Your question is a very basic and very good one, as
every one of us who were once beginners in this asked the same question.
How does it happen?
First thing is to get acquained with the pieces and
parts of an iris flower.
I would suggest taking an iris from the garden, and
break it from the stalk so that at the bottom of what you break off is a part of
the flower that ends in a little barrel-shaped definitely green thing just where
the flower breaks away from the stem.
Next. carefully break off all three falls (outside
petals or "sepals) and all three standards (upright petals) from the flower
That leave three sort of petal like structures that
arch outward from the top of what you have left. Those are called the
STYLE ARMS. At their end they flare out and up in two parts. If you
carefully pull those a little bit apart, you will see a shelf that is underneath
them. That is the female receptive part of an iris flower.
Just underneath the style arms, if you turn the
flower over, you will find a narrow stem running along the rib of the style arm
with a pair of parallel parts at its end that should have, if the flower is male
fertile, a fluffy powder on them. Those are the stamens, the male organ of
To cross an iris, take a pair of tweezers, or if
your fingers are dexterous enough use them, and pick the stamen from an iris you
want to use for a parent, and take it to another flower that has recently
opened. If the shelf on the style arms is glistening and fresh looking,
having a little bit of moisture to make the glistening, it is ready to
pollenate. Just take the stamen and brush the end of it across the
shelf. You'll probably have to open the two flared up ends of the style
arrm to expose that shelf.
It's best to put the pollen on all three shelves of
the flower--those are called the "stigmatic lips," by the way.
It will be helpful if you could see this in
pictures. Several people could point you to a set of photos.
Navigate downward until you hit the "Hybridizing"
section. That same page has information on planting the seeds and answers
many other questions about iris growing and care.
There are other sources of information--in general,
the two best places to start, in my notion (and these will tell you much MORE
than you ever wanted to know!) are the American Iris Society and the World Iris
Society websites. The URL for the AIS is http://www.irises.org and for the World
and historical group, is
I think these references will keep you
entertained--and get you hooked for sure if you are anything like the rest of
us! What a feast of information there is on the Web about plants, and
Neil Mogensen USDA zone 7 (barely)
and Region (American Iris Society) 4, in the western NC
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