FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #8 – Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Flowers: Blue with yellow and white

Height: 15-35” (60 to 90 cm)

Width: 4-12″ (10-30 cm)

Light: Sun

Blue can be a difficult colour to source in a native garden, but the beautiful Blue Flag Iris does just that with panache – and it throws in a bit of yellow for flair! A wetland plant, this iris likes moister sites where its roots can be in damp soil. However, we find it does well in regular soil moisture levels, though it does not grow quite as quickly.

A clumper, Blue Flag Iris will spread when happy. In the Backyard Garden, we don’t have any issue with it growing out of control – it is very well behaved. We have it beside our frog pond, where the flower colours are a welcome delight once the yellow Marsh Marigolds have faded. In our garden, the irises started blooming in the last couple of weeks.

Once all the flowers have bloomed and been pollinated by our friendly denizens, great green pods are formed. You can collect these from your own plant when they are dry and the seeds inside rattle. Sow them around your plant right away to see if new irises germinate the next year!

With strong, simple foliage, Blue Flag Irises are most effective when placed in a clump. Try contrasting their spike leaves with the fine spikes of sedges, the delicate horizontal leafing of a Swamp Milkweed (with an exciting orange cluster of flowers for contrast) and the broad leaves of Virginia Waterleaf.

They are slow to get started, so buying multiple plants and putting them near each other is the best way to reach a most aesthetically pleasing display quicker. Don’t expect too much from them their first year as they settle in. With a large tuberous root, they seem to take a bit longer to take off after transplanting than plants with finer root systems. However, they seem fairly rugged and survive abuse more easily. Water it well in its first season through times of drought, and be prepared for one of the most unique-looking native plants available!

We have small Blue Flag Iris and larger pots with more mature plants at this year’s plant sale. They survived the chipmunks and the winter, so we are happy to call these green friends hardy!

Read about our other top ten:

#9 – Wild Columbine

#10 – Obedient Plant

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