Monday, December 22, 2014



First of all the term "black' must be explained.  Black iris are those iris that are so color saturated that they appear nearly black to the naked eye.  If you are looking for a black iris that has no underlying color in it you will be disappointed.  Once you get sunlight on a so-called "black" you will see other colors within it.  Cameras often see colors that the naked eye didn't at first pick up.  There are blue-blacks, purple-blacks, and even red-blacks. 

This photograph was taken June 1st 2009  in our garden at peak bloom. 
In the photograph above you will notice pockets of very dark color.  Those are my "blacks".  I think they add nice contrast to the surrounding iris.  You can create striking beds by planting black with white, black with red or orange, black with yellow and black with pink.  

'Here Comes the Night'   (Schreiner, 2009) 
This was probably my favorite black iris this year.  This iris wouldn't be nearly as interesting if it didn't have that striking beard. 

 A friend on Facebook asked me to describe the color of the beard.  The beard is dark purple where it touches the falls but quickly changes to almost white with a dusting of yellow gold on the tips of the beard. 

'Swazi Princess'  (Schreiner, 1978)
These flowers are in our front landscape.  Note how 'Swazi Princess' makes the pinks look lighter and vice-versa.  Next to 'Swazi Princess' are pink lupines and the tall bearded iris 'Beverly Sills'.  

'Coal Seams'  (Schreiner, 2013) 
This is the first year for this one to bloom in our garden so I don't know if it will always have all three blooms open on the same stem at the same time or not. This is a new addition to the "black" arena.  It is an all over black self with just a few light white stripes parallel to the beard. 

'Starring' (Ghio, 2000) 
Here is an example of very dark red/black in the falls of this iris.  This amoena,(white tinted standards with colored falls) really catches your eye. 

'Midnight Oil' (Keppel, 1997) 
This iris really looks very dark in the patch.  It has attractive grape colored beards.  It is a child of the Dykes Medal winner 'Before the Storm'. This one is fragrant too. Because of the substance, this iris seems to absorb the light instead of reflecting it.  That makes it appear darker. 

'Before The Storm' (Innerst, 1989)
This beauty is a child of 'Superstition' X 'Raven's Roost' .  I grow both of the parent plants and am not surprised that they made such an attractive child.  This iris won HM 1991, AM 1993, Wister Medal 1995  and the coveted Dykes Medal in 1996.  

'Hello Darkness' (Schreiner, 1992)
This one is another purple/black self. The beard is dark purple but the falls are much darker.  I love the form and substance.  When it was introduced in 1992 it was said to be the biggest black flower and the most black.  I think others have surpassed it in color since then. It won HM 1994, and Walther Cup in 1994, the  AM in 1996, the Wister Medal in 1998 and the Dykes Medal in 1999.   

'Study In Black' (Plough, 1967)
It is a deep red-black self with beard brown tipped blue violet.   This is one of the irises that is considered a historic.  "Historic" means it has been 30 years or longer since it was introduced.  

'Superstition' (Schreiner, 1977)
Another historic, this iris opens three flowers at a time.  It has a hint of maroon.  My camera lightened it up quite a bit. We bought a new much nicer camera this month and so next year I hope to get better resolution and truer colors.

'Night Ruler' (Schreiner, 1990)
This iris is a deep inky purple with a pervasive black sheen.  I love its form and ruffling.  This is an outstanding iris that will always have a place in our garden. 

 'All Night Long' (Duncan, 2005) 
  This iris is typical of the new improved blacks. This is a cross between 'Hollywood Nights' and 'Black Tie Affair'.  The iris to the right is 'Sweet Serenade'.  

'Blackalicious' (Schreiner, 2006) 
'Before the Storm' is one of the parents.  Award of Merit in 2010.

All of you in the southern hemisphere can enjoy your flowers right now and smell their fragrance.  Here in the northern hemisphere, we can only enjoy ours by going back through pictures and remembering how stunning they were and what a wonderful hobby growing irises is. 

Do you have black iris in your garden?  What colors do you like to pair them with?  I would love to hear from you.  

For more black irises, visit Mike Unser's post on historic blacks here.


  1. Great article! I have several "black" irises but the runaway best performer for me here in zone 4 is "Before the Storm." It is a great increaser and always seems to do very well no matter what horrible winter conditions we have.

  2. Nice article, Dawn! I love blacks--and you have some beauties!

  3. Thanks Susanne. No garden would be complete without a few of them.

  4. I love the purple-based black irises although I don't currently have any. They have such marvelous depths of color. The darkest one I have is Dusky Challenger.

  5. I loved black irises. And I Have Obsidian. I heard its parent is Hello Darkness. Never seen the flower yet. Maybe dark purple?

  6. I prefer blacks with a blue underton, rather than red or purple. I wish you had identified some with blue undertones in your article.

  7. I'm trying to identify which black iris I have - I bought the 2 mother plants from one of the show gardens at Chelsea Flower Show 2005 (where I understood it was a new variety, but could be wrong) and have numerous babies every year since (128 flowers at one time last year!) I can't decide if it is Before the Storm, Blackaliscious, or Night Ruler. One thing none of them seem to have is dark edges to the spathe (the petals don't have maroon edges, so it can't be Superstition which seems to be the only one with this coloured spathe). It also has grey-green leaves. Any ideas?

  8. Are Black Suited and/or Senior Jynx can considered to be close to black? I don’t see them listed here.


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