Reticulata Or Dwarf Bulbous Irises

Similar to several plants of their close cousins, reticulata irises, also known as dwarf bulbous irises, have their origin in Russia as well as the Middle East, where the plants flourish in hot dry summers and cold winters. Perhaps, there are innumerable species of this iris class that are growing in the remote regions of Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan which are yet to be identified.

Reticulata iris plants are ideal for growing in along the edge of walkways in full sun or in rock gardens, where they will not be besieged by other larger plants that bloom during summer. They thrive well in gritty soils that are fertile to some extent and are well drained. These plants have a preference for soils having a pH between neutral and alkaline. If you are growing reticulata irises in containers, ensure that they are provided with adequate nutrients. These plants need to be fed additionally well, especially when grown in pots. Providing the plants with chicken manure measuring about one-fourth of a bucket complete blended with water will serve as an excellent tonic for them. This solution should be given to reticulata irises once in a fortnight starting from mid-fall.

To obtain the utmost effect, it is advisable that you grow reticulata irises in clumps and groups. Nevertheless, it is essential to lift these irises once in two to three years because they multiply very rapidly when grown in favorable conditions. When these plants are overcrowded, they are more vulnerable to a fungal disease called ink disease. If needed, growers can control this fungal disease by soaking the bulbs of reticulata irises in any good fungicide before planting them.

The plants have a preference for moisture during the beginning of summer at a time when their bulbs are in reproductive stage. However, reticulata irises loathe too much rain during summer. If the climatic conditions in your region are similar to this, it is advisable that you lift the plants every year when they enter the dormant phase - but never after June. It is necessary to provide the reticulata irises enough time to grow their roots all through fall. Therefore, it is important that you plant reticulata irises during the time between mid-summer and late summer to a depth of approximately 3 inches (8 cm). Provide the plants with some slow-release fertilizer. At the same time, you need to ensure that the plants are watered properly during winter as well as spring. If you are growing the plants in a heavy soil, you should put a layer of sand under the bulbs and also on top of them at the level of the ground.


Reticulata iris plants produce two long leaves that usually have a four-sided cross-section. However, at times, their cross-section is cylindrical. These leaves have either four or eight ridges or ribs. Reticulata iris plants die back during winter following their flowering season and reproductive cycle.

The iris species called I. reticulata has its origin in the Caucasus. This species is excellent for growing in rock gardens as well as along the border edges in your garden. The blooms of Iris reticulata may vary - is either blue-purple or red-purple. Flowers of this iris species bloom very early on in the season, together with the early crocuses. These flowers are quite small and without any stem. Iris reticulata flowers emerge from a perianth tube and are up to 6 inches in length. These flowers look similar to other typical irises and comprise both standards and falls.

Iris danfordiae is another well-known reticulated iris species and bears characteristic, small yellow-hued flowers, which can be recognized easily by their very reduced standards that look like minute bristles and do not resemble the normal standards of most other iris blooms. This reticulated iris species has its origin in Turkey.

Another reticulated iris species called I. histrioides is excellent for growing in gardens, as it bears large flowers having a light blue-purple hue. These flowers have noticeable yellow ribs/ ridges. While the I. histrioides plants are very resilient, their bulbs have a good size - excellent for reproduction. This iris species is indigenous to Asia Minor. The flowering stalk of I. histrioides is sturdy and it emerges much before the appearance of the foliage. When mature, the leaves of this plant measure anything between 16 inches and 20 inches (40 cm to 50 cm) and are much broader compared to the leaves of other bulbous iris varieties.


Ideally, you should grow reticulata irises (dwarf bulbous irises) in a gravelly or sandy soil. They are most suited for growing in rock gardens. Plants belonging to this iris class will flourish when grown in open and sunlit places having a well-drained soil.

The bulbs of these plants are small and they should be planted during the fall in rock gardens and the length of walkways. Plant the bulbs of reticular irises in groups or large numbers to allow their blooms to make a statement even when viewed from a distance. When you look at them from close quarters, you will find the flowers to be wonderful, competing with the attractive orchids.

If the climate in your region during spring is cold and harsh, it is possible that you would like to grow reticulated irises in containers, where the plants will bloom when you provide them some shelter and ensure that the temperatures are cool. It is advisable that you plant many reticulata iris bulbs in the same pot containing a sandy or gravelly mix having a proper drainage. However, be careful not to use only gravel or sand, as it will not help to hold on to moisture.

It has often been noticed that reticulated irises may actually be shy bloomers and after being grown in the ground for their first season, they may possibly generate several small bulblets that will never bloom. Generally, it is best to plant the reticulate iris bulbs in the soil to a depth of approximately thrice their length. In case you plant these bulbs even deeper, say roughly 4 inches to 5 inches deep, they are likely to have a propensity to continue to be in their blooming size.


I. reticulata
This reticulata iris species is indigenous to the Caucasus. Among all reticulata or dwarf bulbous iris species, I. reticulata is the tallest bearing relatively large blooms that appear amidst the foliage about 6 inches to 7 inches (15 cm to 18 cm) high from the ground level. The blooms of I. reticulata are held in esteem for their clear hues as well as their pleasant aroma. The flowers come in different shades of purple having golden stripes and they appear quite early in spring. Although it is quite easy to propagate I. reticulata from their seeds, you need to be a little patient while growing this iris species, as it takes anything between three and four years to produce its first blooms. Nevertheless, I. reticulata plants bear bulblets that mature very rapidly to reach the blooming stage.
Iris reticulata may be appropriate for growing in containers or pots, as this will allow you to take delight in the beauty of the flowers from very close quarters. Moreover, you can also move the pots/ containers out of view when the flowering is complete and the foliage begins to look unattractive. If you find this suitable, it is wonderful. However, a section of iris growers have found that I. reticulata plants do not prosper when grown in pots/ containers. Whatever may be the reason, these plants ought to be pulled out of the containers and planted again in your garden every year and new bulbs should be planted in those pots in the subsequent year in fresh soil.
I. histrioides
This reticulata iris species produces gorgeous just about formal navy blue-hued flowers, which appear even more stunning owing to the deeper blue soft dotting in the region of the white haft having clear yellowish semi-circular stripes. The flowers of I. histrioides emerge much before the foliage. The plant blooms have a paler blue hue, something like a Wedgwood blue. This iris is extremely hardy - so much so that the plants slice open the blankets of snow to exhibit their elegant flowers.
I. danfordiae
This is a miniature reticulata iris species and produces bright yellow, flashy flowers provided you are fortunate enough to persuade the plant to bloom. I. danfordiae needs a fertile, light soil with good drainage. If you are growing this iris species, you should essentially have lots of patience, even if the plants come to bloom. This is mainly because after the flowering, the parent bulb of the plant splits into a number of infant bulblets, which takes three to four years more to develop into mature plants and bloom.
I. bakeriana
This is an extremely rare iris species. I. bakeriana plants produce narrow leaves that are eight-sided. Although this feature is very unusual, it helps to identify the plant easily. Plants of this iris species produce tiny flowers that appear on 4-inch (10 cm) high perianth tubes. The blooms have a pale blue hue accompanied by characteristic deep purple splatters on their falls. Compared to other reticulata irises, the bulbs of I. bakeriana are narrower and more pointed. This iris species has a preference for sandy soil. It is advisable that you grow I. bakeriana plants in pots as this will help you to monitor the bulbs as well as their offshoots. While planting, you just need to put the container in the ground to facilitate the growth of new plants. Bring the pot/ container indoors and put it in a place where you are able to relish its strikingly beautiful blooms. I. bakeriana comes to bloom before I. reticulata, but after I. histrioides.
I. winogradowii
Like I. reticulata, this iris species also has its origin in the Caucasus, where it is found growing naturally in moist meadows. This iris species is not cultivated extensively and the flowers of this species have a similarity to those of their close cousin I. histrioides. However, unlike the blooms of I. histrioides, the flowers of I. winogradowii come in a light primrose yellow hue having relatively dark dotting on their falls. I. winogradowii thrives well in partial shade and prefers a peaty, cool soil in places where summers are arid.
In recent times, several cultivars of I. winogradowii are available in the market. All these cultivars bloom early in the spring and produce attractive flowers. The blooms of one I. winogradowii cultivar called "Cantab" have the form of I. reticulata and come in a light blue hue. "Katharine Hodgkin" is another I. winogradowii cultivar that produces flowers in a variety of colors, including blue, sulfur yellow and sea-green, while the flowers of another cultivar called "Sheila Ann Germany" are silver-gray and appear in early spring. The form of the last mentioned I. winogradowii cultivar blooms reveal the plant's I. histrioides parentage. "Natascha" is yet another I. winogradowii cultivar that produces ivory white flowers having green veins along with a yellow-hued spot.
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