Iris is a genus of about 300 species in the family of Iridaceae, native to the northern hemisphere.
Irises are well-known flowers and one of the most rewarding and easy-to-grow plants. They are popular because of their beautifully shaped and multi-colored blooms. These spectacular flowers will brighten up your garden and provide a cheerful color, often all the way through winter.

Name meaning

The name comes from the Greek word “Iris”, which means “rainbow”. It is also the name for the Greek goddess of the rainbow.

Iris symbolism

Irises commonly symbolize wisdom, power, passion, faith, hope and purity.

Purple Irises are linked to royalty and wisdom, while yellow Irises are believed to symbolize passion.

Blue Irises symbolize faith and hope, but they also symbolize blue blood or noble blood

White Irises symbolize purity.

You may also want to read our in-depth article about the meaning and symbolism of Iris.

Interesting facts about Iris

Flower Structure

Their main characteristic feature is having two types of elegant petals called “falls” and “standards”. They have three large petals on the outside called “falls”, which are curved downwards and three inner petals called “standards”, which are standing straight up.

Irises are divided into three main types due to their flower shapes:

  • Bearded Irises have “beard” of fine hairs along the centre of the falls, a specialised part of the flower that serves as a landing place for pollinating insects. Home gardeners value them because they are easy to grow, and there is an abundance of varieties that fall into this group.
  • Beardless Irises are much more variable and have smooth, hairless falls and narrower petals.
  • Crested Irises have a small raised area called a crest instead of beards. They tolerate shade and provide interesting foliage and beautiful flowers.

Irises as Inspiration for Art

The beauty of Irises inspired many artists. They appear in paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Renoir, Durer, Cézanne, Gauguin, Claude Monet, van Gogh etc.
One of the earliest known artworks of an Iris is a fresco painting located in King Minos palace on the Greek Island of Crete.
Van Gogh’s “Irises”, painted in 1889, is one of the most notable works on Irises. In this piece, Van Gogh carefully studied this flower to capture its unique shape. Selling for 54 million dollars, Van Gogh’s painting is on the list of the most expensive paintings ever sold.

Spiritual Significance of Irises

The ancient Greeks planted purple Iris flowers on the graves of women, in order to invoke the Goddess Iris to lead their souls in the afterlife.

The Egyptians, influenced by Greek mythology, used these flowers to enhance their connection to heaven.

By the middle ages, France began to use Iris flowers to symbolize royalty and power and the most famous royal use was that of the Bourbon Kings of France, including Louis XIV.

Benefits and Uses

Irises have a medicinal history. Their roots have been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments since ancient times. The plant has been used to treat skin diseases, syphilis and stomach problems.

Orris roots, the roots of Iris germanica and Iris pallida, were used in the perfume industry in Italy in the 19th century.

Iris Plant Data