How to Grow and Care for Iris Reticulata

Iris reticulata with purple and yellow flowers with slender leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Are you looking for an early spring flower to plant alongside your crocuses and snowdrops? Dwarf iris, or Iris reticulata, is the perfect addition to an early spring garden, appearing out of the cold ground with vibrant 4- to 6-inch tall blooms.

Part of a group of 10 flower species known as "reticulated irises", the Iris reticulata variety produces small, blue or purple blooms with yellow details. Like other flowers in the Iris genus, this variety has three upright petals (known as standards) and three drooping petals (known as falls). Foliage of the Iris reticulata is slender and grass-like. Best suited for areas with well-draining soil, these petite perennials are a great choice for borders or rock gardens. It is important to keep in mind that these plants are considered toxic to both pets and people. 

Common Name Dwarf Iris, Netted Iris, Reticulated Iris
Botanical Name Iris reticulata
Family Iridaceae
Plant Type Perennial, bulb
Mature Size 4-6 in. tall, 4 in. wide
Sun Exposure Full, Partial
Soil Type Loamy, Sandy, Well-drained
Soil pH Neutral, Alkaline
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Purple, Blue
Hardiness Zones 5-9, USA
Native Area Europe, Asia, Middle East
Toxicity Toxic to people, toxic to pets

Iris Reticulata Care

These flowers are frequently referred to as netted irises, owing to their unique bulbs, which have fine crisscrossing lines that give a "netted" appearance. They should be planted in the fall season, about 4 inches deep and 3 inches apart with the pointed end facing up. These perennials will continue to produce more bulbs each year. However, each new bulb takes years to mature and flower. Therefore, to ensure an abundant bloom every year, it is advised to plant new bulbs in the fall.

These hardy plants are deer-resistant, drought-resistant, and low maintenance. They do not have much trouble with diseases or pests, though rot may occur. Because of their easy care requirements,these are great flowers for almost any gardener. 

Iris reticulata with deep purple blooms clustered in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Iris reticulata flowers with blue, yellow and white striped flowers surrounded by grass

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Iris reticulata plant with royal blue and yellow flowers with leaf tips closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


Netted irises bloom best when grown in full sunshine. However, these miniature flowers can also be grown in partial shade. 


These irises require well-draining, gravelly soil with consistent moisture levels during the spring. Heavy, soggy, and clay soils will cause problems such as rot. They do best in neutral to slightly alkaline soil.


Consistent moisture is necessary in the spring, while the plant is actively growing and blooming. During this time, water when the top of the soil begins to feel dry. In summer seasons, these plants prefer dry conditions as they go dormant. Reduce or stop watering when the bulbs are dormant since they can easily rot.  

Temperature and Humidity

These hardy flowers can be grown anywhere in USDA zones 5 to 9. They prefer average humidity levels and require cold winters for excellent spring blooms. 


When planted in high-quality soil, fertilizer is not needed. However, if soil conditions are questionable or poor, you may find it beneficial to add compost in the spring each year. 

Propagating Iris Reticulata

Propagation can be done through division. This not only provides more iris plants but benefits the original bunch as well. Irises can become overcrowded as they multiply each year; after several years, flower production will suffer if they are too tightly packed. Division will help the flowers revive and produce a healthy bloom again. To do this, you will need garden gloves and a hand shovel. Then follow these instructions: 

  1. In late summer while the irises are dormant, gently use the hand shovel to dig up the bulbs. 
  2. Gently separate the bulbs with your hands. 
  3. Plant around half of the bulbs back in their original spot. Be sure the pointed end of each bulb is facing up.
  4. Move the remaining bulbs to their own location. 

How to Grow Iris Reticulata From Seed

Netted irises can also be grown from seed. However, because this form of propagation does not create an exact clone of the parent plant, the resulting flowers may differ from the original plant. Still, this form of propagation is fun and easy. To do this, you will need iris seeds, a pair of garden gloves, and well-draining soil. 

  1. Starting irises from seed is best done outdoors to allow the changing seasons to naturally stratify the seeds. The first step is to identify the ideal location in your garden. An area with well-draining soil and plenty of sunshine is best. 
  2. In autumn, gently bury the seeds in the well-draining soil about 3/4 inch deep. 
  3. Allow the winter weather to activate the seeds. 
  4. Watch for tiny seedlings in the early spring. If they do not sprout the first year, they may still sprout the following year. Patience is key.   

Potting and Repotting Iris Reticulata

Their small size and preference for well-draining soil make these flowers a great choice for container gardens. When choosing a pot, be sure it has free-flowing drainage holes to prevent any standing water. Fill the pot with well-draining soil and plant the iris bulbs around 3 inches apart from each other. As more bulbs appear and the irises fill the container, you can either divide the plant or move the bulbs to a larger pot. If you are repotting, be sure the pointed end of each bulb faces up.  

How to Get Iris Reticulata to Bloom

Netted irises are early spring bloomers. They produce vibrant blue or purple flowers with yellow or white details on each petal. Their structure is very similar to larger iris flowers, as they have the iconic shape of three inner, upright petals and three outer, flowing petals. Though small, they have a lightly sweet fragrance. 

After they are finished blooming, the flowers and foliage will fade quickly. You may wish to prune the foliage down to the ground after this happens. The bulbs will go dormant for the rest of the year until the following spring. Though their bloom time is short, deadheading spent blooms will ensure you get the most out of their season. Doing so will encourage more blooms to appear. 

Common Problems With Iris Reticulata

Netted irises are hardy plants that have very few problems. This variety is more resistant to iris borers than their larger cousins. Netted irises may run into problems with rot, though this does not happen often. 

Soggy, Yellowing, and Wilting Foliage

Especially when it occurs at the base of the iris plant, this is a sign of fusarium basal rot. Cut back on watering, amend the soil with well-draining compost and sand, and remove any infected bulbs and foliage. You may also need to treat the plants with a fungicide and replace some of the infected soil. 

  • Is Iris reticulata a perennial?

    Yes, these irises are perennial bulbs. They appear each year in the early spring, being one of the first flowers to bloom after winter.

  • How long do Iris reticulata flower?

    These dwarf irises bloom in the early spring for a short time. The exact month may differ depending on your location, but they generally bloom throughout March and into April.

  • Should you deadhead Iris reticulata?

    Yes, feel free to deadhead spent netted iris blooms. This will encourage a continual production of healthy flowers throughout its blooming season.  


Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Iris Reticulata.” Ncsu.Edu.

  2. Iris, Bulbous (Iris Spp.)-Fusarium Basal Rot.” Pacific Northwest Pest Management Handbooks, 11 Sept. 2015.