North American Irises

May 14, 2018

Credit SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. The Goddess of Greek myths, Iris,  was represented by the rainbow which makes her name perfect for iris flowers which comes in a myriad of colors.  Across the world there are almost three hundred iris species;   in North America we have twenty eight native irises.  Many of them occur naturally or will happily grow here in South Carolina. The US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service has a great fact sheet –Our Native Irises --   that explains why these plants are so vigorous – their blade-like leaves are held upright and both surfaces intercept sunlight for photosynthesis – making the carbohydrates to produce those showy, large flowers that attract bumblebees and certain nectar drinking birds which serve as pollinators. The plants are easily propagated by dividing their rhizomatous roots every few years –  they bloom better when periodically thinned.