The Aquatic Iris: An Unsung Pondscape Hero

Published on May 26, 2007


There are numerous species of aquatic irises, many native to North America. They grow in areas from Alaska to Florida, and just about everywhere in between. Not only are they a pondscaper’s best friend, they are the original multi-tasking aquatic. They filter the water, avoid hungry koi, blend aquatic plants with terrestrial landscaping, are reliable, require almost no maintenance, and are easy to grow. Yes, it’s true; they can do it all. And yet … irises “get no respect.”


A big source of this problem is that irises only bloom for a short period each season. As a result, water lilies and lotuses almost always upstage them. Iris species and cultivars come in a dazzling array of flower colors and variegated leaves, but they can’t even compete with cannas, which bloom more often. In short, irises don’t have bling.


While they don’t have bling, irises do just about everything else well. They fit equally well into any landscape or pondscape style, including formal, natural, native, Japanese, and laid backcountry garden.


The benefits of the iris:


Dependable and easy to grow

Good for beginners and experts


Almost entirely pest-free

Requires virtually no maintenance

Easy to propagate by division (can also be grown from seed)

Exceptional filter plant

Very tolerant of growing conditions (drought, soil & water depth, light)

Are available throughout the trade

Great for koi ponds

Blend well with other aquatics

Blend pondscaping with surrounding landscape

Look good year round

Good for container water gardens

Bridge pond edges with surrounding landscape

Prevent erosion around pond edges

New hybrids are created often



It’s up to installers, retailers, and growers to showcase the endless benefits and attractions of irises. Use mass plantings in your display ponds and sales tanks to show off their foliage. Use irises in your display ponds to help filter the water and keep it clear. Put them in ponds with fish, especially large koi that would eat anything else. Show them growing in a wide range of conditions, perhaps even “plant” some without any soil at all – just wired to the edge of the pond. Continually demonstrate that growing the beautiful iris is so easy that even a caveman can do it.


About the IWGS


Click or call for more information about this non-profit international group, with membership spanning the entire field and the globe. or 941.756.0880


About the Author


Paula Biles is Executive Director of the IWGS. She regularly writes, photographs, and lectures about aquatic plants.

Kloubec Koi Farm

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