Iris Changed Color - Knowledgebase Question

Polson, MT
Avatar for mariecarolyn
Question by mariecarolyn
May 28, 2001
About six years ago I lifted some very old iris from my mother's house in Baltimore, Maryland. The blossoms were small and a deep dandelion-yellow color with brown centers. I replanted them in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they thrived and bloomed yellow. In the fall of 1998, I again lifted these same iris and brought them to northwest Montana It was late in the fall, so I kept them under the house till I could plant them in the spring of 1999, which I did in newly-dug ground.

Now, for the kicker: My once dandelion-colored iris have thrived but are blooming a deep purple blue color -- lovely, but not yellow. None have the original, dandelion color. I'm sure I didn't mix them up with other iris. Since they were so old and had originally been planted in the 1930s or '40s by my grandmother, I was particularly careful with them. Also, when we left Tulsa, I gave some to two different friends there. Both friends tell me the iris bloomed again this year -- the original, deep yellow color. I'm baffled. I can recover some of the original stock from my friends in Tulsa but would very much like to find out what may have happened to those I first moved here. Any ideas?

Answer from NGA
May 28, 2001
I believe you! We've had enough questions about this over the years that we know it's not a fluke. The phenomenon seems to be the result of stress, especially when iris rhizomes are left exposed out of the ground for a while, as yours were. Iris growers verify this fact, but they don't yet understand the mechanism that causes the color change. I'm not sure if yours will ever revert to the yellow color you cherish, so it's best to play it safe and obtain some from your friends in Tulsa. I can imagine the yellow and purple will look great together.

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