About 20 years ago I was given an Iris species plant called Iris Fulva. I was very excited as this was new to me, having a lovely brick red colour. Cultivating it and increasing numbers for sales was successful but unfortunately, at a busy time of year, I accidently sold the last few. Apart from growing the very popular Iris Louisiana (Black Gamecock), I had forgotten all about the Iris Louisiana species up until a couple of years ago when I discovered a book on them full of photos of all the cultivars that had been hybridized over the last century. Straight away I knew I had a new mission as a collector of unusual water plants.
There are five wild species of Iris Louisiana most of which, originate from the state of Louisiana. Some wild species can also be found in Texas, Florida and the Mississippi Valley. It is from these five species that all the hundreds of cultivars have been developed to give us the wide spectrum of colours that are available to this day. It’s not just the colours that have been developed, hybridisers have also concentrated on flower size and shape and the height of leaves and flower producing stems. It’s not surprising that the Louisiana Iris is often used in the cut flower industry.
Location and Use
The Iris Louisiana is very adaptable and can be grown in a variety of locations. They are most happy in sunny moist borders and bog-gardens but will also thrive as submerged shallow Marginal plants, growing in 1 to 2 inches of water. Although they can be grown in the shade they won’t produce flowers, and being aquatic by nature, the only thing they won’t tolerate is dry soil.
There is very little that needs to be done to take care of these plants, although a few simple rules do need to be observed. The Iris is a hungry, nutrient grabbing plant and loves its food. At my Nursery, personally I find that they thrive On 5 gram, 5-6 month slow release Osmocote tablets and I feed mine in March and then again in August. The tablets should be pushed down about 1 inch below soil level and I prefer to use about two tablets to every square foot. Iris Louisiana are deciduous in the northern hemisphere but keep their leaves far longer in the autumn than all the other Water Iris and other Marginal plants. When they die back naturally, all the remaining goodness and energy is absorbed back into the rhizomes for the winter. It is therefore important to leave them to the last minute before cutting them back. They are always the last plants to be cut down and tidied up for the winter on my Nursery. All the Iris Louisiana species and cultivars are frost hardy but a fleece or heavy mulch will always be in their favour in exposed areas.
Most of my collection has originated from one source, so I would like to thank Heather Pryor from The Iris Haven in Australia, for working with us on the taxing task of plant importation, thus allowing us, here at Lilies Water Gardens, to have the opportunity to grow and sell over 50 cultivars of these stunning Water Iris’s.