Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spuria Irises

I wonder how many iris lovers even know what a spuria iris is. To go a little further, I am certain that very few people that profess to know what an iris is, have even heard the term spuria irises. So I want to try to enlighten you, as iris lovers, about some of the truly wonderful traits of this family of irises.

First, spurias look different than the bearded irises. They don't have beards. The tall stately foliage resembles cattails. Here comes the first wonderful trait, they don't go over in the wind. They are fantastic as cut flowers. When cut in bud stage, the florets will open in perfect sequence. In some parts of the US, florists are starting to use them in arrangements.

The basic culture for spurias is dry ground or no wet feet except in rainy periods. Spurias will grow just about everywhere in the US. They will grow from the deep south to the farther reaches of Canada. They also will certainly grow on the west coast and east coast. In the cooler climates they will bloom after the tall bearded irises. In the warmer states like southern Texas, Arizona, and California they will often bloom with the tall bearded irises.

Spurias love fertilizer. The only blends that they don't like are very heavy nitrogen blends like lawn fertilizer. They love a dressing of well rotted manure. I shutter to think what will happen if that is tried on bearded irises.

Now for the best culture topic of all. Spurias do not need to be split for years. Just leave them in place for 10, even 15 years. Take that, you tall bearded irises.

Spurias are shipped or divided in the fall months. Cold climates should plant in August. Warmer climates will be shipped in September or even October. Spuria rhizomes should never dry out. Most shippers will place rhizomes in a moist paper towel and ship them in plastic baggies. If you are transplanting, put the plants in a bucket of water with a few inches of water in it until you can plant them. They should be planted as soon as possible.

Landscapers are slowly discovering spurias, but the problem here, is just finding enought stock for large projects. There is not a better landscape iris on earth. Period.

OK, I have told you about spuria irises. If you do not grow them at all, hurry you need to try some this year. If you have some now, you need more. Finally, please join the Spuria Iris Society to keep up with what's going on in the world of spurias.
Thank you for listening. Jim Hedgecock Incoming Spuria Iris Society President. Photo Credit: Tahonta's Shadow by Jim Hedgecock


  1. We bought our current home about 2 years ago. Last summer we noticed a clump of dozens of plants with narrow 3 foot foliage growing in the shade. We thought they were liriope or cattails. They had no flowers. Then about a week ago one of these produced a pretty blueish violet iris flower! It flopped over after a few days.

    I'm fairly certain we have Spuria. Wish I'd taken a picture. I assume they're not going to do well in the shade. So now what should we do? Any advice would be most welcome.

  2. I should add that we're in northwest Missouri.