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IRIS versicolor

Image of Iris versicolor

Jesse Saylor

Family

Iridaceae

Botanical Name

IRIS versicolor

Plant Common Name

Harlequin Blueflag

General Description

This beautiful aquatic iris, with its lovely blue flowers, is at home both in the wild and the water garden. It is an exceptionally hardy North American native with a broad northeastern distribution, from the upper reaches of Canada, down to Virginia and west to Minnesota. Harlequin blueflag is a true marginal, thriving both in average fertile soil or shallow standing water.

This robust perennial forms large clumps of long, strap-like leaves that stand upright or arch gracefully. The leaves are somewhat aligned like a fan but are not as equitant as those of other species. It spreads by rhizomes, which are thick, fleshy, rooted stems that travel through the mud sending up new leaves. Delicate violet-blue to purple iris flowers appear in late spring or early summer. Each showy bloom has three small, upright standards and three large, nearly flat falls with beautiful white and yellow bases and nearly black venation. The showy blooms are followed by three chambered, green, seedpods that mature to brown.

Full to partial sun and fertile, moist to fully saturated soil is best for harlequin blueflag. It can only withstand shallow water which just covers its root zone. Iris borers and thrips may cause occasional problems, but this species is otherwise trouble free. In the garden, blueflag shines in water-filled containers, traditional gardens or naturalistic water gardens where it can spread. This wetland species is also ideally suited to natural areas along pond, stream or lake sides.

Under the right conditions, a single plant can spread quickly and cover a substantial area, though this is rarely a problem with garden grown specimens. There are lots of exceptional cultivars to choose from, including the rosy lavender flowered, 'Claret Cup.'

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 9

  • Plant Type

    Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    1'-3' / 0.3m - 0.9m

  • Width

    2'-4' / 0.6m - 1.2m

  • Native To

    Northeastern United States, North-Central United States, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Poorly Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water, Ample Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Purple, Blue Violet

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Yellow Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bog Garden, Cutflower, Mixed Border, Water Gardens, Wildflower

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes