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Arilbreds do their parents proud; these hybrid iris are striking and adaptable.

Arilbreds do their parents proud Native to the dry climates of Iran, Russia, Syria, and Turkey, intricately patterned aril iris stand out among te iris family. Distinctive features include one or more of the following: dramatic stippling, dark veining, an unusual dome or pagoda shape, and a dark spot ("signal") below the beard on the lower petals ("falls"). Because rhizomes can easily rot, however, arils are considered temperamental.

Less finicky are arilbred iris, with aril and tall or dwarf bearded parents. The higher the percentage of aril genes (3/4 aril and 1/4 bearded, for example), the more they resemble pure arils. Colors vary and come in many combinations.

While arils grow best in the high deserts of Arizona, California, and New Mexico, arilbred--because of their bearded lineage--are much more adaptable to almost any climate> with a little extra care, many do well even in coastal areas.

Both aril and arilbred iris bloom earlier than bearded iris, which helps extend flowering time if you grow bearded ones too. In mild-winter climates, arils start blooming in February or March, followed by arilbreds in March and April.

The key to success is good drainage

In mild-winter areas, plant arils and arilbreds in the fall (in hot inland areas, wait until temperatures stay below about 90[degress])> in cold climates, plant in late summer. Choose a site in full sun (or afternoon shade in desert areas) with very well-drained soil. It's best to keep aril iris separate from other plants, since they have very specific water requirements. You can also plant in pots.

Mix in several inches of organic material, a complete fertilizer, and calcium-magnesium fertilizer (or dolomite). For good drainage, plant on ridges (except in sandy soil)> cover with 1 to 2 inches of soil.

Water well. If rain doesn't wet the soil, water to keep it damp. When plants start blooming, keep the soil moist but not wet. Arils and arilbreds with a high percentage of aril genes die down in summer> stop watering in June or when weather turns hot. In dry climates, you can leave them in the ground during summer dormancy. In areas with summer rainfall, pure arils should be dug up, covered with 1 to 2 inches of dry sand, and stored at 70[degrees] to 75[degrees] in a dark, dry place until fall.

Arilbreds that stay green like bearded iris need infrequent summer waterings> in hot areas, water at night, when it's cooler. Since arils and arilbreds multiply rapidly, divide them every two years.

The best time to choose varieties is when they're in bloom. Unless you're an experienced iris grower, start with arilbreds. You can see them at the iris gardens below, or select from their free catalogs. Or make your choice at iris society shows, particularly in inland areas where arils and arilbreds are more commonly grown. (Many shows are in April> check Sunset's garden events calendar next month.)
COPYRIGHT 1991 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Words:487
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