Colorado gardeners are so familiar with Bearded Irises (Iris germanica) that we tend to forget there are any others. It’s true that Bearded Irises do exceptionally well in our climate and soils, but they won’t bloom for several more months. Two smaller relatives—Iris reticulata and Iris danfordia—are blooming now. Why not grow them as well?
Iris reticulata and I. danfordia are collectively known as Dwarf Irises. You may also see them labeled miniature irises or rock garden irises. Iris danfordia is a sunny yellow with brown specks; I. reticulata comes in shades of blue, purple, lavender, maroon, white, and yellow. It has bright yellow and/or white markings on the petals. This species has a number of named cultivars, including ‘Harmony’ (deep cornflower blue) and ‘J.S. Dijt’ (very deep purple). All the photos on this page are I. reticulata. (Hybrid irises typically sold as “Dutch Iris” are larger, and bloom later in the summer.)