It’s been three years since I transplanted one of my favorite winter-blooming plants, Iris unquicularis, from my previous garden to the new. I’ve read this species prefers to remain in an undisturbed location, which I assume is true, as it’s just begun to flower again in the last couple of months. I found the first bloom in December but it was already ruined by cold. This happy morning I was thrilled to discover this perfect bloom as it was just beginning to open.
Iris unquicularis typically flowers here in good weather between November and March. Commonly called the winter iris or the Algerian iris, the perennial is native to Greece, the Near East, and northern Africa. To thrive, experts say it requires a sunny location with neutral to acidic well-drained soil, coupled with high temperatures and scant moisture in summer. Certainly, these conditions proved true in my previous garden.
Of the many varieties, most have pale lavender or vibrant purple blooms while others offer white or pink flowers. Foliage is also variable, ranging from narrow, grass-like spears to wider blades that are slightly more succulent, in hues from bright green to nearly blue.
Flowers do not grow on a stem but are nestled among the foliage on a perianth tube. Although they never last more than a few days, they can be cut and brought inside for a small floral display. In the garden I’m rarely able to detect a scent; inside, however, they have a sweet fragrance resembling violets, strong enough to perfume a room.
In my current garden, the iris grows in the sunniest spot, which gets nearly full sun in winter and roughly four to five hours of sun during the growing season when the deciduous trees are in full canopy. It is tucked just behind a low stone wall, which ensures good drainage and summer heat. As you can see from the photo, this winter’s extreme cold has damaged a good bit of the foliage.
Do you grow this plant? I would love to hear from others who have experience to share.