In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
Iris foliage is as valuable as the flowers for adding texture and shape to the garden.
Iris and You
When spring vacillates between cool and warm on an almost daily basis, rust and other fungi can ruin the leaves and limit the flowers on iris and daylilies. Most recover, some die, while others languish and stop blooming. Last year was bad in parts of our region, and this year seems no better. If you are adding or replacing iris, use the following to guide you.
The child of my home state, Louisiana iris sets a high standard for hybridizing native plants. Starting with a swamp-dwelling plant topped with copper flowers, the family has expanded through careful selection. Now there are LA iris in almost every color of the rainbow, with solid shades, petals of one color with contrasting centers, and individually-colored petals vying for space and attention in your garden. Water garden margins and boggy beds are an obvious place for these swamp iris descendants, but they will grow quite well with regular irrigation in any garden soil rich in organic matter.
German, Siberian, and Virginia Blue
These three iris represent the dilemma this family poses for the gardener. All three flourish in our region, but you'd never know it by their names or labels at the garden center. Use the German or Virginia iris in mixed perennial plantings, but give the Siberians their own spot, as they will spread densely. Dutch iris are a particular favorite of mine, since they are simply grown as annuals by planting in the fall for spring flowers. You can plant them almost anywhere, they're not expensive, and their neatly classic iris flowers brighten up any arrangement.
The grand lady of the iris family worldwide is not the best choice for our region, but we continue to plant beardeds anyway. Many do well even in our humid conditions IF you provide excellent drainage and keep the mulch off their rhizomes (those fat underground stems with roots growing off them). Avoid overuse of nitrogen fertilizer on bearded iris as that can aggravate leaf diseases and wimpy stems.
Care to share your gardening thoughts, insights, triumphs, or disappointments with your fellow gardening enthusiasts? Join the lively discussions on our FaceBook page and receive free daily tips!