Miniature Iris: Big Show, Early Bloomers, Blankets of Color

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Sometimes size does matter. Take, for example, dwarf irises, also referred to as miniature irises.

Growing only a fraction of the usual iris height, these tiny types of Iris plants are early bloomers and can quickly spread into a blanket of color.

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Several species are part of the dwarf iris worldwide. Some of the most famous examples are:

  • Danford Iris (Iris danfordiae)
  • Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata)
  • Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris)
  • Dwarf Violet Iris (Iris verna)
  • Netted Iris (Iris reticulata)
  • Pygmy Iris (Iris pumila)

Pygmy iris comes from the subgenus Iris, while dwarf crested iris, dwarf lake iris, and dwarf violet iris are from Limniris. All three are rhizomatous.

The other two are bulbous irises from the Hermodactyloides subgenus are reticulated irises.

Besides these perennial members of the Iridaceae family, many cultivars count as dwarf irises.

Dwarf Iris Care

Size And Growth

As the name of this iris group suggests, dwarf irises are much smaller than other irises.

Depending on the species, they can be anywhere from 4″ to 12″ inches tall, although most are closer to 8″ inches.

Over time, their roots will spread. Both the rhizomatous and bulbous species form clusters as far across as they are tall.

Flowering And Fragrance

One of the great benefits of having tiny flowering plants is that they create a blanket of color when they bloom.

Depending on the species, they can bloom anywhere from late winter into early spring.

The flowers may be in a wide range of colors, such as blue, burgundy, lavender, purple, or white.

Danford irises are the only dwarf species with yellow blooms (although some cultivars may present yellow as well).

Reticulated irises have a wide range of hues and a heavier fragrance than other dwarves.

Meanwhile, dwarf crested irises bloom in shades of blue and purple with yellow-crested markings.

One advantage to growing miniature irises indoors is that they’re easy to force, making it possible to enjoy blooms as early as mid-winter.

Light And Temperature

These little guys and gals love full sun but will tolerate light shade, especially at midday when the sun might get too harsh.

During the winter, be sure to keep them in a cool, dark location if overwintering indoors.

Normal household humidity levels around 40% percent are ideal, but they can also handle a reasonably wide range around this.

Note that plants of different species have their own temperature tolerances. Rhizomatous irises are more cold-hardy than bulbous species.

The USDA hardiness zone range for dwarf irises is 5 to 9.

Watering And Feeding

While Iris lacustris is a little more tolerant of water, you should avoid leaving any dwarf iris species “sitting in the drink.”

Bulbous varieties are especially prone to rotting under such conditions.

You can allow the soil to dry 2″ inches down before watering despite their short stature.

Feed your miniature irises monthly with a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted by half.

Pause feeding during bloom time or switch to a low nitrogen mix. Nitrogen will encourage your plants to grow foliage instead of flowers.

As always, cut back on food and water during the fall and winter months.

Soil And Transplanting

Any quality all-purpose potting mix will work for these plants, especially with a bit of added peat moss and perlite.

Be sure the soil is well-draining, and try to avoid heavy clay soils outdoors (loamy soil works best).

All irises tend to tolerate a wide pH range, but 6.0 to 6.5 tends to work best.

Remember that rhizomatous irises need exposure to the top of their rhizome. But bulbs need to be submerged.

Repot container specimens every 3 to 4 years to replace the soil and divide the roots.

Uproot both container and garden dwarf irises when replacing the soil. Dispose of the older central part and split up the younger rhizomes or bulb offsets to keep the plants thriving.

Grooming And Maintenance

Many growers choose to deadhead or remove the entire flowering stalk once the display ends with larger irises.

You can also prune away damaged or diseased leaves during the growing season. But wait until the leaves die back in the fall before cutting the plant down to overwinter.

Some growers plant miniature irises among ornamental grasses and other low-lying groundcovers. They then mow over the whole area in the fall.

How To Propagate Miniature Irises?

As with most irises, dwarf varieties can cultivate via division and seeds.

Check out this article on Dividing Bearded Iris for propagating tips.

Dwarf Iris Pests Or Diseases

As with most irises, these plants have a decent drought tolerance. Also, they can usually handle hotter temperatures for short periods.

Aphids and iris borers may visit your dwarf irises, though they are generally pest and disease-free.

They can also suffer from fungal leaf spots, leaf blight, and root rot if not cared for properly.

These plants are toxic to both humans and pets if consumed.

Miniature Iris Uses

Due to their small stature, dwarf irises are perfect additions to a wide range of settings, such as: 

  • rock gardens 
  • borders 
  • woodland gardens 
  • beds
  • cutting gardens

Pair them up with spring bulbs and pastel plants.

Allium, coreopsis, crocus, daylily, ornamental grasses, and tulip are all great companions for your miniature irises.

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