjoyed your article, Betty! Thank you.


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