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Iris versicolor

Northern Blue Flag Iris

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Iris versicolor

Northern Blue Flag Iris

Availability: In stock

Packet Size:15 Seeds


Iris versicolor is a wild flower of Eastern North America, and one of the few species in garden cultivation. Although happiest at the waterside, or actually growing in shallow water, the plants will also perform well under average to moist border conditions.
In spring sword-like leaves are produced to 60cm (24in) long and 2.5cm (1in) wide followed swiftly by flowering stalks that rise from the clump to around 60 to 75cm (24 to 28in) tall in late spring. Each stalk produces up to five violet-blue flowers with ruffled petals and bold purple veining. Flowering from May through to July, the flowers are medium-sized around 10cm (4in) wide.

The unusual flower parts of the iris give it an intriguing personality. Each of the flowers have six petals and have two forms, the three upright petals called 'standards' are violet-blue while the three sepals, called ‘falls’ are the most colourful parts. The patch of colour at the base of each fall is known as the 'signal', is violet-blue, marbled with white, yellow and green and heavily veined with dark purple. Narrow and horizontal at the base, they abruptly widen out into an elegantly arched triangular section.

Iris versicolor prefers full sun to partial shade. Grow in medium to wet soils. This iris may be grown in up to 5 to 10cm (2 to 4in) of shallow standing water (muddy bottom or containers) or moist shoreline soils. It is one of the species that is suitable to be grown in constantly moist humusy soils of a border.

Sowing: Sow from Autumn to Spring
Keep the seeds in packaging in a fridge until they are planted. Seeds need cold in order to be able to germinate. There are two methods that can be used to break the dormancy of the seeds. Before planting soak the seeds in water. Take one cup of hot (not boiling) tap water, add the seed, let it cool and let soak for 24 hours.

The Natural Method.
One way is to “Winter Sow” the seeds. Sow seeds in moisture retentive compost 6mm (1/8th) inch deep, before winter, and place it in a sheltered part of the garden exposed to the elements, in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. The seed trays then have the benefits of the repeated chill and thaw that it would naturally. Grit can be used to protect the seed and surface of the soil.

Hastening Germination:
The alternative method is to subject them to a period of cold “stratification” for two to three months prior to planting. To do this, place the seeds either in a dampened piece of kitchen roll, in a small plastic bag or in a small container filled with slightly moist soil, moss or sand
Place them in the fridge (not freezer) Check seeds periodically as germination may occur while in the fridge. Plant out into 7cm (3in) pots as they germinate. Seeds may take from 30 to 180 days to germinate, so let the pot sit for at least one year.
The seedlings look a little like grass spikes, they must be kept moist at all times: check them regularly and pot on once they are large enough to handle. Grow seedlings in a cool environment after germination. Plant outside after seedlings have been hardened off.

Iris plants are easily cultivated, they enjoy moist growing conditions. Plant Iris versicolor in wet mud in a stream edge/bog garden or with up to 5cm (2in) of water over the top of the basket in a sunny pond or container pond.
For best blooming plant in moist fertile soil if in full sun, otherwise they can be planted in shade.
Once established these are very hardy perennials and require little maintenance.
Plants require two years before they will produce flowers but they are well worth the wait. Established plants should be divided after every three years. Before and after planting and flowering, cut the leaves to 15cm (6in) to prevent the rhizome being dislodged by wind-rock.

Plant Uses:
Beds and Borders, Water Features, Ponds and Streams, Bog Gardens.
This Iris is one of the easiest, and showiest, of native aquatics for the home gardener.

Other Uses:
The roots of Iris are used to make natural dyes. The green dye obtained from the leaves of species was used in the Harris tweed industry. Modern dyers report that iris leaves produce a pale yellow dye if alum is used as a mordant, bright green if copper is used and dark, grey-green if iron is the mordant. A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers.
According to older references a good black dye is obtained from the root if it is mixed with iron sulphate. It is brown otherwise. Modern dyers report that iris roots produce a 'greeny brown' dye (with alum and iron as mordants), 'orangey-brown', if alum is the sole mordant.
The root is a source of tannin and has been used in making ink boiled with copperas (green sulphate of iron).
A delicately scented essential oil is obtained from the roots, it has been used to adulterate the oil of Sweet Flag, Acorus calamus.

Iris versicolor is a species of Iris native to North America where it is common in sedge meadows, marshes, and along stream banks and shores. It can be found from Manitoba to Nova Scotia south to Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota.
A similar southern wetland species, Iris virginica occurs from Virginia to Florida and Texas, and is called the Southern Blueflag. It is a smaller plant, to 60cm (24in) tall, with bright green leaves that often lie on the ground or water.
A coastal, brackish-water species, the Slender Blueflag, Iris. prismatica has extremely narrow, grass-like leaves that are less than 6mm (¼in) wide; it occurs from Maine to Georgia and Tennessee.

The iris's history is rich, dating back to Ancient Greek times. Iris was a Greek messenger-goddess who rode rainbows between heaven and earth to deliver messages from Olympus. With over 200 varieties in a wide spectrum of colours, the iris fittingly takes its name from the Greek word for ‘rainbow’.
The species name versicolor means having various colours.
Iris versicolor is commonly called Northern Blue Flag Iris. The name flag is from the middle English flagge, meaning rush or reed.
Iris versicolor is also the official floral emblem of Québec.

The Iris belongs to a huge group of rhizomatous plants. These are more often wrongly situated in a water garden than any other plant. Broadly, there are two groups of water loving Iris:
The true water irises, including Iris laevigata, Iris pseudacorus and its cultivars, our native yellow flag, Iris versicolor, the blue American Iris and the Louisiana irises. These are all happy to grow with water over the crown year round, though they are almost equally happy in damp soil.
Then there are the damp loving irises such as Iris ensata, of which there are hundreds of varieties, Iris sibirica, Iris setosa, Iris virginica and the Siberian and Sino-Siberian Iris species. These do not like being permanently wet, although they will tolerate it while they are growing strongly in summer. However, they will rot if wet in winter, preferring simply damp soil conditions. These are more correctly referred to as moisture loving plants.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Packet Size 15 Seeds
Family Iridaceae
Genus Iris
Species versicolor
Common Name Northern Blue Flag Iris
Hardiness Hardy Perennial
Flowers Violet-blue
Natural Flower Time Late spring to early summer.
Foliage Strap-like grey-green leaves
Height 60 to 75cm (24 to 28in)
Position Full sun or partial shade
Time to Sow Sow from Autumn to Spring

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