20171016A Iris_germanica 'Best_Bet' Moonik, WC.jpg
Iris x germanica ‘Best Bet’ blooming in October. Source:Moonik, Wikimedia Commons

This seems to have been a special fall for bearded irises in Northeastern North America. Several readers have written over the last few days (early October) to tell me that their irises are blooming for a second time. And these are irises that normally only bloom in late spring/early summer. My correspondants seemed especially concerned as to whether this off-season bloom would harm the plant.

Well, let’s answer that right off the bat: probably not. Plus it’s not as rare a phenomenon as you might think.

Plenty of Plants Rebloom Occasionally

There are quite a number of spring-flowering plants that occasionally rebloom in fall, including oriental poppies, primroses, perennial geraniums, lilacs, rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and iris. Usually this happens when the plant has undergone some kind of stress, such as a long period of drought or an exceptionally hot summer. However, sometimes there is no clear explanation. The plant simply starts to bloom outside of its normal season and no one knows why. And this out-of-season flowering is not really detrimental to the plant: it usually resumes its normal cycle the following year.

(Sometimes it’s best not to ask questions, but just to enjoy the result!)

Blooms in the fall usually do mean lighter bloom the following spring. That’s because the branches, stems or rhizomes that bloomed off-season won’t have time, at least in cold climates, to produce new flower buds for the upcoming spring. On the other hand, fall flowering is generally rather sparse and therefore it doesn’t necessarily have that much of a negative impact on the spring bloom to come.

Reblooming Iris

20171016B Immorality, Iris Wiki .jpg
Iris x germanica ‘Immortality’: probably the most popular reblooming iris. Photo: Iris Wiki

So much for regular bearded irises blooming in the fall, but there are also iris cultivars that naturally rebloom, that is to say, irises that bloom as usual in the spring, then a second time at the end of the season (August, September or October, depending on the local climate). They’re even offered in plant catalogs under the name reblooming irises.

In order to flower a second time, however, reblooming iris need the very best in growing conditions: full sun, good drainage, rich soil, regular fertilization (they prefer fertilizer not overly rich in nitrogen), little competition, etc. And they must be well established: rarely will they bloom a second time the first year.

20171016F presbys_crown_jewel Iris Wki. jpg.jpg
Reblooming Iris x germanica ‘Presby’s Crown Jewel’. Source: Iris Wiki

Also, although these irises are generally just as hardy as the other bearded irises, that is, to zone 3, they only tend to rebloom in regions with long summers. So it’s unlikely they’ll rebloom in zones 3 and 4, where summers are short, and rebloom is rare even in zone 5. It’s in zone 6 and warmer that this trait is the most reliable. But even in Zone 7, and despite the best care in the world, reblooming irises don’t reflower every year.

Reblooming is also unreliable in areas that with hot, humid summers, such as the US Gulf Coast, in spite of its mild climate. Hot, humid weather seems to stress reblooming irises … and not in the right way. In California, on the other hand, where the climate is both mild and on the arid side, some reblooming irises will bloom a third or even fourth time! They can even flower on and off throughout the year!

In My Own Garden

I’ve planted several reblooming irises over the years, but none have ever rebloomed. I do realize I live in USDA Zone 3 (AgCan zone 4), where experts claim the chances of reblooming are slim, but I’m an eternal optimist. Each fall I therefore eagerly scour my gardens for any sign of off-season bloom and probably will until my dying day. I figure I might as well grow reblooming irises as one-offs, as I still get abundant spring bloom and have a slight chance of flowers in the fall. After all, nothing lost, nothing gained!

Some Varieties to Try

Here are some reblooming iris that are available, at least from perennial growers … but you’ll find many more if you dig through specialist iris catalogs.

20171016C Iris_Champagne_Elegance. David J. Stang. WC.jpg
Reblooming Iris x germanica ‘Champagne Elegance’. Source: David J. Stang, Wikimedia Commons
  1. I. x germanica ‘Again and Again’
  2. I. x germanica ‘Autumn Circus’
  3. I. x germanica ‘Autumn Echo’
  4. I. x germanica ‘Best Bet’
  5. I. x germanica ‘Café Blue’
  6. I. x germanica ‘Champagne Elegance’
  7. I. x germanica ‘Cordoba’
  8. I. x germanica ‘Double Click’
  9. I. x germanica ‘Double Your Fun’
  10. I. x germanica ‘Earl of Essex’
  11. I. x germanica ‘Eternal Bliss’
  12. I. x germanica ‘Feed Back’
  13. I. x germanica ‘Forever Blue’
  14. I. x germanica ‘Hemstitched’
  15. I. x germanica ‘Immortality’
  16. I. x germanica ‘Jennifer Rebecca’

    20171016D mariposa_skies_Iris Wikijpg.jpg
    Iris x germanica ‘Mariposa Skies’. Source: Iris Wiki
  17. I. x germanica ‘Mariposa Skies’
  18. I. x germanica ‘Misty Twilight’
  19. I. x germanica ‘Pink Attraction’
  20. I. x germanica ‘Presby’s Crown Jewel’
  21. I. x germanica ‘Pure as Gold’
  22. I. x germanica ‘Recurring Delight’
  23. I. x germanica ‘Speeding Again’
  24. I. x germanica ‘Stellar Lights’
  25. I. x germanica ‘Summer Olympics’
  26. I. x germanica ‘Thrice Blessed’
  27. I. x germanica ‘Witch of Endor’
  28. I. x germanica ‘Ziggy’

Other Reblooming Iris

20171016E Iris sibirica 'Ever Again' woottensplants.com.jpg
Reblooming Siberian iris ‘Ever Again’. Source: woottensplants.com

There are also reblooming irises in other categories, notably Siberian irises (I. sibirica) like ‘Ever Again’ and ‘Slightly Envious’, and Japanese irises (I. ensata) like ‘Purple Plus’ and ‘Triple Treat’, although they tend to bloom immediately after the first bloom or shortly thereafter, not in late summer or autumn.

Are you interested in reblooming irises? If so, you might want to join the Reblooming Iris Society.

Catalogs Offering Reblooming Irises

Here’s just a sample of many catalogs offering reblooming irises.


Breck’s Canada


Hummingbird Gardens Iris Nursery
Schreiner’s Iris Gardens
White Flower Farm


Iris Cayeux
Les Senteurs du Quercy20171016D mariposa_skies_Iris Wikijpg

8 comments on “When an Iris Blooms in Fall

  1. Pingback: Why Are My Iris Blooming In October?

  2. My Iris is about to rebloom. I’m in Michigan and am wondering if I cut it and bring it inside, will it still bloom? I’m afraid the next hard frost will kill it. I’ve never had this happen! There are 5-6 buds on this one ?

  3. Mary Anne Yuran

    Can I leave my irises in the ground thru winter? Just began blooming September. Still are. Cut back when dry or let be? In Northwest Indiana .Please and Thank you ?

  4. Mary Anne Yuran

    Can I leave my irises in the ground thru winter? Just began blooming September. Still are. Cut back when dry or let be? In Northwest Indiana .Please and Thank you ?

  5. Pingback: ¿Por qué mi iris florece en octubre? - Gardenun

  6. Maggie are you by chance in North Texas? I’m seeing fall blooming iris in my Dallas neighborhood for the first time ever. It’s November 10.

    Keith C.

    • Maggie Broderick

      No, I am in Audubon, New Jersey… just across the bridge from Penna. Nov. 10th and I have 12 iris in bloom… with many buds that won’t make it because we had our first freeze last night. Not expecting much of a bloom in the Spring. I think I figured out what happened… in early Oct. we had a cold spell… followed by a warmer period… so they go tricked in blooming… only thing that makes sense… plus the fact that these were transplants two years ago… didn’t get h1
      ardly any blooms til now… still pretty…a different look amoung the fall colors. Happy Autumn

  7. Thank you! My bearded irises are all in bloom or developing buds. I have counted 12 stems with at least 3-6 buds on each. It is Nov.7th… These plants were given to me two years ago from a friend who was splitting hers. They have only ever bloomed sparsely as they were establishing themselves. Now they are ready… and just can’t wait. I am enjoying the show… fall leaves with purple irises… lovely!

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: