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What is a Siberian Iris?

J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing

A Siberian iris is a hardy, perennial decorative plant that blooms with colorful flowers in the late spring. It is native to northern areas of Asia and Europe and is cultivated for garden use in many parts of the world. It is easy to grow and does well in a variety of temperate climate conditions. It is grown from thick fibrous roots, and the primary method of propagation is by division.

Each Siberian iris plant produces abundant foliage that resembles clumps of tall thick bluish green grass. The plant is typically about 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 m) tall and spreads out to a width of approximately 2.5 to 3 feet (0.75 to 0.9 m). The leaves are long and narrow, tapering to a pointed end, and grow in an upright manner in radial arrangements. Each plant can produce several clusters of leaves, and the foliage remains green and attractive after the flowers are spent.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

The flowers of the Siberian iris plant are produced on very tall, sturdy leafless stems; each plant usually produces multiple blossoms. The flowers are often deep purple, although there are hybrids available in a wider range of colors like pink, blue, white, lavender, and yellow. The flowers are about 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10 cm) across, with a typical iris shape. Some of the petals, called falls, turn downwards while others reach up; the color usually gets very pale near the yellow center of the blossom. The flowers usually bloom in late spring and then develop a seed pod unless the stems are cut off after the flower is finished blooming.

As implied by the name, the native area of the Siberian iris is in northern regions of Asia and Europe. It requires the distinct seasons of a temperate climate, but is able to tolerate a wide range of temperatures. The Siberian iris is cultivated for garden use in many areas of the world where it is commonly used for applications including borders and flower beds.

The best time to plant Siberian iris is late summer or early fall. This is when it can be acquired as a bare root stock which should be soaked overnight and then planted at a shallow depth. It will thrive in an area that gets plenty of moisture and sunshine in the spring, and it should be watered regularly in the absence of adequate rainfall. After the flowers bloom, the stem can be removed to prevent the seed pod from forming and thus conserve the plant's energy. The Siberian iris can be propagated by digging it up and dividing the root system while the plant is dormant, then replanting.

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