Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Backyard Nature Wednesday: Butterfly iris

Some years ago, a friend gave me some corms of butterfly iris. (There are several species in the genus. Mine are Moraea grandiflora.) I planted them in a bed that surrounds my old concrete birdbath in the front yard. It's a place that receives quite a lot of shade since it is located between two large live oak trees. The plants formed clumps of narrow, sword-like foliage that remained green right through our mild winters. Even when we had a couple of winters when our temperatures temporarily dipped below 20 degrees F, they still flourished. The foliage grew 2 1/2 to 3 feet high. But the plants never bloomed.

I had given up on them ever blooming and decided just to enjoy the lush, structural background they provided in my bed. Imagine my surprise then when I glanced out my window a few days ago and saw what appeared to be a bloom among the foliage. I walked out to the front yard for a closer look, and sure enough, there were a couple of the butterfly-shaped blooms among all that green foliage. After all these years!

Each flower of the butterfly (also called African) iris lasts about two days. Then they form large seedpods that are reminiscent of Louisiana iris. The flowers are fairly large and do, in fact, somewhat resemble butterflies. Once established, the plants are quite tolerant of dry conditions and will do well in a bed with other drought-tolerant plants such as rosemary, Hamelia patens (Mexican firebush or hummingbird bush), and autumn sage (Salvia greggii).

And even if the plants never bloom, the foliage itself is quite attractive and makes a nice background in a bed. The flowers, when the do come, are a bonus. 

10 comments:

  1. Enjoyed this thank you for sharing

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  2. I have those too! They were here when we moved in to this house. I was excited to learn their name. The ones that get more sun bloom more than the ones in mostly shade. You are right about them being tolerant of many harsh conditions. And they spread themselves, I suppose underground because of the corms. So happy for you that yours bloomed!

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    1. Yes, mine are not in an ideal placement because they probably don't get enough sun. I'm thinking I may divide and move some of them to a more sunny spot this year. I just looked out my window and I can see several blooms today!

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  3. A definite bonus, it's beautiful!

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    1. It is a lovely and useful plant. One of the few irises that I've been successful in growing. I think I tend to plant them too deep.

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  4. How nice! Flowers after so many years...

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  5. Beautiful. Your patience was well rewarded.

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    1. I think patience is the hardest gardening skill to learn. Too often we may give up on a plant and rip it out just when it's about to settle in and feel at home in its spot.

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