33 of the Best Iris Cultivars for Your Garden

Part of what makes irises so fabulous as a collection of flowers is also what makes them a bit challenging. Namely, there are just so darn many excellent options out there.

First off, there are hundreds of species, with Dutch, Japanese, Louisiana, Siberian, and bearded being some of the most popular.

Then, there are literally hundreds of cultivars and hybrids within these species. It’s enough to send you running out of the nursery in a panic. How can you possibly choose?

A close up vertical image of purple iris flowers growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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This guide aims to help you narrow down your choices, whether you need something to add interest to the margin of your pond, or you want to add a tall, colorful accent to your garden from spring through fall.

Here’s the lineup:

It’s easy to love a plant that offers so much in so many different sizes and colors, but demands so little to grow it well. Get out your gardening journal or some scratch paper, and let’s narrow your choices down.

A close up horizontal image of iris flowers growing in a meadow.

Before we jump in, let’s clarify a few terms.

Irises come in several different classifications and blooming sequences, and knowing what to expect ahead of time can help with your garden planning.

There are bearded and beardless irises, which come in multiple sizes (tall, intermediate, dwarf), as well as aril and species (Japanese, Dutch, and so on) categories.

These may be further classified as early, mid-, or late bloomers, as well as rebloomers. Rebloomers send out blossoms in the spring and again in the late summer.

To learn all about the different iris classifications and their flowering sequence, check out our comprehensive guide.

A close up vertical image of 'Innocent Star' flowers growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

Next, you can group bearded irises of all sizes by their patterns. Patterns are a general description of how the coloring on an iris appears when the flower is mature.

Keep in mind that there is no “official” standard for patterns. Instead, this is a way of grouping flowers to make it easier for growers and buyers to understand how a flower will look when in bloom.

Bearded iris patterns come in amoena, orchid, bitone, reverse bitone, Emma Cook, self, plicata, variegata, neglecta, Debby Rairdon, blend, luminata, glaciata, broken, and line and speckles. Phew!

You can learn more about iris flower patterns in our guide. (coming soon!)

A close up vertical image of 'Champagne Elegance' iris flower growing in the garden covered in droplets of water.

It also helps to know the parts of the flower so that you can envision how they’ll look in your garden.

Irises have two types of petals. The first are the standards, which are the upright petals at the top of the flower. Then there is the fall, which refers to the three lower petals.

The signal patch is a little colorful bit found at the center of the petals, just below the stigma, stamen, and beard, if one is present.

The beard is a fluffy little finger that looks sort of like a caterpillar. It sits right on top of the falls, and you may find none, one, or multiple beards on each flower depending on the variety.

If you’re new to growing irises, it might help to check out our guide to raising them before you jump in.

Ready? Let’s take a tour of 33 favorite iris varieties for your garden.

1. Aachen Prince

This early-blooming, tall bearded iris was hybridized in 1986 and has been a popular option ever since.

‘Aachen Prince’ is a hybrid of ‘Flamingo Blues’ and ‘Firewater.’ It blooms for a long time, with dark blue flowers in a self pattern.

At the center is a subtle orange signal. When mature, it reaches three feet tall.

2. Best Bet

‘Best Bet’ not only pops up early in the growing season but it’s a rebloomer, which means you can enjoy a colorful display for a long stretch of the year.

A close up horizontal image of a blue 'Best Bet' flower pictured on a soft focus background.

The standards on this tall bearded iris are pale violet-blue and the falls are deep, dark violet-blue, in a typical neglecta pattern.

The plant can grow up to three feet tall.

A close up square image of 'Best Bet' iris flowers growing in the garden.

‘Best Bet’

Home Depot carries packs of three rhizomes of this elegant stunner, available for purchase online.

3. City Lights

‘City Lights’ is a classic-looking tall bearded iris with deep violet petals that have a faint white patch surrounding the beard. The signal patch is pale yellow.

Introduced in 1991, it’s a hybrid of ‘Fancy Face’ and ‘Windsurfer’ that reaches just over three feet tall. It’s a self-patterned rebloomer with large flowers that last a long time.

A close up square image of 'City Lights' flowers growing in the garden.

‘City Lights’

Sound good? Head over to Home Depot to grab a set of three rhizomes for your garden.

4. Champagne Elegance

Raise a glass to this iris that resembles a frothy flute of champagne. If you’re looking for a bicolored type that stands out from its blue and purple peers, ‘Champagne Elegance’ is an excellent option.

The pale pink standards rise above pastel apricot falls on a 32-inch-tall plant.

A close up square image of 'Champagne Elegance' growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

‘Champagne Elegance’

This rebloomer was introduced in 1987, and it received an honorable mention from the American Iris Society (AIS) in 1989, as well as their Award of Merit in 1991.

Eden Brothers carries this tall bearded iris that’s worth celebrating in packs of two, four, and 10 rhizomes. 

5. Concertina

This orchid-patterned rebloomer will have you dancing to its song as it shows off its big blossoms.

A close up horizontal image of a 'Concertina' flower growing in the garden pictured in bright sunshine.

An intermediate bearded iris, ‘Concertina’ tops out at just over two feet but the blossoms themselves are huge, reaching up to six inches across.

While the coloring is soft and pastel, it makes a bold statement in the garden. Each petal is a pale rose with a dark violet and orange beard at the center.

A close up square image of a 'Concertina' iris flower pictured on a soft focus background.

‘Concertina’

This hybrid of ‘Aaron’s Dagger’ and ‘Chanted’ was introduced in 2000, and it won the AIS Award of Merit in 2006.

Hearing the siren song of ‘Concertina’? Grab yourself a plant in a #1 container at Nature Hills Nursery.

6. Dame de Coeur

An elegant three-foot-tall lady of the garden, ‘Dame de Coeur’ will easily capture your heart. A tall bicolor bearded iris, the petals are vibrant raspberry pink contrasted against a striking tangerine beard.

The falls have subtle orange highlights at the top, as well.

A close up square image of 'Dame de Coeur' growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

‘Dame de Coeur’

Flowering happens in the mid- to late-season, and the gray-green foliage adds its own interest to the garden when it’s not in bloom. A hybrid between ‘Good Show’ and ‘Rougissant,’ it does best in partial shade.

Want to invite this lady to your garden? Nature Hills Nursery carries her in packs of three rhizomes.

7. Definitely Different

Sometimes you wonder how breeders come up with their plant names, but with ‘Definitely Different,’ the reason is perfectly clear.

This plicata-patterned cultivar has all the familiar coloring, including yellow, purple, and white, but that doesn’t mean it’s your typical iris.

The standards on this tall bearded type are bright white with a distinct golden outline. Below, the falls are outlined in tangerine with a lilac and white center.

The beards are vibrant tangerine, and the haft veins – which extend out of the center of the falls on the top third of the petals – are deep russet. The flowers stand like colorful flags on 38-inch-tall plants.

This beauty is a hybrid of ‘Spring Satin’ and ‘Goldkist,’ and it was introduced in 2002. In 2004, it received an honorable mention from the American Iris Society.

8. Earl of Essex

The Second Earl of Essex was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, and if this iris had been around during her reign, I bet it would have been one of her favorites, too.

A close up horizontal image of a purple and white 'Earl of Essex' flower growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

It’s a tall bearded type that reblooms reliably. On top of the bold white and lavender coloring, the petals are highly ruffled, and you can easily see their resemblance to the ruffles on an Elizabethan ruff.

Each plicata-patterned petal is outlined in dark lavender with bright white centers and lavender veins. The beard is the palest orange with pale violet at the tip. ‘Earl of Essex’ was introduced in 1980, and it grows to three feet tall.

‘Earl of Essex’

To bring this flower that’s worthy of the royal court into your garden, head to Amazon, where you can pick up packs of one, three, or nine rhizomes.

9. Forever Blue

For those spots in the garden that could use a smaller plant, ‘Forever Blue’ fits the bill.

This is a dwarf bearded iris that tops out at just 12 inches, but it’s not short on color. A self-patterned rebloomer, it has pale lavender petals with dark veins and deep lavender beards.

A small orange and wine-colored signal patch adds just a little bit of extra depth.

A close up square image of 'Forever Blue' growing in the garden.

‘Forever Blue’

Introduced in 1997, it quickly nabbed an honorable mention in 2000 and the Award of Merit in 2002 from the American Iris Society.

Home Depot carries single bare root plants for sale.

10. Gala Madrid

‘Gala Madrid’ has been around since 1967, which is much longer than many of the plants on this list. There’s a reason for that.

This cultivar received an honorable mention in 1969 and won the Award of Merit in 1971 from the American Iris Society. It has proven to be a reliable, sturdy option.

A close up vertical image of a purple and yellow 'Gala Madrid' flower pictured on a soft focus background.

The variegata-patterned plant has deep butterscotch yellow standards, while the falls are dark reddish-purple with a blue signal. The falls are outlined in Bordeaux red with an orange beard.

The falls feature subtle dark purple veins, and all of the petals are heavily ruffled.

This tall bearded iris reaches about 30 inches in height and blooms late in the season. It’s a hybrid of ‘Main Event’ and ‘Gypsy Lullaby.’

11. Glamazon

This tall bearded iris is so flashy that it could easily compete with the rest of the queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

‘Glamazon’ is new on the scene, introduced in 2007, but she started turning heads right away with her heavily ruffled petals.

The standards are butterscotch and the falls have a soft butterscotch undertone with a bold rose overlay. The blaze is tangerine and red, and the signal is blue-purple.

A close up square image of 'Glamazon' iris flower pictured on a soft focus background.

‘Glamazon’

‘Glamazon’ is a bicolor late bloomer that comes from the House of ‘Glamour Pants’ and ‘Decadence’ (or in other words, it’s a hybrid of the two).

As RuPaul sings in her song of the same name, “everybody wants her, she’s like a female phenomenon.”

If you want her on your garden runway, Nature Hills Nursery can make your dreams come true with a bare root plant.

‘Glamazon:’ Shantay, you stay. Can I get an amen?

12. Gnu Again

The old familiar purple iris is made new again with this speckled stunner. This tall bearded type has ruffled, intensely purple falls and slightly lighter standards. Both are covered in bold white speckles, all on a three-foot-tall plant.

A close up square image of 'Gnu Again' flowers growing in the garden.

‘Gnu Again’

Introduced in 1994, ‘Gnu Again’ quickly nabbed the AIS Honorable Mention two years later. In 1998, it took home the Award of Merit.

To add something new to your garden, purchase a plant at Nature Hills Nursery.

13. Hall of Marble

‘Hall of Marble’ is a Japanese iris, and its beauty can’t be captured by mere words. You have to see it to understand how gorgeous it is.

The petals have a purple-blue base that fades to true purple on the exterior. Throughout are stripes and streaks of white, all anchored by a bright yellow splotch in the center of each petal.

This lines and speckles-patterned water iris was introduced in 1956. It’s an extremely tall plant, stretching up to four feet in height when mature.

14. Haunting

Black flower gardens have become incredibly popular these days, but it’s hard to find flowers that have truly deep, dark coloring. But the tall bearded iris known as ‘Haunting’ fits the bill.

The petals have an extremely dark violet-red base with an overlay of black.

This 36-inch-tall plant can be a bit challenging to find, but it’s worth seeking out. Not only does it have true black in the petals, but it’s hardy, and the coloring is reliable so it won’t fade in the shade.

Not all black plants can claim this.

It’s also a self-patterned rebloomer, with the second flush popping up in the late fall.

15. His Royal Highness

All bow down to his majesty, ‘His Royal Highness,’ the tall bearded iris. Beyond being a reliable rebloomer, this 36-inch-tall plant is somewhat unique because the flowers are almost entirely composed of a single color.

Both the standards and falls are magenta, as is the signal and the beard. If you open the throat of the flower up, you can see some bright yellow deep down inside, but it’s not apparent from the exterior.

A close up square image of 'His Royal Highness' - an iris flower - growing in the garden pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

‘His Royal Highness’

Introduced in 1989, it’ll be an instant classic worthy of the throne in your garden. Eden Brothers carries packs of two, four, or 10 bulbs of this self-patterned plant.

16. Innocent Star

In 1999, this tall bearded type hit the scene, with beet red standards and white falls edged in lavender. At the center is a splotch of yellow with a cream base, bluish-purple veins, and a red beard.

A hybrid of ‘Innocence Abroad’ and ‘Rock Star,’ it grows three feet tall with gracefully ruffled plicata blossoms.

A close up square image of 'Innocent Star' iris flower pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

‘Innocent Star’

Adding this superstar rebloomer to your garden is a no-brainer. Snag a bag of two, four, or 10 bulbs at Eden Brothers.

17. Invitation

Irises are known for their bold coloring, but sometimes you want something a bit more subtle.

Enter ‘Invitation.’ This 34-inch-tall amoena patterned tall bearded iris is resplendent with blush pink standards and pale apricot falls. The beard is a dark tangerine.

A close up square image of 'Invitation,' an orange and white iris flower, pictured on a soft focus background.

‘Invitation’

If you want to invite this sweet treat to your garden, stop on over at Eden Brothers for a bag of two, four, or 10 bulbs.

18. Just for Sophie

‘Just for Sophie’ is a tall bearded type in the palest shade of apricot. Both the standards and falls are pale apricot with darker apricot veining, and the falls have a subtle ombre effect with slightly darker tips.

This reverse bitone mid-season bloomer received an honorable mention from the AIS in 2001, just three years after it was introduced.

19. Lavender Sunrise

Bearded irises are marvelous and all, but if you’re hoping to fill a soggy spot or a part of your backyard pond, you need to turn to the types that like to grow in heavy moisture.

Of those, ‘Lavender Sunrise’ is a particularly lovely option.

A close up square image of a bee on a 'Lavender Sunrise' flower.

‘Lavender Sunrise’

Where most Louisiana irises are fairly vibrant, this one looks more like a watercolor. The leaves are pale lavender and white, with pale yellow stripes down the centers of the petals.

Plants top out at about 30 inches, though they usually stay smaller.

Head to Home Depot to grab yourself a live plant in a four-inch container.

20. Lion King

‘Lion King’ is wildly popular, and for a good reason. This Japanese cultivar grows up to 40 inches tall and blooms in mid-season, but that’s not why it roars head and shoulders above the rest.

The petals are sword-shaped and white with dark purple, heavily ruffled edges. In the center of each petal is a bright orange-yellow signal.

Introduced as a hybrid between ‘Frosted Pyramid’ and ‘Frilled Enchantment’ in 1996, it has been capturing the attention of garden visitors ever since, and is now one of the most popular Japanese hybrids out there.

A close up square image of 'Lion King' iris flowers growing in the garden.

‘Lion King’

It won the AIS Honorable Mention in 1999, the Award of Merit in 2001, and the W. A. Payne Medal in 2003.

Make room for a pride of these irises, because they reproduce readily without becoming invasive. To start, visit Nature Hills Nursery to pick up a live one in a #1 container.

21. Lumarco

With pale rose standards and white falls edged in deep purple, ‘Lumarco’ demands attention. The bright orange beard and red veins on the top edge of the falls only add to the attraction.

A tall bearded iris, ‘Lumarco’ grows up to about 33 inches, and blooms in mid-season with its showy Emma Cook pattern.

A close up square image of 'Lunarco' flowers pictured on a soft focus background.

‘Lumarco’

It’s no wonder, if you decide you want to add this to your garden. To make it happen, head to Home Depot to pick up individually packaged bare root plants.

22. Obsidian

‘Obsidian’ has earned a reputation among black flower lovers for being one of the truest purple-black flowers you can grow.

A close up horizontal image of a dark purple, almost black iris flower growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

A tall bearded type, the overall color is deep grape purple with slightly lighter standards. All of the petals are washed in black, particularly at the tips.

Even the beard is black and grape purple. There is a splash of yellow deep in the throat of each blossom, but you can’t see it from the outside.

This self-patterned dark beauty made a splash when it debuted on the market in 2002, and it earned the AIS Honorable Mention in 2004 and the Award of Merit in 2006.

A close up square image of a deep blue, almost black 'Obsidian' flower growing in the garden.

‘Obsidian’

Whether you have a black flower garden or you just want to add a dark contrast to the rest of your plants, you can’t beat ‘Obsidian.’ Home Depot carries bare root plants.

23. Ocelot

It might not resemble the feline of the same name, but talk about a contrast! ‘Ocelot’ features pale peach standards and incredibly dark maroon falls. They’re so dark, in fact, that they look black in a certain light.

The bicolor petals are ruffled, and the flowers emerge in the early- to mid-season on 36-inch plants. A hybrid of ‘Chinese New Year’ and ‘Romantic Evening,’ ‘Ocelot’ hit the market in 1998.

A close up square image of Iris 'Ocelot' growing in the garden.

‘Ocelot’

This bicolor type took home the AIS Honorable Mention in 2000, and the Award of Merit in 2002.

Nature Hills Nursery can help you bring ‘Ocelot’ home.

24. Peacock Butterfly Uncorked

The bearded ladies garner all the attention, but Siberian irises can be extremely stunning, as well.

Take ‘Peacock Butterfly Uncorked.’ It’s a flashy bloomer, with bright yellow falls covered in reddish-purple veins and margins.

A close up vertical image of 'Peacock Butterfly Uncorked' iris flower growing in the garden.

‘Peacock Butterfly Uncorked’

The standards are lavender and smoky gray with dark purple veins. Plants top out at about 26 inches.

Head to Burpee to bring home your own showy display. This cultivar is available in packs of three bare root plants.

25. Pink Attraction

‘Pink Attraction’ is aptly named. It has self-patterned pale pink petals with just the faintest hint of violet below the beards, which are orange.

While many irises have a pleasant scent, this one delights the nose with an intense, sweet fragrance.

A close up square image of 'Pink Attraction' flowers growing in the garden pictured in light sunshine.

‘Pink Attraction’

This tall bearded hybrid of ‘Jean Guymer’ and ‘Vanity’ was introduced in 1988. It’s a reliable rebloomer with highly ruffled petals on a three-foot-tall plant.

Grab a pack of three bare root plants at Home Depot.

26. Pink Parfait

Irises are known for their distinct shape, but this Siberian cultivar defies the standard. Its ruffled petals look more like those of a peony or a rose. Each petal is pinkish-lavender with a splotch of pale pink or white near the tips.

It averages about two feet tall, but can grow a bit taller.

A close up square image of 'Pink Parfait' growing in the garden pictured in bright sunshine.

‘Pink Parfait’

By the way, don’t confuse this plant with its relative, the Pacific Coast iris ‘Pink Parfait.’ That one is an entirely different species with pale pink petals that have a dark purple and yellow center.

To add three bare root plants to your yard, pop on over to Burpee.

27. Red Ember

This Dutch cultivar will set your heart on fire with its flaming red falls and violet standards. The signal is striking yellow-orange and the petals have faint veins throughout.

A close up square image of 'Red Ember' flowers pictured on a soft focus background.

‘Red Ember’

This plant will grow to about 20 inches tall, and blooms in mid-season.

Buy 15 bulbs of this gorgeously glowing plant at Burpee.

28. Red Hot Chili

We hope you like it spicy, because ‘Red Hot Chili’ brings the heat. The standards have a bright yellow center with a deep, russet red wash overall. The falls have a broader yellow center and speckled russet margins, all highlighted by a bright yellow beard.

A close up horizontal image of 'Red Hot Chili' iris growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

Speaking of beards, this is an intermediate bearded cultivar with a plicata pattern that grows to 18 inches tall.

A hybrid between ‘Ruby Eruption’ and ‘Rock Star,’ it was introduced in 2008, and won the AIS Honorable Mention in 2011, the Award of Merit in 2014, and the Hans and Jacob Sass Medal in 2017.

A close up square image of 'Red Hot Chili' growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

‘Red Hot Chili’

Oh, and in case you were curious, it absolutely does have a spicy, floral scent.

Nature Hills Nursery carries this stand-out cultivar.

29. Sapphire Jewel

To add a touch of sparkle in precious jewel tones to the garden, look no further than ‘Sapphire Jewel.’ A dwarf bearded iris, it stays under 12 inches tall, but it isn’t short on color.

It blooms all season long with blue-violet petals that are so vibrant they appear to shine from within. The base of the self-patterned petals are darker violet, as are the beards.

‘Sapphire Jewel’ was introduced in 1978 and earned the AIS Honorable Mention in 1980, the Award of Merit in 1982, and the Cook-Douglas Medal in 1984.

30. Sorbonne

We’re not talking about the school in Paris, here. Instead, we’re singing the praises of the fantastic tall bearded cultivar with bubble ruffled petals in brown, black, yellow, gold, and red.

Topping out at 38 inches, the standards are brownish-black with a hint of red on the edge, and a speckled golden-yellow center. The beard is white with a brown tip.

A close up square image of the deep purple and yellow 'Sorbonne' iris flower.

‘Sorbonne’

After being introduced in 2009, ‘Sorbonne’ made the grade when it brought home the AIS Honorable Mention in 2011, and the Award of Merit in 2013.

Nature Hills Nursery lets you bring this unique plicata-patterned flower home.

31. Sunfisher

If you wish you could fish a little sun out of the sky and plant it in your garden, look no further than ‘Sunfisher.’

A Siberian iris, it blooms in the early to mid-season on a 28-inch-tall plant. The standards are pale yellow, contrasting nicely with the deep yellow falls.

A close up square image of bright yellow 'Sunfisher' flowers growing in the garden.

‘Sunfisher’

Head to Nature Hills Nursery to wrangle a bucking beauty of your own in a #1 container.

32. Unbuttoned Zippers

The Siberian cultivar ‘Unbuttoned Zippers’ is a kaleidoscope of colors, and it’s a rebloomer that reaches 23 inches tall at maturity.

The standards are pale blue and red with splotches of pastel yellow. Underneath, they are red and blue-violet with a yellow signal patch and distinct dark purple veins. The throat of each flower is deep reddish-purple.

33. Victoria Falls

It’s easy to fall in love with ‘Victoria Falls.’

A close up vertical image of purple and white 'Victoria Falls' flowers growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

This tall bearded iris with a self pattern has medium blue standards and falls, with a distinct white splotch in the center of the falls.

And it blooms all season long with large blossoms on a 40-inch-tall plant.

A close up square image of the purple flower of 'Victoria Falls' growing in the garden.

‘Victoria Falls’

All of this explains why it earned AIS’s Honorable Mention in 1978, the Award of Merit in 1980, and the Dykes Memorial Medal in 1984.

Pick up a package of three bare roots at Home Depot.

Don’t Let the Many Varieties of Irises Overwhelm You

As with roses, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of options out there when it comes to choosing an iris to plant. But that’s also one of the reasons why these showy flowers are so popular.

A close up horizontal image of bright blue iris flowers with yellow and white speckled throats growing in the garden.

Armed with this guide, you hopefully have a better idea of what you want and where to get it!

If so, be sure to come back and let us know which type of iris you opted for. Did you go with a showy plicata? Or a subtle pastel beauty? Tell us in the comments, and feel free to share your photos as well.

After that, you might be interested in expanding your iris knowledge. We have some excellent guides all about the genus to read next, starting with these:

Photo of author
Kristine Lofgren is a writer, photographer, reader, and gardening lover from outside Portland, Oregon. She was raised in the Utah desert, and made her way to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two dogs in 2018. Her passion is focused these days on growing ornamental edibles, and foraging for food in the urban and suburban landscape.

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