If you like Dutch iris, you're going to love spuria iris. Though its flowers resemble those of Dutch iris, they're bigger ― up to 5 inches across.
Not only does spuria produce larger flowers than Dutch types, it produces more of them: three to four buds per stalk is typical; seven is possible. And spuria's stalks are taller (3 to 5 feet) and stronger than their Dutch cousins, so they're better able to resist wind and rain.
This all adds up to quite a show that lasts for several weeks.
Spuria blooms in late spring, just as tall bearded iris start tapering off. It lasts longer in the vase than Dutch iris and comes in a wider variety of colors. You'll find a full range of blues and purples, yellows, and snowy whites, plus exotic browns, red-browns, even off-blacks.
The leaves, which reach up to 5 feet tall, are impressive too. With their swordlike shape and neutral green hue, they're a great background in the perennial garden, even when the irises are out of bloom. If you have the space, plant them separately in large groups for a glorious spring display. (See how to divide irises here.)
You could certainly call spuria robust. This plant withstands almost any climate: It grows in Sunset climate zones 2-24; when mulched it can tolerate temperatures to -20°. And though spuria prefers well-drained, slightly alkaline soil, it adapts easily to most soils.
Visit, or order by mail
Despite all of its virtues, spuria can be hard to find. Few nurseries carry this iris, so your best bet is one of these growers.
Aitken's Salmon Creek Garden, Vancouver, WA. Iris fields open for viewing during bloom season, April 1-July 1. www.flowerfantasy.net or (360) 573-4472.
Greenwood Iris + Daylily, Somis, CA. Fields open Saturdays, April-June, plus the last Friday and Sunday of April. www.greenwoodgarden.com or (562) 494-8944.
Iris Gallery, Fort Bragg, CA. Open May 10-June 16. www.allthingsiris.com or (800) 757-4747.
Shepard Iris Garden, Phoenix. Open in April. (602) 841-1231.