Native Plant Series: Blue Flag Iris

Blue Flag Iris, Iris versicolor

Blue Flag (Iris versicolor) is a native perennial iris to the North Eastern United States and Canada. It is naturally found in wetland areas, marshes, and wet meadows. It likes moisture, so it can be planted in wet/moist sunny areas in a home garden or on the edge of a pond up to 6″ deep. It can tolerate water up to 2′ in depth. When it is happy, it will naturalize in an area and spread by creeping rhizomes.

Iris virginica is a close relative and known as Southern Blue Flag Iris. It is native in parts of the Northeast, Midwest, and Southern US.

Iris versicolor flowers in late spring with bluish purple flowers. The upright sword shaped foliage reaching 24″-30″ provides interest throughout the rest of the season. Most of the foliage is basal growth, with some foliage on the flower stalks.

The iris flower is visited by pollinating bees. It has large lobes which act as a landing pad for the bees. Its nectar can attract checkerspot or skipper butterflies.

Iris’s 3 petaled flowers are said to symbolize power, with the three parts of the flower each representing wisdom, faith and courage.

Iris root is often used as powered fixative to hold the scent in potpourri.

It can be propagated by divisions after it is done flowering. Handle the rhizomes with gloves since the rhizome is poisonous. It is a deer resistant plant and not susceptible to disease.