Double Your Pleasure with Reblooming Iris

by Patrick Muir on August 25, 2013

It was the morning before a hot September day and her freshness screamed for attention in the midst of a tired perennial bed. We were visiting the jewel in Kansas City known as Kauffman Gardens and here, standing before us, was the glorious yellow tall bearded iris, ‘Summer Olympics’. I wasn’t aware some irises have the genetic ability to rebloom and I had to learn more.

You may have seen national magazine ads offering reblooming bearded iris collections. But the ability to rebloom is very regional and some experts believe the key to success is selecting hybrids with proven performance in your USDA zone. The majority of iris hybridizing takes place in California (Zone 9), so most hybrid reblooming catalog claims are based solely on performance in that region. So I’ve contacted some local experts to find varieties that have been proven to rebloom in our Zone 6 area.

Jim Hedgecock with Comanche Acres Iris in Gower, MO sings the praises of the sparkling white, and aptly named ‘Immortality’.  He says “I see continuous bloom from May through end of the season and it was the first hybrid introduced to the market as an ever-bloomer.”  From my research, if you can make room for only one rebloomer, this pick in known to rebloom in most iris growing areas of the country.

Another selection from this grower of over 2,000 varieties on 15-acres is ‘Feed Back’. Hedgecock says “This hybrid sports 6-8 buds of ruffled, blue-violet flowers on strong well-branched stems.  This midseason spring bloomer is noted for its sweet fragrance. ”

Butter yellow is an apt descriptor for the color of the beautiful and wonderfully fragrant  ‘Harvest of Memories’. Hedgecock says “Both of these hybrids are very reliable rebloomers here at Comanche Acres in September and October.”

A two-time president of the Kansas City Iris Society, Jim Murrain has been growing irises since he was ten years old. He says “The hybrid ‘Earl of Essex’ is very different in color than most irises that can rebloom in Kansas City. It has a delicate tracery of orchid on the falls and a little heavier on the standards. You can expect rebloom in late September.”

From the same breeder as ‘Earl of Essex’, ‘Baby Blessed’ is a standard dwarf bearded iris only reaching a height of 10″. Murrain says “This selection is a fast grower and puts up a lot of flower stalks. It’s light yellow on the standards fading to white on the falls. This is a very reliable rebloomer in September and October”

Rosalie Figge‘ is a subtle interplay of violet and purple with a pretty, sweet fragrance.  Murrain says “This variety is hailed as one of the very best rebloomers in our climate. It boasts a more modern form than most rebloomers and can bloom again any time in September or early October.”

Debbie Hughes with the Kansas City Iris Society has been volunteering at the Cohen Iris Garden at the Overland Park Arboretum since 2007. She said “The best rebloomer of the bunch out there is ‘Love Goes On’, which has rebloomed each year since 2010.”  With pink standards and lavender falls, this bi-color is only available by mail order at winterberryiries.com.

Cultural tips from Tracy DiSabato-Aust in the gardening classic, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques, include cutting all old stalks to the ground immediately after the first flowering. Deep, weekly watering during hot and dry weather is essential for success. Fresh new fans will appear and these are the sites of late summer and autumn flower production.  Since twice as many fans are produced in a season, dividing frequently is recommended to encourage reliable rebloom.

In addition to regular watering through the summer months, Hedgecock recommends an extensive fertilizing regime of three applications of 5-10-10 in March, Late June and October for optimal reblooming.

Unless otherwise noted, all varieties are available at schreinersgardens.com. For more information, you can find The Reblooming Iris Society at rebloomingiris.com.

Patrick's Garden

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

PlantPostings August 25, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I can’t imagine reblooming Bearded Irises–that would be wonderful! I suppose I’m too far north for that. Great post with lots of information on how to accomplish it.

Reply

Patrick August 25, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Thanks for the compliment, PP. They can bloom as early as mid-August. I think you’ll have no problem with ‘Immortality’.

Reply

PlantPostings September 2, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Good to know, Patrick. Thanks! By the way, I just caught the first episode of the Ken Burns National Parks series tonight. I’ve seen bits and pieces in the past, but now I’m planning to watch the full series. The part about John Muir was especially moving.

Reply

Patrick September 2, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I’m so glad you took my recommendation to check it out. You’ll love Part 2 as well and JM’s Scottish brogue can be heard throughout the whole series like a friendly ghost, but no where near as cute as Caspar, I must say.

Reply

New Hampshire Gardener August 25, 2013 at 4:46 pm

I think if I walked through a garden and saw an iris blooming in September I’d seriously wonder if I had miseed winter somehow, or if spring was having a re-run. This is amazing. I never knew that there were reblooming iris.

Reply

Patrick August 25, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Until I ran across ‘Summer Olympics’, neither had I and thought it must have been some type of freaky sport then I called the director right away to investigate. White Flower Farm has been running 1/4 page color ads promoting their collection for the past few years.

Reply

Dee/reddirtramblings August 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I’m grateful you wrote that reblooming is regional. I can’t tell you how many times club members have been disappointed in a reblooming iris they bought nationally. I grew ‘Earl of Essex’ for years, but I think I eventually overwatered it in a dry year. Reblooming flowers are an awesome sight, but aren’t we glad ragweed doesn’t? Have a beautiful, if hot day.~~Dee

Reply

Patrick August 28, 2013 at 10:03 am

My dear Dee,
Your club membership experience has probably been replicated all over the country for many years. I think WFF needs to pull their national ads promoting their reblooming collection.

Reply

snowbird August 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm

A lovely post on one of my favourite flowers.xxxx

Reply

Patrick August 28, 2013 at 9:57 am

Glad you enjoyed, you bird in the snow.

Reply

Donna August 27, 2013 at 11:35 am

Great article on the rebloomers, Patrick. I try to spec them here too so people are more inclined to have iris in their gardens. I just got the August copy of The Kansas City Gardener in the mail and read the longer article, thank you for having the monthly sent to me. I love it and all the articles are really well written. The advice is not too off of what could be followed here. I love the section on the backyard birds by The Bird Brain too. Great publication and good to have you writing for them.

Reply

Patrick August 28, 2013 at 9:56 am

Hey Donna,

Glad you enjoyed the story online and in print. So glad you’re enjoying your subscription and look forward to your upcoming post on it. I hope your spotlight will encourage more entrepreneurs to consider similar start-ups. It’s a simple model to replicate with free content and existing distribution services to deliver to not only garden centers but grocery stores, public libraries and the like. With a print run of 26,000 of a highly enthused audience, it’s a no brainer for targeted advertisers of whom many contract for 12 month insertions. I know St. Louis has the same model.

Best, Patrick

Reply

Donna August 30, 2013 at 9:50 am

I tried to encourage the garden community locally since it is such a huge market. The problem is time and I did offer my services, but still no bites yet. I am planning on doing the post now that garden walk season is finished and local readers have more time to relax and plan for next year. A good friend of mine does a weekly online garden magazine (commercial with advertisers) and was thinking of asking her to consider a print version as a monthly. I just love the layout and content of The Kansas City Gardener.

BTW… I just became a finalist for the The Best Garden Blog Graphics, Photography, and Presentation at the Garden Bloggers Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Did you have anything to do with this? I was floored yesterday to get the email. I know very few people associated with this event, so I have wondered how I got submitted in the first place, let alone GWGT is now a finalist. My first thought was you. And if it was not you, I have the link on my current post if you want to see what it is all about.

Reply

Patrick August 30, 2013 at 10:10 am

I’m sure Elizabeth would be more than happy to talk to your friend and perhaps volunteer to be a mentor?

On your nomination, I wish I could claim responsibility because I would have been a willing suspect. One of the things I truly admire you for is your humility when graced with your gifts in photography, design and prose. I’m not a betting man anymore (bad experiences and I swore to my momma to hang up my hat. Vegas seems to be thriving, I am told by my ex-bookie) but let me be the first to congratulate you on garnering first place, my learned friend.

Reply

Alberto August 29, 2013 at 3:38 am

Hi Patrick, I love irises and I’m testing a reblooming one bred here in Italy. I guess the only secret is, as you said, that you have to keep them well fed and watered during summer to see some reblooming sign, which is what I don’t intend to do, iris are supposed to be drought tolerant and self caring tough plants, I’m fed up with fussy plants. Certainly an iris bloom in september looks very tempting though…
That ‘love goes on’ is the best one to my taste, with colors just blending one into each other and not too clashing.

Reply

Patrick August 31, 2013 at 7:49 am

Hey Alberto,
Don’t stress about the maintenance. I don’t think the fertilization is the key to success at all. In fact that recommendation comes from an overly enthusiastic nurseryman. I think the key to watering is providing water during the dry stretchers of summer. Please give a trio of ‘Love Goes On’ and please let me who it does for you, man.

Reply

Jason August 29, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Some very luscious irises … I love the white!

Reply

Patrick August 29, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Come on, my windy friend (sorry meant Windy City friend), you have to try ‘Immortality’.

Reply

Donna August 30, 2013 at 9:53 am

I agree. I have Immortality and it is a great choice.

Reply

Patrick August 30, 2013 at 10:14 am

‘Immortality’ seems to perform as a rebloomer across most of our Grand Republic.

Reply

Ray @ A Leafy Indulgence September 3, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Well, thanks for the explanation why the reblooming iris does not rebloom. My experience with Clarence, my ‘reblooming’ iris was that after two years, it did rebloom – just as the frost hit in October, and the blossoms did not survive. It learned its lesson, and never rebloomed again.

Reply

Patrick October 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Summer Olympics was blooming in August. It’s worth investigating.

Reply

Layanee September 11, 2013 at 7:06 am

An Iris in August is joy indeed. She is lovely.

Reply

Patrick October 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Blew me away when I first saw her in the garden.

Reply

Alistair September 19, 2013 at 7:13 am

Patrick, Great collection of Iris. The idea of having ones that rebloom is very appealing, considering the short flowering period. Mind you I suspect this would be unlikely to occur in Aberdeen.

Reply

Patrick October 3, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Well I can enjoy my iris while you enjoy the heaths and heathers, my good friend.

Reply

Charlie@Seattle Trekker October 3, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Almost everything thrives in my garden, but I have been met by failure trying to get Iris to thrive in my garden. I suspect it has been too wet. Seeing your beautiful specimens I will go back to researching and experimentation to see if I can’t make this work.

Reply

Patrick October 3, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Make sure the rhizomes are situated well above the soil. They will grow in the poorest of soils so while it may sound drastic, you could try growing in an area amended with sand and gravel to provide maximum drainage. Worth a try. Start with Immortality

Reply

Kimberley at Cosmos and Cleome October 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm

My local Agway is selling some re-blooming iris rhizomes this fall. I bought two called ‘Cloud Ballet’–a pretty pale blue. We’ll see what comes of them.

Reply

Patrick October 14, 2013 at 2:26 pm

That is a pretty blue. White Flower Farm includes it in their collection. Crossing my fingers for you.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: