Grow This Iris for Foliage, Not Flowers

Iris pallida_DBG_LAH_0971While most people grow bearded irises for their rainbow of spectacular blooms, Variegated Sweet Iris (Iris pallida) is prized for its striking variegated leaves. Yes, it blooms in late spring with lovely violet-blue flowers, and your nose will appreciate their delightfully heady fragrance.

But long after the flowers fade, the stiff, sword-like leaves, with their vertical stripes of green, white and cream, will remain an exclamation point in the landscape. Plants grow two to three feet tall, and clumps spread over time.

All bearded irises are ideally suited for Colorado gardens. They thrive on minimal care, tolerating most soils and once-a-week watering. Situating the plants in full sun encourages the most flowers, but part shade is fine for foliage

Iris pallida 'Variegata'_DBG_20100417_LAH_2747Select three healthy roots and group them so that the growing tips point outwards, setting them just below the soil surface. At the end of the growing season, simply cut the frost-killed foliage to within a few inches of the ground and wait for spring. If clumps become overgrown and blooms diminish, dig and divide them in late summer. You’ll have plenty of extra plants to share with friends and neighbors.

Iris_pallida_DBG_LAH_7604Iris pallida provides an upright accent in a perennial border. Try perennial companions with flowers that complement its buttery stripes, such as pale yellow Threadleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata), Hardy Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis russeliana), or Ornamental Oregano (Oreganum hyb.). Or combine it with Scotch broom ‘Moonlight’ (Cytisus scoparius) for a truly stunning effect.

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