Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Iris

by Jim Murrain

It's summer and the iris are hot, hot, hot. These are not reblooming iris, these are Asian Iris species that normally flower in the heat of summer. Two species have been kicked in and out of the genus Iris but they are both back in the genus Iris today. Although well known and widely grown, they have suffered from ridiculous common names like 'Blackberry Lily' (Yes, it is an Iris and NOT a Lily) to the descriptive but slightly cryptic name of 'Vesper Iris'. These tough iris are at their peak bloom during the hottest weather. Well known by the old name Belamcanda chinensis, the Blackcberry Lily is now properly Iris domestica. The slightly odd Vesper Iris, Pardanthopsis dichotoma, is now the much simpler Iris dichotoma.

Iris domestica in red and apricot colors

These easy to grow plants look very strange if you have only grown bearded iris. Each has tall leafy stems emerging from a fan of fairly typical iris leaves. Stems bear multiple branches and dozens to hundreds of flowers. Each flower is short lasting, but with anywhere from a few to a dozen open each day, the plants still manage a long blooming season.

Iris domestica seed strain 'Hello Yellow'

They are about the easiest iris to grow from seed. Started in spring you can have good sized flowering plants by the summer of the following year. Full sun and good drainage are ideal. They are both very drought tolerant and fully hardy in most of the US.

Iris dichotoma

Iris domestica opens its typical red-orange flowers in the morning and closes them by late afternoon. This is most appreciated by a gardener that is home during the day.The bright yellow variety 'Hello Yellow' only grows to half the height of the typical form. Iris dichotoma occurs in shades of lavender to white. Flowers opens near 4 PM almost like clockwork ( and the period known as Vespers), but closes by early evening. It is a very cheerful welcome home after a long days work.

a rare double flowered Iris domestica

The hybrids between these species, called Iris xnorrissii, were originally introduced as the famous 'Candy Lilies' and occur in many shades. Newer hybrids have hundreds of flowers in a wide range of colors and with larger flowers. The two original related species retain ease of growth and a welcome explosion of bloom in the heat of summer.


  1. I'm off to go look up 'Candy Lilies.'

  2. Check out the amazing ones at Joe Pye Weed

  3. I'm glad to see these back under the 'iris' umbrella. I planted some (used to be called) 'pardancanda' (now guessing it is a species cross?) this spring but it's been so cool and grey here they are just a few inches high and likely won't get enough heat to bloom before frosts set in.

  4. Jim,

    I like the article but adding yet another "Common Name" only adds to the confusion. Like Mike I am glad to see someone putting them where they rightly belong! Now if someone would just write about how one gets different varieties by continuously growing out a new generation from seeds, which is how I have gotten my non-spotted ones in shade of of orange and red. I still want true "Candy Lilies" from FRESH seeds not that dried out seed (?) sold in the catalogs.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...