The practice of “Companion Planting”, a centuries-old gardening tradition, follows the theory that different plant species, planted close together, assist each other with nutrient production and absorption, controlling pests, attracting pollinators, and other factors necessary for their full productivity. This practice is clearly beneficial in flower gardens as well. When planning your beds, consider water conservation as well as overall aesthetic design.
Ray Schreiner, quintessential plant-lover, has designed the Display Gardens at Schreiner’s Iris Gardens with these companion planting principles in mind. Some of his choices fix nitrogen in the soil, others attract butterflies and other pollinators, some work to control weeds, and some are chosen simply for aesthetic appeal.
Ray plants the Display Gardens with a wide range of sun-loving as well as shade-dwelling flowers. He chooses mainly perennials, but adds some annuals for a quick splash of color along the borders. These give the Iris gardens a balanced feel with their varied heights, colors and shapes, and lengthen the display of blooms from early Spring into late Fall. Some of the companion plants our guests can find in the garden during bloom season include Alliums, Peonies, Icelandic and Oriental Poppies, Delphiniums and, of course, the ubiquitous Lupine. Ray plants flowering trees and shrubs such as Dogwoods, Magnolias, Birch, Willow, Heather and Rhododendrons to round out the park-like setting. Shasta Daisies, Rudbeckia, Reblooming Iris, and Clematis brighten the summer gardens here. “I like to have color all year round,” says Ray. “Too bad there aren’t a few more seasons in the year.”
Some tips to keep in mind as you choose your companion plants:
Plant in zones: Group together plants with similar light and water requirements. Choose a variety of plants with different heights, colors and textures to create interest and beauty.
Choose drought-tolerant perennials, such as: Day Lily, Echinacea, Lavender, Sedum, Gaillardia, Rudbeckia, Phlox, to name only a few. To enhance your drought-tolerant Iris beds, choose perennials that require full sun and that bloom around the same time. Choose other perennials, with low-water needs, to continue the display of color throughout the year.
January 5, 2021 at 9:43 am
I am thinking to plant some flowers in my backyard this spring. Any recommendations for western Washington area what’s easy to care for
January 5, 2021 at 10:22 am
Hello. Thank you for the message. When planning a flower bed, it’s helpful to consider the amount of sunlight the area receives daily. The second consideration is water. If planting several kinds of flowers, choose plants that have similar light and water needs. For example, choose plants that are all drought tolerant and sun loving if the area to be planted gets at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. Bearded iris are a sun-loving, drought-tolerant, easy-to-care for, colorful perennial. These are planted in the summer months. The Tall Bearded iris bloom May through June, depending the exact varieties that you plant. Excellent companions to iris include lupine, columbine, thalictrum, roses, delphinium. There are many fine spring blooming perennials to consider. Let us know if we can be of further assistance. Happy planning!
June 14, 2020 at 3:01 pm
When should I cut or remove spent Iris stems? We
June 15, 2020 at 12:01 pm
We recommend removing spent bloom stalks once all the blossoms have finished. Trim the stalk down a its base. Leave the remaining healthy, green foliage attached to the rhizome. Trim off any dry or brown areas of the foliage.
June 11, 2020 at 5:20 pm
This was the first year my Iris had aphids galore. I noticed them on the buds before they opened, so I brushed them off, mashing them with my fingers. After blooming, many of the leaves had aphids. What’s the best way to eliminate aphids?
June 12, 2020 at 1:52 pm
We suggest you make a homemade insecticidal soap, a low-toxicity bug control solution that will desiccate the soft bodies and kill the aphids without doing harm to your plants. Simply mix a few teaspoons of liquid dish soap with one quart of water, then spray or wipe the solution onto the leaves, stems, and buds of the plant. (Don’t forget: These bugs like to hide beneath leaves, so take care to thoroughly coat the underside of the leaves, too.) Repeat the process every two or three days for the next few weeks, until you no longer notice aphids on the plant.
If your aphid infestation is not eliminated by the use of insecticidal soap, you may need to use a systemic pesticide. Consider using a product containing Imidacloprid. Mix and apply according to the manufacturer’s directions.
May 29, 2020 at 11:38 am
I live in south central Kansas and for some reason my plants are being eaten by gopher just certain ones not all iris is there a reson for this
May 29, 2020 at 12:10 pm
Hello. Sorry to learn of this frustrating situation. Gophers generally do not eat rhizomes, although they might nibble a little at the roots. Their tunneling, however, can be very disruptive for the iris and may cause the rhizomes to sink down into the ground. Thus it would seem that the gopher tunnels only run under some of your iris, and not under the others. We hope this information is helpful. Let us know if we can be of further assistance.
April 24, 2020 at 5:55 pm
I have been having a problem with beetles eating my Iris flowers, they seem to like the white and light blue and lavender colored ones best, I don’t see them eating the orange, yellow or pink ones. Any suggestions on getting rid of them besides hand picking the beetles off?
March 10, 2020 at 7:41 am
Hi! I love my bearded irises and planted two new garden beds of irises last year. I followed everyone’s opinions in which I should not mulch over my rhizomes but I am constantly battling weeds and I know the weeds are taking nutrients away from the irises. My question is can I plant a low growing ground cover to combat the weeds, such as mint or sedum? Or can I use a mulch that is light weight such as pine straw?
March 12, 2020 at 8:54 am
Hello and thank you for the question. A low-growing ground cover can be effective in controlling weeds. The ground cover is compatible with iris so long as it is not covering the rhizome. Keep the ground cover 2 to 3 inches away from the rhizomes to allow for sun to reach the tops of the rhizomes. The key is to prevent moisture from accumulating around the rhizome. If the ground cover (or mulch) traps moisture on the rhizomes, then rot can develop, thus killing the iris. Let us know if we can be of further assistance. Best of luck and happy bloom season!
July 23, 2019 at 9:52 am
I am in central South Carolina and the summers are super hot here. I have my flower beds heavily mulched with woodchips to keep them cool, to keep our voracious weed at bay, and to retain moisture. I know that Iris rhizomes are supposed to be somewhat exposed, but I worry that our hot sun will burn them. If I expose the top of the rhizome, I am also pretty much planting in the mulch, but it is time to divide many of them, and I plan on doing that in a month or so. How should I handle this? Thanks!!
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July 26, 2019 at 2:08 pm
Hello. Thank you for writing. Bearded iris can withstand heat. They do not need to be mulched. It is very important that the soil drain well and that the rhizomes do not sit for extended periods in moist soil, as this can lead to rot. We generally do not recommend a heavy mulch or bark dust on top of the rhizomes. If you are laying bark dust or mulch in the garden bed, we recommend that you pull away the mulch to expose the tops of the iris rhizomes. You might wish to thin the old iris clumps prior to mulching. If you go the other way around, simply clear away the mulch from the surface of the soil in order to plant the iris. We hope this information is helpful. Let us know if we can be of further assistance.
June 10, 2019 at 8:46 am
Thank you for all of the info & beautiful irises. I have a question about rescuing & regrowing irises from old beds. My sister-in-law was very kind to give me a bunch of mystery-colored rhizomes she had originally planted at her cabin in the 1990s. We dug, clipped, sorted, soaked & replanted. Good news, the biggest rhizomes bloomed in two new beds for the last two years. I kept most of the smaller pieces for my tiny side yard, not knowing if I would have mostly miniatures or dwarf flowers vs just immature plants that need more time to develop flowers. What is the lifecycle of “child” rhizomes & how long to they need to grow before producing flowers? Is it possible I ended up with old bits & pieces that are too tired to bloom? The leaves still look great, just a lot smaller than my existing irises (original to my house & over 20 years old) nearby.
June 10, 2019 at 11:36 am
Thank your for writing. It sounds like you have a few immature plants which need an additional year or two in order to reach maturity to produce bloom stalks. A good indicator is the foliage. If the leaves are healthy, and the plant is receiving sufficient nutrients and sun, then keep them where they are for another year. Fertilize a month after bloom season with a low-Nitrogen fertilizer (which would be around the end of June), and again in the spring (about the time tulips are blooming). Give sufficient water during especially dry periods. Best of luck! Stay in touch.
November 4, 2018 at 3:39 pm
Can I cover my Iris rhizome with river rocks after planting or will new shoots not be able to push through?
November 5, 2018 at 11:37 am
The tops of the rhizomes do best when they are exposed to air and sun. The risk with any type of cover is the retention of moisture, which can lead to rot. The Iris need to be planted shallowly, so that their tops are visible. Perhaps placing the rock around the perimeter of the plant would be a viable option.
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September 18, 2018 at 10:49 pm
I am in Central Oregon. Should I cover iris with pine needles for a winter cover? Want to protect my babies! Loris
September 19, 2018 at 10:33 am
Thank you for the question, Loris. Winter protection is recommended in areas that see extreme cold during the winter months. Here is a link to out blog post on this topic. https://schreinersirisgardens.wordpress.com/tag/winter-iris-care/ I hope this is useful information. Kind regards.
September 9, 2018 at 7:46 pm
Spring ’18 was very wet here in the mid-Atlantic, southeast PA to be exact. In addition, my iris patch hadn’t been separated in 4yrs. In spite of all that , I had two beautiful blooms and many fat buds. But one by one the bud stalks just fell over and the bottoms of the stalks were slimy and mushy. I dug up the rhizomes, hosed the dirt off, cut off bad spots, washed them in 10% bleach then dried them in the sun. I wrapped them in newspaper, put them in a large flat box and brought them inside. They now are dried and wrinkled. So it’s time to plant them. Should I soak them in water over night before planting. I have the bed all prepared. Do you think they will grow. I really want to save them. They are deep purple bearded iris. Is there anything else I should do?
P.S. I didn’t see any borers when I dug them out.
Thank you for your expert advice.
September 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm
Thank you for the question, Cynthia. We recommend planting the cleaned up rhizomes as soon as possible in full-sun, in nutritious soil with good drainage. You’ll want to get them in the ground at least 6 weeks before the first hard frost. Pre-soaking the rhizomes is not necessary. Apply a low-Nitrogen fertilizer or bone meal at the time of planting. Avoid any fertilizer or plant food that is high in Nitrogen. Water the newly planted Iris very well. Best of luck and happy gardening!
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September 10, 2018 at 5:21 pm
Thank you for your prompt reply. I’ll try to get them in this week but we have a hurricane coming up the coast. I have Schreiners iris food which I will use. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Thanks again.
May 7, 2018 at 12:45 pm
Would Amarillis be a good companion plant for my Iris garden?
May 7, 2018 at 1:24 pm
So long as the companion plants included in the bed with Bearded Iris are drought tolerant and sun loving, they should grow well together.
April 28, 2018 at 5:44 am
This is such a beautiful display. I have some lupine seeds and would love to try this. What zone is this? I’m in zone 8b!
April 30, 2018 at 12:04 pm
We are also in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8b.
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April 14, 2018 at 3:58 pm
The flowers shown in the picture at the top are competing with the irises – something I want to avoid. Could you put up a more specific article that specifies what blooms when in relation to irises? To me the lupines look awful, overwhelming the irises into a poor second place.
April 16, 2018 at 11:52 am
Thank you for the feedback, Marcia. Gardens are such a personal place. Finding the right combination of plants, colors, shapes, bloom times, must be determined by the gardener’s particular preferences. Here is a link to a nice article by Susan Holland Spicker regarding the planning of an Iris garden: https://theamericanirissociety.blogspot.com/2017/02/talking-irises-tall-bearded-irises.html Happy Gardening!
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March 12, 2018 at 4:47 pm
I live in Las Vegas , Nevada. What iris should I buy now in March. Thank you.
March 19, 2018 at 12:01 pm
Hello. We ship our Iris when they are ready to be dug, which is in July, August and September. This is the time for transplanting/ planting new Iris. You are welcome to place an order with us (either by phone at 800-525-2367 or online at http://www.schreinersgardens.com), but we will ship them to you in the summer. I hope this has answered your question.
March 4, 2018 at 12:50 pm
I am “pondscaping” the exterior of a large ornamental pond and have several varieties of your iris picked out but need advice on companion planting with them. The area gets full sun, but I have several young blue spruce, lace leaf junipers and mugo pines planted that will (hopefully) be growing as well so future shade is a concern. I am considering muscari and some sort of variegated grass such as Sweetflag. Any suggestions you could give for the iris companions would be appreciated!
February 3, 2018 at 11:02 pm
I recently moved to a new house and moved a old fashioned rose bush to the same flower bed where I planted a bunch of bearded iris. The iris is a bitone purple that I’ve grown for years at my old house. There is about 3 feet between the rose bush and the iris. I didn’t bother to check if they would be good companions and now all these flowers have taken well to their new location. Will this be a problem?
February 5, 2018 at 12:37 pm
Thank you for writing. The roses and Iris will absolutely work well together. We also have roses planted among our Iris display beds here on the farm. Enjoy the endless bloom from spring through summer.
September 7, 2017 at 11:02 am
I am interested in planting small bulbs such as muscari and crocus among the iris, would that work? What about other spring bulbs?
September 7, 2017 at 11:27 am
Thank you for the question, Catherine. We would recommend planting the muscari and other bulbs a short distance from the Iris, as opposed to directly beneath. Leave enough distance between the rhizomes and bulbs to allow for the rhizomes to spread (a minimum of 12 inches). We plant tulips and daffodils in our display gardens behind our row of Dwarf Iris, for example. The the Dwarf Iris foliage, which is shorter than the tulips and daffodils, provides a nice front-scape to the spring blossoms. In some years (weather depending), the Dwarf Iris bloom simultaneously with the tulips and daffodils, which makes for a really wonderful spring show. Also, after the tulips and daffodils have bloomed out, the Iris blossoms become the main attraction in the “front” of the garden stage. Let us know if we can be of further assistance. Kind regards and happy fall planting!
June 23, 2017 at 7:12 am
I am planning a new iris bed behind a retaining wall on a slope. Being here in Virginia and dealing with clay, what soil should I mix into the back fill. There will be compost and soil back filled. Do I need gravel at the bottom to keep clay from packing and to aid drainage? Do I mulch iris?
June 23, 2017 at 8:45 am
Hello and thank you for the message. Your plan for soil, compost and gravel are sound. That should provide the drainage that the Iris need. As for mulch, we do not recommend mulch on Iris, as it retains too much moisture on the rhizome. A winter protection of evergreen boughs or straw can be used in extremely harsh winters. Even mounding some extra soil over the rhizome can help prevent upheaval and dislodging of the rhizome due to winter freeze-thaw cycles. It is critical to remove any type of winter protection in the spring as soon as new foliage begins to form. Let us know if you have any questions. Happy summer! Good luck with your project.
September 14, 2016 at 2:58 am
Hi. Following your recommendions I have just split my over grown extra tall white bearded Irises and purple London Flags and made a new bed in full sun. I’m now looking at companion plants. I wonder if Agapanthus would be suitable as I have several pots that need splitting. I did have Day Lilies with the Flags (as you suggest) but I find them too invasive and difficult to control once they start coming up between the rhizomes and in my lawn!
Thankyou for your hard work keeping up your lovely helpful site. Doxy. London UK.
September 15, 2016 at 10:25 am
Thank you, Doxy, for your kind words. We’re glad you enjoy our site. Agapanthus is a companion plant we utilize here in our 10-acre Iris Display Gardens. It is a bit on the aggressive side and very leafy, but we enjoy it. Lupine, Delphinium and Alium (“ornamental garlic”) are also wonderful and less aggressive options. Thank you again for the comment.
June 13, 2016 at 2:07 pm
My irises produce new growth on the same rhizome. What do you do with new growth?
June 13, 2016 at 2:44 pm
Hello, and thank you for writing. The new growth on the same rhizome is the way in which the Bearded Iris multiply. You keep the new growth attached to the old rhizome. The new growth will subsequently have its own new growth the following summer and fall. After three to five years, it is recommended that you divide the Iris clump in order to ensure the most vigorous bloom and growth. Please visit our “How to Grow & Care for Iris” pages for more details: http://www.schreinersgardens.com/how-to-grow-and-care-for-iris
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June 11, 2016 at 7:36 pm
Planted Iris rhizomes last fall. Clearly, I planted them too deep. They created lots of leaves, but no stalks/flowers. It’s now June. Can I dig them up & replant at correct (higher up/nearer soil surface) level? Should I cut down the leaves to 5″? And these are supposed to be rebloomers–will I get that 2nd bloom in the fall even though the first never occurred? Thanks!
June 13, 2016 at 1:30 pm
Hello, and thank you for writing. We generally recommend transplanting in July, August or September. Moving the Iris now might interrupt their growth cycle, but most likely the plants will tolerate the disruption. Trimming the leaves prior to transplanting makes the process of moving a bit easier. Generally, though, we say keep the foliage on all summer (but trim the bloom stalks). As for the rebloom question, it’s hard to say. Rebloomers do not always put up a second bloom. The act of transplanting them might give them a bit of a burst, however. Be sure to apply a light application of low-nitrogen fertilizer when you transplant these Iris. If you have some time, take a look at our “How to Grow & Care for Iris” pageshttp://www.schreinersgardens.com/how-to-grow-and-care-for-iris Let us know if you have any further questions. Best regards!
June 4, 2016 at 10:55 am
Do Iris of different types bloom well when mixed? Should Bearded Iris be planted away form other types?
June 6, 2016 at 1:18 pm
Hello, thank you for the question. Iris do very well planted among other Iris and other plants with similar planting needs. Here in our Display Gardens on the farm we plant many Iris in the same bed with a wide variety of companion plants. The key is to plant the Iris 12 to 18 inches apart. When incorporating other plants with the Iris, choose plants that have similar water and sun needs for best success. Companion planting is an age-old practice which has proven beneficial for the garden. We invite you to read more about companion planting in our “How to Grow Iris” pages on our website: http://www.schreinersgardens.com/how-to-grow-care-for-bearded-iris (click the link labeled “What grows well with Iris?”)
June 3, 2016 at 7:55 pm
Hello, I enjoy this thread as very informative. I am in Eugene and have bad luck with bearded Iris. Many seasons of sparse blooms. Dividing hasn’t helped….they get enough sun, but no fertilizer to he honest. My question is whether it’s best to dig all up, toss old rhizomes, replant with new stock or divide existing again replant, and hope for blooms next year?
June 6, 2016 at 1:00 pm
Hello, and thank you for writing. We are happy to learn that the blog has proven useful for you. But we’re sorry to hear that you’re not having luck with Iris in your garden. Based on the description of your situation, it would seem that lack of soil nutrition could be the culprit. While bearded iris are typically a very dependable and easy-to-grow perennial, they have a few basic needs, one of them being a nutritious soil in which to thrive. You might wish to have your soil tested by a local garden center or extension service to best determine which nutrients are lacking. Once armed with this information, you will be able to amend your soil as necessary. Before amending your soil in the Iris bed, remove all Iris, discard the spent rhizomes (keep the ones with foliage, and trim foliage to about 5 inches). Then amend your soil in the bed. Replant the Iris, water in well. Give them a good long drink once about every 10 days. Apply a light application of a low-nitrogen fertilizer when the tulips are blooming in your neighborhood next spring. Let us know if you see improvement in your Iris bloom next May! Happy Gardening!
May 23, 2016 at 2:37 am
IRIS Planted fall 2015 are slow to bloom in zone 5. The climate has been cool upper 40s to 60s. Will this change the repeat blooms.
May 23, 2016 at 10:29 am
Hello and thank you for the question. Weather conditions certainly do have an impact on growth, and bloom, of all plants. In order to receive the best answer to your question, it would be best to direct you to the folks who dedicate their time to the science and culture of the reblooming Iris — the good people of The Reblooming Iris Society. Please visit their website in order to contact them: http://www.rebloomingiris.com/ Kind regards. Happy Spring!
February 3, 2016 at 7:07 am
Very interesting topic on this site. I recently had a discussion about this topic. Thanks!
April 8, 2016 at 1:13 pm
Thank you for reading! So happy you found it useful. Happy spring! Further on the subject of companion planting, you might check out http://www.egardengo.com/. Lots of planting and garden mapping ideas. Happy spring!
November 2, 2015 at 11:18 am
Hi, Ray ~
Are your flower beds flat all the way across or mounded in the middle? I am planting your suggested companion plants with the iris. Thank you!
December 29, 2015 at 11:21 am
We generally mound slightly toward the center of the bed in order to improve drainage. Share springtime photos of your Iris with the companion plants! (p.s. sorry for the delayed response!) Happy New Year!
September 12, 2015 at 6:18 am
Is it alright to use pine nuggets instead of fir bark for potting soil mix? I cannot find fir bark. Where and what brand do you use or recommend?
September 22, 2015 at 11:34 am
Hello. Thank you for writing. Are you referring to potting soil for planting Bearded Iris in pots? We recommend a loamy soil that drains well and that is rich in organic nutrients. Soil which contains too much Nitrogen can result in fast foliage growth but hinder the development of blooms. We would not recommend mixing pine nuggets or fir bark into the soil, as either might retain moisture, which may lead to rhizome rot. Pine nuggets or fir bark can be useful as a winter protection as long as the rhizome is not smothered. Let us know if you have any further questions.
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July 7, 2015 at 7:15 pm
Need the names of iris that are good for zone 3. Thank you.
July 8, 2015 at 12:43 pm
Thank you for writing. Informal evidence suggests that purples and blues and yellows tend to perform well in colder regions. We welcome comments from other readers who may have first-hand experience growing Iris in zone 3.
August 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm
I need to to thank you for this wonderful read!!
I definitely loved every bit of it. I have you saved as a favorite to look at new stuff you post…
February 20, 2014 at 5:05 pm
Your lupines are amazing! Did they all start from plants or were some seed grown and if seed grown how did you do it. I have read lots on growing lupines from seed but they don’t work for me. Can you help?
February 25, 2014 at 9:24 am
Thank you, Christine. Regarding the lupines in our Display Gardens, we started from seed some years ago and we always had good luck. We started the seeds in the greenhouse. Keep in mind that they are not a long-lived perennial. The lupines that are still blooming in May and June in the Gardens are from dropped seeds from the original seedlings we planted. We have not planted new seedlings for a couple of years. Lupines seem to like sun and good drainage. They do not do well in wet or shaded areas. Some suggestions for starting from seed: They are a very hard seed so you could try soaking over night then planting out. Try starting in a greenhouse or in a flat outside with potting soil. Make sure the young seedlings do not dry out. You could also work the ground and try it that way. You may also wish to try purchasing young plants, if you do not have luck with the seeds. After the blooms are gone, leave the old wilted blooms on and let the seeds form. Once the seed pods form, let them drop and you might be surprised. Lupines are like a weed once they get going. Best of luck to you!
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February 13, 2014 at 2:50 am
Hi there to every body, it’s my first visit of this web site; this website
consists of remarkable and in fact good material designed for visitors.
February 13, 2014 at 9:46 am
Thank you for the recommendation! We strive to make our site useful for Iris growers across the board, but particularly to the home gardener. All the best to you!
October 11, 2012 at 8:00 pm
I suggest the name of this Iris is Royal lace!
October 12, 2012 at 9:10 am
Hello Doris, Please submit your name suggestion to email@example.com. We are unable to accept contest entries via WordPress or Facebook. Thank you for your understanding.