Irises forum→Why are variegated bearded iris blooms purple? Are they any other colors?

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Name: Ian McBeth
Lincoln NE (Zone 5b)
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SonoveShakespeare
Nov 9, 2020 9:02 PM CST
I have these variegated bearded irises that were my mother's. They bloom light purple flowers. I have found them to be picky bloomers (needing the right conditions to bloom). All the variegated iris I've seen are always purple. Is there by chance any color besides purple?

I've been wanting to breed them with other bearded iris. Not sure if their infertile or not.

Thank you,

~ Ian :)
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Name: John
Pomona/Riverside CA (Zone 9a)
CPPgardener
Nov 11, 2020 3:11 PM CST
Yes, there are quite a few variegated varieties of irises in lots of colors. I'm not sure of the fertility of their pollen or pistils. Try the Iris forum.
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Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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KentPfeiffer
Nov 11, 2020 6:39 PM CST

Moderator

Your irises are probably a variety of Iris pallida. It's possible to cross them with modern tall bearded irises. However, Iris pallida is diploid with 24 chromosomes while nearly all modern TBs are 48 chromosome tetraploids. You aren't likely to get a lot of viable seed from such a cross and any seedlings will almost certainly be sterile so your breeding program will most likely end after a single generation.

There are a few tetraploid TBs with variegated leaves that could be used to produce new varieties. However, there are a couple of challenges to overcome.

First, variegation in irises is a recessive trait so, in TBs, all four copies of the allele for variegation would have to present in order for it to be expressed. If, for example, you cross a TB with variegated leaves to a TB with normal leaves, you'll likely get zero seedlings with variegated leaves. If you backcross those seedlings to the variegated parent or another variegated TB, you'll get a few variegated seedlings, but still most won't be. In other words, you'll have to do a lot of crosses to get a relatively small number of seedlings that show variegation.

The second challenge is that variegated seedlings often don't grow very well, so a good chunk of the seedlings you do get that have the trait you want, don't survive long enough to bloom.
Name: John
Pomona/Riverside CA (Zone 9a)
CPPgardener
Nov 11, 2020 9:30 PM CST
Thank You! Kent!
“That which is, is.That which happens, happens.” Douglas Adams
Name: Evelyn
Sierra foothills, Northern CA (Zone 8a)
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evelyninthegarden
Nov 11, 2020 9:52 PM CST
Kent ~ That may be the reason why there aren't more out there. Thank you for your succinct explanation.
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Name: Sherry Austin
Santa Cruz, CA (Zone 9a)
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Henhouse
Nov 12, 2020 12:25 AM CST
There are quite a few out there. As Kent said, many are not strong growers. I find I. pallida 'Aurea' to be pretty easy, with I. pallida 'Argentea' less so. Brad Kasperek worked on them quite a bit, and I think Mid-America was working on some.

Iris pallida 'Aurea Variegata'


Paul Black's 'Variegated Wonder'
Thumb of 2020-11-12/Henhouse/a0671a

From Michael Sutton, 'Dots and Splashes'


A 1981 Border Bearded introduction, 'Striped Britches'..


You can search for others in the database by picking Tall Bearded (or BB etc..) and scrolling down to "Variegated foliage"... leave everything else blank, and you will get a good page worth of cultivars.
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Name: Ian McBeth
Lincoln NE (Zone 5b)
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SonoveShakespeare
Nov 12, 2020 9:28 AM CST
Thank You! Sherry. The variegated irises that were my mother's was 'Pallida'.

I really like 'Striped Britches' though Lovey dubby
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[Last edited by SonoveShakespeare - Nov 12, 2020 9:29 AM (+)]
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Name: Ian McBeth
Lincoln NE (Zone 5b)
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SonoveShakespeare
Nov 12, 2020 10:00 AM CST
KentPfeiffer said:Your irises are probably a variety of Iris pallida. It's possible to cross them with modern tall bearded irises. However, Iris pallida is diploid with 24 chromosomes while nearly all modern TBs are 48 chromosome tetraploids.

There are a few tetraploid TBs with variegated leaves that could be used to produce new varieties.

First, variegation in irises is a recessive trait so, in TBs, all four copies of the allele for variegation would have to present in order for it to be expressed. If, for example, you cross a TB with variegated leaves to a TB with normal leaves, you'll likely get zero seedlings with variegated leaves. If you backcross those seedlings to the variegated parent or another variegated TB, you'll get a few variegated seedlings, but still most won't be. In other words, you'll have to do a lot of crosses to get a relatively small number of seedlings that show variegation.

The second challenge is that variegated seedlings often don't grow very well, so a good chunk of the seedlings you do get that have the trait you want, don't survive long enough to bloom.


Kent ~ thank you for the info.

I always had issues with my variegated irises when it came to weather conditions. It's like temps. have to be perfect for them in order for them to bloom. There were days where it was too hot and they didn't bloom. Never thought weather conditions would be worse with variegated iris seedlings.

I do have some questions though.

1. Can non-variegated historical (old-fashioned) irises be bred with pallida?
2. When you mean't back-crossing, did you mean crossing the seedlings with the parent?
3. What TB's do you know that are dips (have 24 chromosomes)?
4. Where do you recommend growing variegated iris seedlings so they can survive? I'm thinking partial shade.




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Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator Plant Identifier Region: Nebraska Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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KentPfeiffer
Nov 12, 2020 1:12 PM CST

Moderator

1. Sure. You can cross just about any bearded iris to Iris pallida. Whether you'll get viable seed, and whether any seedlings will be fertile, is another question that can really only be answered by trying it.

2. Yes. Inbreeding is a common technique used in plant breeding. It doesn't carry the negative consequences often seen with inbreeding in animals.

3. No. Ploidy in bearded iris is generally assumed rather than known. You can safely assume almost every TB introduced after 1950 is tetraploid. It's also a good bet that most TBs that existed prior to 1900 are diploid.

The transition from mostly diploid TBs to mostly tetraploid TBs happened some time in the early 20th century, almost certainly by accident and without the breeders being aware of what had happened. Tetraploid irises have flowers that are generally bigger, more ruffled, and come in a VASTLY wider array of colors and patterns than diploids. When tetraploid irises started showing up in seedling beds, breeders naturally chose them over diploid seedlings, simply because they were bigger and prettier. Keep in mind, we didn't even know how many chromosomes a human being has until the 1950's, let alone the chromosome count of an iris.

If you are determined to use Iris pallida, you might be better off crossing it with Miniature Tall Bearded irises, rather than trying to find diploid TBs. Most MTBs are diploids, although not all. Ben Hager and Kenneth Fisher introduced a number of tetraploid MTBs, starting back in the 80's or so. Paul Black, Thomas Johnson, and a few others are currently producing tetraploid MTBs. Nonetheless, diploid MTBs are still predominant because MTBs are supposed to have small and delicate flowers. Producing small flowers in tetraploids is a bit of a challenge.

MTBs also tend to be vigorous, a trait you are going to need if breeding for variegated leaves.

4. I'm not sure growing them in partial shade will be advantageous. The basic problem with any variegated plant boils down to physics. A plant's leaves exist to produce energy the plant can use. The white areas of a variegated plant are white because they lack chlorophyll, and thus produce nothing. Meanwhile, the plant still has to pay maintenance costs for the white areas. That creates some real disadvantages in terms of energy budget. Planting them in partial shade might further reduce the amount of energy the leaves are able to produce.
Name: Laurie
southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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lauriemorningglory
Nov 12, 2020 8:13 PM CST
Very interesting info, Kent. Thank you.

I've wondered if the white portions "burn" more easily in the sun.
Name: Ian McBeth
Lincoln NE (Zone 5b)
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SonoveShakespeare
Nov 12, 2020 8:30 PM CST
lauriemorningglory said:Very interesting info, Kent. Thank you.

I've wondered if the white portions "burn" more easily in the sun.


Laurie, that's what I thought. I suggested growing them in part shade.
Not only people give others signs, but plants do too.
Name: Ian McBeth
Lincoln NE (Zone 5b)
Try Naturalizing perennials! :)
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SonoveShakespeare
Nov 12, 2020 8:30 PM CST
KentPfeiffer said:
3. No. Ploidy in bearded iris is generally assumed rather than known. You can safely assume almost every TB introduced after 1950 is tetraploid. It's also a good bet that most TBs that existed prior to 1900 are diploid.

The transition from mostly diploid TBs to mostly tetraploid TBs happened some time in the early 20th century, almost certainly by accident and without the breeders being aware of what had happened. Tetraploid irises have flowers that are generally bigger, more ruffled, and come in a VASTLY wider array of colors and patterns than diploids. When tetraploid irises started showing up in seedling beds, breeders naturally chose them over diploid seedlings, simply because they were bigger and prettier. Keep in mind, we didn't even know how many chromosomes a human being has until the 1950's, let alone the chromosome count of an iris.

If you are determined to use Iris pallida, you might be better off crossing it with Miniature Tall Bearded irises, rather than trying to find diploid TBs. Most MTBs are diploids, although not all. Ben Hager and Kenneth Fisher introduced a number of tetraploid MTBs, starting back in the 80's or so. Paul Black, Thomas Johnson, and a few others are currently producing tetraploid MTBs. Nonetheless, diploid MTBs are still predominant because MTBs are supposed to have small and delicate flowers. Producing small flowers in tetraploids is a bit of a challenge.

MTBs also tend to be vigorous, a trait you are going to need if breeding for variegated leaves.


Kent ~ I have to say, lots of interesting facts there! Thumbs up Thank You!

I have a few more things I want to ask:

1. instead of using MTB's to breed, could IB's be another option?

2. And are IB's vigorous.

3. Are IB's classified as TB's, vice-versa?

I know this a bit off topic, I'm amazed how the iris family goes back 82 million years, starting in Antarctica.
https://theamericanirissociety....


Thumb of 2020-11-13/SonoveShakespeare/82990a
http://www.scotese.com/images/...

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Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
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irisarian
Nov 12, 2020 9:43 PM CST
IBs were often sterile because of being mixed chromosome. Newer ones are fertile. Why would they be classified as TBs? They were originally missed than became TB X SDB & now can be just mixed and a certain size.
Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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KentPfeiffer
Nov 12, 2020 9:51 PM CST

Moderator

1. There are plenty of exceptions, but as a general rule, Intermediate Bearded irises are sterile. Traditionally, IBs were created by crossing Tall Bearded irises with Standard Dwarf Bearded irises. As noted, most TBs are 48 chromosome tetraploids. SDBs are typically 40 chromosome amphidiploids. Crossing an SDB with a TB therefore produces a plant with an unbalanced set of chromosomes that is unable to produce viable gametes. However, a few IBs have somehow been able to overcome this and have at least limited fertility. There are also other ways to create IBs. For example, Iris aphylla is a small wild species that is a natural tetraploid with 48 chromosomes so IBs that come from it are usually fertile, depending on what else it was crossed with.

2. Yes, it's one of their best features.

3. No.
[Last edited by KentPfeiffer - Nov 12, 2020 9:55 PM (+)]
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Name: Ian McBeth
Lincoln NE (Zone 5b)
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SonoveShakespeare
Nov 14, 2020 12:21 AM CST
Henhouse said:There are quite a few out there. As Kent said, many are not strong growers. I find I. pallida 'Aurea' to be pretty easy, with I. pallida 'Argentea' less so. Brad Kasperek worked on them quite a bit, and I think Mid-America was working on some.


Sherry ~ Do you think naturalizing them would help make them strong? Thinking There are a lot of plants that do well if left undisturbed. After all, every plant in the world were once left undisturbed, until human life came in. I have irises I let naturalize (not completely) I still pull weeds out of the beds though. Their clumps got HUGE.

Not only people give others signs, but plants do too.
Name: Ian McBeth
Lincoln NE (Zone 5b)
Try Naturalizing perennials! :)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Amaryllis Irises Daylilies Lilies Foliage Fan
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SonoveShakespeare
Nov 14, 2020 12:29 AM CST
irisarian said:IBs were often sterile because of being mixed chromosome. Newer ones are fertile. Why would they be classified as TBs? They were originally missed than became TB X SDB & now can be just mixed and a certain size.


Lucy ~ I thought some were due to their sizes. Here's what Joshua said about Crimson King in one of the threads I made called, "Suggestions on TB irises that make huge clumps fast with plenty of flowers."

Australis said:Crimson King (or whatever it is) grows well for me. It doesn't have great form, but is hardy and vigorous. Biggest downside for me is that the blooms tend to get wrecked easily by the wild winter and early spring weather.

Ian, it's also worth noting that Crimson King isn't as big as today's TBs. It's the size of an IB.

'Saffron Drift' is another that multiplies well for me and has good branching.


That may explain why I thought some TB's could be classified as IB's.

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Name: aka Annie
WA-rural 8a to (Zone 7b)
Sandsock
Dec 26, 2020 4:13 PM CST
Ian, this thread caught my eye as I am really enjoying the variegated foliage I have in my yard and wanted to add some variegated iris...Wow, people might have them in their yards, but they are really hard to find for sale!

I don't know if that is the weakish growing that Sherry mentioned or it is related to variegation being out of fashion. (At least that is what many of the nurseries have said.) in fact Sherry, I can not find the ones you have listed for sale. (Although Mid America is closed right now.)

Name: daphne
san diego county, ca (Zone 10a)
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shizen
Dec 26, 2020 4:55 PM CST
Welcome! to the iris forum, annie.

i've been on the hunt for variegated leaf iris for a while, too. while not as abundantly for sale, the do come up every now and again. Smiling
Name: Laurie
southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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lauriemorningglory
Dec 27, 2020 12:05 AM CST
Welcome!
Name: aka Annie
WA-rural 8a to (Zone 7b)
Sandsock
Dec 27, 2020 11:37 AM CST
Thanks.

I even looked in the Varigated foliage forum and I am still wondering if it is currently out of fashion or just was only in fashion with a few people? I see the pictures posted in the data base, but when I go to buy them, I can't find them.

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