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8 Types of Iris Flowers & 19 Iris Varieties (with Pictures)

purple irises

Irises are a favorite among gardeners and florists around the world. These perennials have beautiful blooms and come in many colors and rich history. Because of how popular irises are, there are various iris types available.

Despite how many irises there are, all irises fall into one of two categories. Still, the sheer variety of iris types means that gardeners have quite a few options to choose from.

To learn about the 27 most popular iris flowers, keep reading. This article fully explains the two categories of iris flowers and provides an overview of the most popular subtypes of irises within both categories.

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Bulb Irises vs. Rhizome Irises

First, it’s important to know that there are only two types of irises: bulb irises and rhizome irises. Every iris you see belongs to one of these two categories. What differentiates the two iris categories is how they are planted and grow.

bulb and rhizome iris
Image Credit: Left – Bulb Iris (Buntysmum, Pixabay); Right – Rhizome Iris (jhenning, Pixabay)
Bulb Iris

Bulb irises are more popular among gardeners because they are easier to grow between the two iris types. Plus, some of the most recognizable irises fall in the bulb category, further making them the more popular iris type between the two.

As its name suggests, bulb irises are planted in a bulb. These flowers often bloom early in the season, much earlier than the rhizome irises, and they are much smaller too.

Rhizome Iris

Rhizome irises are a bit different than bulbous irises. They are planted as rhizomes, which are sideways growing stems. They then shoot out laterally beneath the surface until a shoot forms, resulting in the plant. Other rhizome plants include turmeric and ginger.

Rhizome irises aren’t as popular as bulbous irises simply because they are a bit more difficult to grow. You can grow rhizome irises without much difficulty, but most beginning gardeners should start with bulbous irises instead.

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The 27 Most Common Iris Flowers

Even though there are only two categories of irises, there are way more than just two types of irises. Instead, there are dozens of iris flowers, each one belonging to one of the two categories described above. Here are some of the most popular irises (19 bulb irises and nine rhizome irises) around the globe:

1. Dutch Iris

Dutch Iris
Image Credit: Faintt, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Iris hollandica
Iris Type: Bulbous

The most common iris around the globe is the Dutch Iris. This iris is the most used by florists and cut down for bouquets. Interestingly, there are various subtypes and hybrids of Dutch irises. For example, the Spanish Iris is a highly renowned Dutch Irish hybrid. Some of the more popular types for gardening include Dutch Iris Apollo and Magic Blue.

5 Dutch Iris Varieties:
  • Blue Magic
  • White Excelsior
  • Yellow Queen
  • Apollo
  • Spanish Iris

2. Reticulata Iris

Reticulata Iris
Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Iris reticulata
Iris Type: Bulbous

The Reticulata Iris is another popular iris. It tends to be one of the earliest blooming of all iris flowers. Sometimes, this iris type is called the Netted Iris because its bulb has a fibrous net around it. The flowers are incredibly showy, making them a favorite in gardens.

5 Reticulata Iris Varieties:
  • Iris Danforidae
  • Iris harmony
  • Katherine/Katharine Hodgkin
  • Lady Beatrice Stanley
  • Angel Tears

3. Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris
Image Credit: Ralphs_Fotos, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Iris germanica
Iris Type: Bulbous

Of the rhizome irises, the Bearded Iris is the most popular. These flowers have super loud petals, and they are often much easier to grow than other rhizome irises. The name “Bearded” refers to the hairs that are found on each of the falls. The purpose of these hairs is to attract pollinators, but they are gorgeous too!

9 Bearded Iris Varieties:
  • Iris Clarence
  • Beverly Sills
  • Hello Darkness
  • Jesse’s Song
  • Stairway to Heaven
  • Titan’s Glory Edith Wolford
  • Dusky Challenger
  • Queen’s Circle
  • Dwarf Bearded Iris

4. Dwarf Bearded Iris

Dwarf Bearded Iris
Image Credit: zoosnow, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Iris germanica
Iris Type: Rhizome

As you probably figure from its name, the Dwarf Bearded Iris is just like the Bearded Iris. The only difference is that it is much smaller. Whereas most Bearded Irises grow to be between 8 and 15 inches tall, the Dwarf Bearded Iris never grows above 8 inches. Most of the Bearded iris varieties can be found in Dwarf form as well.


5. Beardless Iris

Beardless Iris
Image Credit: kittomalley, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Iris germanica
Iris Type: Rhizome

The Beardless Iris is like the Bearded Iris. It is a rhizome iris, but it does not have beards. Instead, the flowers have bright strips down the center to help attract pollinators. Beardless Irises are not as attractive as the Bearded Irises, but they can withstand a ton of conditions.

Like the other irises we have looked at so far, there are tons of different Beardless Iris varieties. Some of the most popular Beardless Irises include Wild Irises, Pacific Coast Natives, Louisiana Irises, and Siberian Irises. Another super gorgeous Beardless Iris to consider is the Japanese Iris, though it can be difficult to grow.

5 Beardless Iris Varieties:
  • Siberian
  • Louisiana
  • Japanese
  • Pacific Coast Native
  • Spuria Iris

6. Crested Iris

Crested Iris
Image Credit: GabrielDouglas, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Iris crestata
Iris Type: Rhizome

The Crested Iris is one of the most stunning flowers on the planet. This flower includes both beards and signals, making it almost like a combination of the Bearded Iris and the Beardless Iris. This combination means that the Crested Iris is visually stunning from every angle.


7. Dwarf Crested Iris

Dwarf Crested Iris (7125454557)
Dwarf Crested Iris (7125454557) (Image Credit: Kid Cowboy, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 2.0 Generic)
Scientific Name: Iris crestata
Iris Type: Rhizome

The Dwarf Crested Iris is a native dwarf species. It is great for woodland gardeners, and it only grows to be about 6 inches tall. It is just like the Crested Iris, but it is much smaller.

Related Read: 31 Types of Blue Flowers


8. Yellow Flag Iris

Yellow Flag Iris
Image Credit: xivic, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Iris pseudacorus
Iris Type: Rhizome

The last iris on our list is the Yellow Flag Iris. We have made this our last iris because it is one you should only plant and grow with great concern. The Yellow Flag Iris is considered an invasive species in many areas. So, be sure to read up about the iris in your area before growing it.

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Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are dozens of iris types available, and we haven’t even considered half of them. The irises above are considered some of the most popular around the globe. Whether you just have a small indoor garden or an entire part of your lawn dedicated to your flowers, you should be able to find an iris to match your region, preferences, and garden size.

If you are just growing irises for the first time, we recommend starting with bulbous irises. These will be easier to practice your gardening skills. Once you master the bulbous iris, you can move on to the rhizome iris as well, but feel free to stick with the bulbous iris if you want. After all, they are all beautiful!


Featured Image Credit: zoosnow, Pixabay

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