Breeding Of Bearded Irises. At Home. Photo

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Breeding Of Bearded Irises. At Home. Photo
Breeding Of Bearded Irises. At Home. Photo

Video: Breeding Of Bearded Irises. At Home. Photo

Video: Breeding Of Bearded Irises. At Home. Photo
Video: Iris Breeding at Stout Gardens 2023, April

One of the most mesmerizing spring-flowering herbaceous perennials is the Properly Bearded Iris. Having the richest palette of colors and shades, dividing into groups by flowering time and height, it has become not just a decoration for gardens, but a source of pride for many collectors. His selection keeps a rich history and has tens of thousands of registered varieties and unknown to a wide range of cultivars. But, despite the diversity, breeding work does not stop, perhaps because the crossing of iris sometimes gives the most amazing results and is not considered difficult.

Short bearded iris "Enchanted Mocha" (Iris 'Enchanted Mocha')
Short bearded iris "Enchanted Mocha" (Iris 'Enchanted Mocha')

Classification of the bearded iris

Bearded iris has a rather complex hybrid origin. Its ancestors are different natural species: Germanic iris, dwarf iris, Trojan iris, Cypriot iris, pale iris, etc. That is why it has so many forms and varieties. And it is for this reason that it still does not have a unified classification recognized throughout the world.

The simplest classification of the bearded iris is the division by height. The low-growing group includes plants up to 40 cm high. The medium-growing group - up to 70 cm. All varieties above 70 cm are considered tall.

At the same time, dwarf irises are divided into miniature ones, with a peduncle height of up to 20 cm and one to three flowers on it, and standard ones with a peduncle height from 21 to 40 cm and two to four flowers.

Iris 'Gypsy Romance'
Iris 'Gypsy Romance'

Medium-sized bearded irises are divided into 4-flowered irises (IB - intermediate bearded), those that have more than 6 flowers on one peduncle (BB - boarder bearded), and the so-called miniature (MTB - miniature tall bearded).

The tall group is not divided into subgroups.

According to the classification adopted by the Russian Iris Society (ROI), Properly Bearded irises are divided into:

  • Tall Bearded (TV - Tall Bearded);
  • Standard Median Bearded (SMB - Standard Median Bearder);
  • Small-flowered Medium Bearded (SFMB - Small-Flowered Median Bearder);
  • Intermediate Median Bearder (IMB);
  • Standard Dwarf Bearded (SDB - Standard Dwarf Bearder);
  • Miniature dwarf Bearded (MDB - Miniature dwarf Bearder);
  • Non-Arylbreds ((-) AB - Non-Aril - like Arilbreds);
  • Arils and Aril-like Arilbreds (AR & (+) AB (Arils and Aril-like Arilbreds)

By the timing of flowering bearded irises are:

  • very early (V - very early),
  • early (E - early),
  • medium early (ME - medium -early),
  • medium-late (ML - medium-late),
  • late (L - late),
  • very late (VL - very late).

There are also varieties with repeated (two or more) flowering - remontant (Re - Rebloomers), but in the conditions of most of our climatic zones, unfortunately, they do not show remontant in the vast majority of cases, therefore there is practically no data on them in Russian.

Classification of bearded irises
Classification of bearded irises

Irises are also divided by flower size:

  • with small flowers,
  • with averages,
  • with large,
  • with very large ones.

There is a classification according to foul color and standards:

  • monochromatic irises (self) - differ in the same color of all perianth lobes;
  • two-tone (bitone) - have two shades of the same color, in one of which the upper lobes are painted, in the other - the lower ones;
  • bicolor (bicolor) - carry two different colors.

Among the latter, the following groups are distinguished:

  • amena (amoena) - with white upper petals;
  • variegate (variegate) - with yellow upper and dark red lower;
  • plikata (plicata) - with anthocyanin (from pink-lilac to dark purple) patterns on the light surface of the perianth lobes;
  • luminata (luminata) - with an unpainted part around the beard on the anthocyanin background of the lobes;
  • plikata-luminata or fensi-plikata (plicata + luminata) - a combination of plicata and luminata indicators;
  • glaciate (glaciate) - pastel shades with the absence of anthocyanin elements;
  • iridescent (blend) - with smooth transitions from one color to another;
  • reverse - standards are darker than foul;
  • with "broken" color (broken colors) - with splashes of contrasting color on a plain background.

Breeding bearded iris

Thanks to the people's love for this wonderful perennial, over a hundred of its new varieties are born every year. The richest group, and the most popular, are the Tall Bearded Irises. The variety of shapes of their flowers, the combination of colors is simply amazing. But, despite this, the breeders continue to work, surprising the world with new wonderful achievements.

How to develop a new variety?

Even a novice amateur gardener can develop a new variety of bearded iris. This requires a little patience, some knowledge and dedication.

The first thing to start with breeding is to study the structure of the flower.

The structure of the bearded iris flower. 1 - inner (upper) petals (perianth lobes), standards; 2 - supra-wing ridge; 3 - stigma; 4 - anther; 5 - beard; 6 - outer (lower) petals (perianth lobes), fouls; 7 - ovary; 8 - sheet of wrapper
The structure of the bearded iris flower. 1 - inner (upper) petals (perianth lobes), standards; 2 - supra-wing ridge; 3 - stigma; 4 - anther; 5 - beard; 6 - outer (lower) petals (perianth lobes), fouls; 7 - ovary; 8 - sheet of wrapper

Perianth segments - this is how the "petals" of the iris flower are called. Among them, there are external lobes - fouls (lower petals) and internal - standards (upper petals). A goatee is a strip of richly colored bristles running along the top of the foul. Pistil - has three lobes and a nasal crest. Stamens - hidden under the standards and pistil.


If everything is clear with the structure of the flower, you can start crossing.

Step 1 - preparation

First of all, you need to decide what you will be crossing. Label the parent plant (which will be pollinated) and the parent plant (from which the pollen will be taken). (It is better to place the label with the markings under the ovary so that it does not get lost after the flower wilts.)

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, it is almost impossible to predict the result in advance, but in any case, for crossing, it is necessary to take the best specimens with pronounced features of interest.

In general, the breeder should be interested in the shape of the flower, its color, the number of buds, the timing and duration of flowering, the nature of branching, the strength of the variety's growth. An amateur is usually quite interested in the very fact of crossing, and therefore you can start with a simple one - try to get a variety of foul colors and standards, or mix tall and dwarf hybrids in order to obtain a transitional or binder medium-layer form.

If breeding work is planned to be continued, then it is better to immediately start a separate notebook and record in it the list of crossings and seedlings selected for further experiments, assigning them numbers and letter designations that take into account the year of crossing, pair number, seedling number.

Iris bearded "Little Annie" (Iris 'Little Annie')
Iris bearded "Little Annie" (Iris 'Little Annie')

Step 2 - pollination

In the morning, when the plants have already dried up, or in the evening, be sure to carefully cut off the anther with scissors from the father's iris in dry calm weather. Using a brush, gently transfer the pollen to the open stigma of the mother flower.

A few important points:

The mother flower is ready for pollination already at the end of the first day of flowering, when its stigma folds (opens). First, anthers ripen in the opened flower, and only then, after 16, or even 20 hours - pollen.

In a too hot period of the day, the stigma of the pistil dries up and cannot receive pollen. Therefore, it is recommended to carry out pollination at the beginning or at the end of the day, but taking into account the fact that there will be no rain in the next two hours.

The most viable pollen is considered to be collected on the first day of flowering.

If the perianth lobes of the iris are corrugated, standards and fouls can be cut off from them for easy access to the stigma.

Fouls and anthers are cut off in order to protect the flower from insect pollination.

To increase the percentage of bolls set, it is better to pollinate three stigmas rather than one.

If pollination has occurred, the box will begin to grow, if not, the flower will fade and fall off.

In the case when the mother plant, for some reason, is not ready for pollination or not near the father, the anther can be stored until the desired moment in a glass container, at room temperature. But you can store it for no more than eight days.

Short bearded iris
Short bearded iris

Step 3 - ripening the seeds

Next, you need to wait for the bolls to ripen (about two months). They should turn yellow-green. But you should not overexpose them on the plant, since if the boxes burst, the seeds will crumble. In addition, it has been observed that seeds collected from unripe bolls germinate better.

One box can contain from one to 60 seeds, if these are tall, bearded irises, and in dwarf varieties - and more than 100. At first they have a smooth surface and a honey-brown tint, but when dry, they shrink and shrink by half.

Step 4 - sowing seeds

Seed material can be sown either immediately after harvest, or before winter. Sow well according to the 10 X 10 cm scheme, deepening the seeds to a depth equal to about three of their diameters, but not deeper than 1.5 cm.

If the number of seeds is large, it is more convenient to divide the area into four-row beds with a distance of 30 cm between rows and 20–25 cm between seedlings. The soil for seedlings should be water- and air-permeable, not acidic.

In unfavorable weather conditions, irises can also be grown through seedlings. In this case, the dried seeds should be put into marked bags and stored until February. In February, sow them in bowls, in pre-disinfected soil. A small amount of hydrogel can be placed on the bottom of the pots to retain moisture.

To stimulate the seeds to germinate, you need to keep them in the cold for a while. For this, the container with the seedlings is covered with foil and sent to a cool place for one and a half to two months, with a temperature of about + 2 … 5 ° C, for example, to a refrigerator. Then they put it on a warm, well-lit window sill, or even better in a mini-greenhouse and wait for shoots. When it warms, the seedlings are planted outside.

An important rule

In order for the seeds to germinate successfully, the soil in pots or in the garden must always be moist. Drying out even for one day greatly slows down the process of seed germination. But even in the case when all the conditions are met, the seedlings will have to wait at least eight weeks, with the exception of the seeds of plikat hybrids, which begin to awaken already in the seventh week after sowing. And the germination process itself is extremely uneven, so you need to be patient.

Seedlings of bearded iris planted with seeds
Seedlings of bearded iris planted with seeds

Step 5 - flowering

The last stage is flowering. But he will have to wait. Fully developing plants begin to bloom only in the second or third year.

But even when the plants will bloom is not an indicator. It is necessary to give irises at least two years of flowering, since only in the second or third year of flowering it will be possible to say whether the obtained result represents something interesting from itself or not.

Step 6 - registration

If the resulting cultivar is unique, you can register it! This must be done through the Russian Society of Irises (ROI). But when filling out an application, you will have to fill out a special form in which to note various aspects related to the new variety, so it is better to print the application form in advance, even before flowering and fill it out gradually, and not from memory.

Iris 'Abbey Chant'
Iris 'Abbey Chant'

Interesting Facts

Festivals, international competitions and exhibitions of bearded iris are held annually in different countries. The oldest of these is a competition held in Florence called 'Concorso Internazionale dell'Iris', which dates back to 1957.

Australia, America and Great Britain each season award the most interesting new variety of bearded iris in their class with a special award - Dykes Memorial Medal, which in Russian sounds like "Dykes Medal". The presentation has been going on since 1927.

Most varieties of bearded iris are bred in the United States of America (the United States accounts for more than half of the registered cultivars), Russia is in second place in terms of breeding activity, then Austria and France.

There are more than 30,000 varieties of bearded iris in the world, but none of them have absolutely black, bright red or pure green petals.

One of the latest achievements of breeders is the bearded irises of the so-called "space" group (SA - Space Agers). Their difference lies in the non-standard shape of the beard, expressed by a kind of outgrowth in the form of a petal - a petaloid (flounce), a spoon (spoon) or a horn (horn).

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