I relish growing things that are uncommon or rare. Of course sometimes it is rare because it is nearly impossible to grow. Other times it is rare because of its size or subtlety and few have taken notice. Of the later type, one that is easy to grow is Iris henryi. One of my favorite irises is this little bit of an iris. It has very narrow grassy foliage and flower size more common in violets. As a matter of fact that would be a good description for it. The violet of the iris world. It even happens to open a pale violet before aging near white. A clump of Iris henryi in flower is just, well, adorable! Surprisingly, a clump in bloom is very showy. It covers itself in flowers.
The foliage is evergreen so there is never a chance of misplacing this diminutive beauty. It flowers in abundance early in the bearded iris season: Mid to late April in Kansas City. So far there have been no pests or problems with this iris. It increases rapidly when moved then settles down to concentrate on flowering. At bloom time the older foliage splays neatly to showcase the flowers that are only two to three inches in height .The leaves can reach ten inches but always gracefully arching to appear smaller and in perfect scale. Everything in perfect proportion.
When I say Iris henryi has grassy foliage, I really mean it. This could be difficult to find in a lawn of bluegrass. It is best suited to the front of the border in a shade garden, but with bright enough light to encourage flowering. It does not seem to require frequent division but I would encourage that you do so in late summer and share it with close friends.
Iris henryi is a member of the beardless Series Chinenses and is from West Central China. It is a close relative of I. odaesanensis, I. speculatrix and a few others. We are thankful to Joe Pye Weed's Garden for propagating and distributing this little rarity. Iris henryi, a marvelous, if tiny, gem of an iris.