Great Plants for Northern Gardens: Day 6 — Siberian Iris

Anytime a plant’s common name starts with the word “Siberian” you know it’s a good bet for northern gardens. Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) are among the most reliable of the plants for northern gardens.

Siberian iris have narrow, grass-like foliage, with varieties ranging from a diminutive 12 inches in height to nearly 40. Like other iris, they bloom in late spring or early summer. While they come in a wide range of colors, the most common is purple.

Iris is a huge genus of perennials, with more than 300 species available year-round. Several plant companies have begun breeding Siberian iris, too, and introducing new varieties and colors. Siberian iris are less popular than bearded iris, but are actually easier to grow. Siberian iris are hardy to USDA Zone 3 (northern Minnesota), and grow well in normal garden soil with full sun exposure. They tolerate wet soils much better than bearded iris.

Like other iris, they benefit from dividing every few years. The best time to divide iris is in early spring. Dig up the clump and divide it into sections, but make sure you have several growing points in each clump. Iris look most natural growing in a mass planting. Don’t cut down the foliage after the plants are done blooming. It turns a pretty golden color in the fall, adding a textural element to the late season garden.