Bring sparkle to dark winter days
It’s hard to imagine an iris flowering in the depths of winter, but the Algerian iris, Iris unguicularis, does just that! Although it’s a plant from Mediterranean shores, it’s far hardier than you might think, but it still needs a sheltered, well-drained spot, such as at the base of a south or west-facing wall, to do well.
A sunny spot by a front door, where its flowers can be admired, is ideal. The flowers are produced intermittently during breaks in the weather, and can also be taken indoors, where their beautiful markings, and honey-scent of varieties such as ‘Walter Butt’, can be fully appreciated. While the straight species is attractive, over the years a number of forms have been introduced from the wild, or selected from seed.
Previously known as I. stylosa, the iris is a clump-forming, evergreen perennial, spreading by means of congested rhizomes, clothed in narrow, upright or arching leaves. The flowers, produced from late autumn through to early spring, are produced from a succession of buds in shades of lilac through to blue-purple, often marked in the centre and honey-scented, with some varieties being far better perfumed than others.
They all prefer a poor soil that’s well drained, but not waterlogged. They need an open position, without competition from other plants. New plantings will take a year or two to settle in, so water in pot-grown plants two or three times if conditions are dry. Remove hidden snails before flowering. Clip off or pull away old foliage after flowering to tidy up the plants.