German Iris


A Quick Gardening Guide to the German Iris

The German iris (iris germanica) is part of the stunning botanic iris family. The name 'iris' goes back to the Greek goddess of the rainbow and hints towards the astonishing colors you can expect when growing your own.



The German iris will grow several years and is a rather herby plant. At the bottom of the plant you will find root tubers which are somewhat 'endurable organs' and enable the iris to grow and survive many years. The actual flower of the German iris has 6 petals which are arranged in a trumpet-like shape. This is ideal for insects which fertilize the plant.

In nature the German iris occurs in mild climate zones of the northern hemisphere. Thus, the roots can survive winters although the plant prefers a sunny spot.

In the 19th century the German iris was used to create perfumes and scents. Similarly, the oil gained from this plant was used to eliminate bad breath, sweat and was even used as a spice in fine wines. Later on it was an important part of the cosmetic industry and was added to liquors and tobacco as an additional aroma. Over the years the iris family has been crossed and bred many times so that there are numerous hybrid versions available. The German iris however is still one of the pure forms that date back several centuries.

To successfully plant your own German iris, simply follow these basic rules:


The soil should be a loose type such as humus or even slightly sandy. If your garden has a heavy clay soil you should add some sand to it and regularly check that it is still loose. To avoid soaking you may choose a spot that is slightly inclined so that excess water can run downhill instead of flooding the roots.


The ideal place to plant the German iris is a rather sunny spot because the flower will have difficulties growing in the shade.


The best time to plant the flower is between late July and the beginning of October. That way the roots can grow and strengthen up to survive the winter. If you are planning to grow a German iris indoors in a pot you may plant it at any time of the year.


Ensure that the roots are not planted too deep- you should still be able to see the top third of it when it is planted. It is also important to trim the leaves about halfway when the time for trimming has come. This is to enable new fresh leaves to grow in the following season.

Whether you plant the German iris in a pot or in the garden, you should make sure that there is never a flooding or overflow of water. Pot growing is easy because you can control the amount of water it receives, but the plant in the garden needs special attention when it comes to rainy seasons. You should leave about 12 to 15 inches between each plant which is important for the root growth. After the initial planting the flower should be watered thoroughly, and should then only be watered when it gets dry.


When you loosen up the soil it is crucial not to damage the roots. Thus, it is a rather delicate but very important process. Once the flowers have faded you should trim the stems- about 3inches. As for the leaves you must remove any dead or strongly discolored ones. If you fail to do so you may prevent new healthy leaves to grow.


Whatever fertilizer you use, ensure that it is low in nitrates. The most important times to fertilize are just before the initial planting and in spring.