AIS Judges

The accredited judge is the backbone of The AIS judging program and is responsible for the selection of award winners. It is the judges’ votes that determine which irises receive awards and thus are recommended to the public. Serving as a judge is a privilege, and duties should be fulfilled with dedication. The judge is a representative of The American Iris Society and should conduct himself/herself in a manner which will bring credit to the organization.

The most visible aspects of being a judge are voting for how irises perform in the garden and determining the quality of iris blooms in iris shows.  Supporting these judgements requires continued education and practical experience.

As judges’ actions touch so many of The AIS activities, this page provides an introduction for potential judges and everyone who needs to find judges.  Judges and others will find links to some of the reference materials available.

Thank you to all our present and former judges!  We continue to see the results of your service in all the incredible irises.

Finding Judges

Judges are needed as part of all Iris Shows (Iris Exhibitions).  Every year the AIS Board approves the current list of accredited judges.  The 2024 Judges List by Region was approved at the Fall 2023 Board Meeting.

Judges are also needed to provide judges training at local, regional, and national events.  While the above list is helpful for this, the Iris Program Resources (Speakers) Chair can provide further guidance for specific topics and judges availability. 

Judges Handbook, Reports, & Forms

The process of becoming an AIS judge and remaining a judge involves continual learning about irises and their judging.

The Handbook for Judges and Show Officials is the reference that all judges and aspiring judges need to have.  Version 8.23 is available for order through the AIS Storefront or open an eVersion. You may download a pdf copy HERE. (please be patient large files may be slow to download.)

Find PDFs of the individual sections of chapters below:

 Version #Version DateB&W LinkColor Link
Introduction, Acknowledgements, & Table of Contents8.22Sep 2022N/AIntroduction v8.22
Section A - Judges and Judges' Training
Chapter 1: Accreditation of Judges 8.22Sep 2022Chapter 1 v8.22N/A
Chapter 2: Duties and Responsibilities of Judges8.22Sep 2022Chapter 2 Duties of Judges v8.22N/A
Section B - Awards & Honors
Chapter 3: American Iris Society Awards & Honors8.00Jul 2021Chapter 3 Awards v8.0Chapter 3 Awards v8.0 color
Section C - The Iris Show (Exhibitions)
Chapter 4: Rules & Regulations of an Iris Show8.22Sep 2022Chapter 4 Iris Show v8.22N/A
Chapter 4A: Virtual Show Organizing8.23Mar 2024Chapter 4A v8.23N/A
Chapter 4B: Virtual Show Schedule8.23Mar 2024Chapter 4B v8.23
Chapter 5: Selecting Best Specimen8.00Jul 2021Ch 5 Best Specimen v8.0Chapter 5 Best Specimen v8 color
Chapter 6: Organizing & Presenting an Iris Show8.00Jul 2021Chapter 6 Organizing Iris Show v8.0Chapter 6 Organizing Iris Show v8 color
Section D - Judging the Iris Classes: Bearded Irises
Chapter 7: Tall Bearded (TB)8.00Jul 2021Chapter 7 TB v8.0Chapter 7 TB v8.0 color
ESSAY: Comparison of BB, IB, and MTB Iris8.00Jul 2021Essay: Comparing BB, IB, MTB v8.0Essay: Comparing BB, IB, MTB color v8.0
Chapter 8: Border Bearded (BB)8.00Jul 2021Chapter 8 BB v8.0Chapter 8 BB v8.0 color
Chapter 9: Intermediate Bearded (IB)8.00Jul 2021Chapter 9 IB v8.0Chapter 9 IB v8.0 color
Chapter 10: Miniature Tall Bearded (MTB)8.00Jul 2021Chapter 10 MTB v8.0Chapter 10 MTB v8.0 color
Chapter 11: Standard Dwarf Bearded (STB)8.00Jul 2021Chapter 11 SDB v8.0Chapter 11 SDB v8.0 color
Chapter 12: Miniature Dwarf Beard (MDB)8.00Jul 2021Chapter 12 MDB v8.0Chapter 12 MDB v8.0 color
ESSAY: Terminology for Aril and Arilbred Iris8.00Jul 2021Essay: Terminology for AR AB Iris v8.0Essay: AR & AB Terminology v8.0
Chapter 13: Aril and Arilbred 8.00Jul 2021Chapter 13 AR & AB v8.0Chapter 13 AR & AB v8.0 color
SECTION E - Judging the Iris Classes: Beardless Iris
Chapter 14: Japanese (JI)8.00Jul 2021Chapter 14 JI v8.0Chapter 14 JI v8.0 color
Chapter 15: Louisiana (LA)8.00Jul 2021Chapter 15 LA v8.0Chapter 15 LA v8.0 color
Chapter 16: Pacific Coast (PCI)8.00Jul 2021Chapter 16 PCI v8.0Chapter 16 PCI v8.0 color
Chapter 17: Siberian (SIB)8.23Mar 2024Chapter 17 Siberians v8.23N/A
Chapter 18: Species & Species Crosses (SPEC-X)8.23Mar 2024Chapter 18 Species & SPEC-X v8.23N/A
Chapter 19: Spuria (SPU)8.00Jul 2021Chapter 19 SPU v8.0Chapter 19 Spuria v8.0 color
SECTION F - Judging Other Iris
Chapter 20: Novelty & Space Age8.00Jul 2021Chapter 20 Novelty Iris v8.0Chapter 20 Novelty v8.0 color
Chapter 21: Reblooming8.00Jul 2021Chapter 21 Reblooming v8.0Chapter 21 Reblooming v8.0 color
Chapter 22: Historic8.00Jul 2021Chapter 22 Historic v8.0Chapter 22 Historic v8.0 color
Chapter 23: Bulbous8.23Mar 2024Ch 23 Bulbous v8.23N/A
Chapter 24: Collections8.22Sep 2022Chapter 24 Collections v8.22N/A
Chapter 25: English Boxes8.22Sep 2022Chapter 25 English Boxes 8.22N/A
Chapter 26: Container-Grown Iris8.22Sep 2022Chapter 26 Containers 8.22N/A
Chapter 27: Artistic Design8.00Jul 2021Chapter 27 Artistic Design v8.0Chapter 27 Artistic Design v8.0 color
Chapter 28: Single Blossom Entry8.22Sep 2022Chapter 28 Single Blossom v8.22N/A
A. Model Show Schedule8.23Mar 2024Appendix A v8.23N/A
B. Preparing Iris for Exhibition8.00Jul 2021Appendix B v8.0N/A
C. Practice Garden Point Scoring8.00Jul 2021Appendix C v8.0N/A
D. Practice Exhibition Point Scoring8.00Jul 2021Appendix D v8.0N/A
E. Judge's Activity Record8.00Jul 2021Appendix E v8.0N/A
F. Ethics and Rules for Judges8.22Sep 2022Appendix F v8.22N/A
G. Virtual Show Schedule Template8.23Mar 2024Appendix G v8.23

PDFs of the following resources are available for Judges or students

The above forms come from the RVP Handbook which is available online.

You can learn more about the AIS Awards and the judges responsibilities in them.  Draft ballots are available early in the year for judges and others study.

As irises continue to change, so does what the Judges Handbook needs to contain.  There is currently a Judges Handbook Revision Committee with contact information on the Leadership page.

Training videos online

Note:  Click on Show More below each video for the JT test’s links.


Recently added Judges Training Videos and Tests
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #34: (April 5 2023) Bob Hollingworth “Knowing and Growing Siberian Irises”
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #31: (February 15 2023) Stephanie Markham “Judging Bearded Irises as Garden Plants”
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #27: (July 13 2022) Jill Bonino “Iris Color Patterns: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #25: (March 9 2022) Gary White and Bonnie Nichols “Awards and Ballots (JT), Part 2 & Ethics”
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #24: (March 2 2022) Gary White and Bonnie Nichols “Awards and Ballots (JT)”


Previous Judges Training Videos and Tests
JT videos are only available via the links provided, otherwise they are not listed on the videos available to the public.
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #16: (06-09-2021) Jill Bonino “Tall Bearded Iris Today and Tomorrow”
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #14 (05-05-2021) Patrick Spence “Two Worlds – One Iris. A look at the Past, Present and Future of the Siberian Iris”
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #3 (08-05-2020) Bonnie Nichols on “Novelty Irises: Broken Color and Flatties.” 
Judges Training and AIS Webinar #4 (08-12-2020) Bonnie Nichols on “Novelty Irises: Space Agers.” 

Becoming a Judge

Path to Becoming an Accredited AIS Judge 

Source: AIS Handbook for Judges and Show Officials

The following “Quick Start” guide to becoming an AIS Accredited Judge was prepared by request in Region 21 based on the AIS requirements.  Some Regions have requirements in addition to the AIS requirements.

All AIS members are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about irises and, in their own time, to consider taking the step from Candidate to Apprentice.

Qualified judges are needed by every affiliate hosting an iris show.

Tips For Getting Started

  • It is recommended that a log of all Judges Training be kept for personal records.
  • When attending Judges Training outside of your home region, it is your responsibility to provide documentation to your home region RVP.
  • Judges Training Year of Record runs August 01 through July 31

To Become a Candidate 

Requirements: None
Time Limit: None
AIS Membership Requirement: None
Reporting Requirements: None
Educational and Guideline Resources:

  •   AIS Handbook for Judges and Show Officials, current edition. Available for purchase from AIS Storefront, or as free download in the AIS Encyclopedia.
  •  All approved, structured, classroom AIS Judges Training events

To Become an Apprentice Judge 

Entry Requirements:

  •   3 years continuous AIS membership at the time of application. 
  •   Successful completion of at least two approved judges training session for a minimum of 10 hours.
  •   Application to Regional Judges Training Chair with written recommendations from five (5) accredited judges

To Become a Garden/Exhibition Judge

Time Limit: 3 Years to complete
AIS Membership Requirement: Continuous AIS membership
Reporting Requirements: Annual Activity Report, due August 1
Educational and Guideline Resources: Same as above
Training as an Apprentice Judge

  • 10 hours of approved AIS Judges Training.
  • Successfully complete AIS Awards and Balloting Judges Training session of at least 2-hours in length, taught by an accredited AIS Judge. If successfully completed as a candidate, can be counted toward Apprentice requirements but does not count as current judges training hours.

Required Tutored Activities

  • In garden judging of blooming seedling or named cultivars on two (2) separate occasions, under tutorship of two (2) different fully accredited AIS judges. Each session must be for a minimum of two (2) hours and must be spent truly evaluating iris plants (e.g. vigor, stalk, branching, substance, durability, bud count, form).
  • Exhibition training at two (2) different accredited shows, or simulated show conditions (must be pre-approved by RVP), under the tutorship of two (2) different fully accredited AIS judges, limited to listening to the evaluations being made by the judges and to learn from their deliberation and in no way participating in the judging, clerking or other related activities. However, the apprentice should have the opportunity to evaluate one or more specimens independent of judging and related official activities.

The above quick start comes from the Region 21 Bulletin 149, p 20-21 (2017).

The requirements for maintaining continued accreditation as an AIS judge can be found in Chapter 1 – of the current Handbook for Judges and Show Officials.