Judging PCI hybrids

For gardeners who do their own hybridizing, as new seedlings begin to flower it will become clear that not all seedlings are alike. But how to evaluate them and decide which ones are worth keeping, and which ones should be tossed?

Welcome to the world of judging species selections and hybrids.

In the iris world, good new hybrids have healthy plant form, or new form, or distinctly new flower characters, with clear colors and pleasing patterns. Judging is the way gardeners develop new hybrids that are healthy, well proportioned and significant in plant form, habit, foliage, flowering stems and flowers, using national standards.

It often takes several years to evaluate a new plant, especially if you are breeding for cold or heat resistance, or early or late flowering characteristics. Visit several gardens that display the same new plants to see how these plants respond to different growing conditions and microclimates.

Evaluations are always done in gardens, not on potted plants nor on wild populations. A plant that does well in one garden or year might not in another; performance in several locations over a few years is important.

PCI judging standards are codified in the AIS Judge’s Handbook, which includes standards for all sections of the genus Iris. PCI standards are straightforward. Plants should be healthy, vigorous and hardy. Foliage should clump attractively. Stalks should be held gracefully upright. There is no best stalk height or flower form, color or pattern prescribed, but all parts of the plant should be pleasing and in good proportion to each other.

AIS has a standardized judges training process that every section uses to teach those who are learning to judge irises. Contact AIS to find out where training is being held, and start attending classes. You will not look at PCI, or any other iris, the same way afterward!


AIS Handbook for Judges and Show Officials.

Lawyer, Lewis. 1992. Judging Pacific Coast Iris, SPCNI Almanac, Fall 1992, pp 9-12.

Richards, Richard. 1975. Standards for judging the Californicae, SPCNI Almanac, Fall 1975, pp 11-15, and 10.

Ibid. 2010. On the aesthetics of Pacific Coast Native Iris and their hybrids, SPCNI Almanac, Spring 2010, 8-10.

Stambaugh, George. 1973. Judging classifications, SPCNI Almanac, Fall 1973, p 6.

Witt, Jean. 1974. Dwarfs? By all means, SPCNI Almanac, Spring 1974, pp 11-12.