With narrow, cattail-like leaves and elegant flowers on sturdy stems which can reach up to 5 feet tall, Spuria Iris is the giraffe of the Iris world. Commonly called Salt Mash Iris or Butterfly Iris, this statuesque rhizomatous perennial dwarfs Bearded Irises, and blooms later too, making it a great way to lengthen your Iris season.
A few weeks after Bearded Irises have faded away, Beardless Spurias are just getting started. In warmer climates flowering may occur in late spring – the end of April is typical in my Texas garden – but farther north these beautiful blooms put on a spectacular summer display.
A Rainbow of Flowers
Native to central and southern Europe, Spuria Irises are available in a wide range of flower colors including blue-purple, sky-blue, violet-blue, burnt gold, orange-yellow, lemon-yellow, mauve, lavender, mahogany-red, purple, black-purple, and chocolate. With multiple flowers along each stem, Spurias aren't just a good way to attract bees and butterflies, they also make attractive and long-lasting cut flowers for vase arrangements.
How to grow Spuria Iris
Spuria Iris requires full sun in much of the U.S. However, in hot climates like the Southwest, it will flower well in light shade or half-day sun. It grows best in neutral to slightly alkaline soil, but it’ll grow in acidic soil too.
Photo: Iris Spuria 'Lemon Dilemma' © F. D. Richards
Plant Spuria Iris in the fall. With new plants, be sure not to let the rhizome dry out. (Rhizomes are the tuber-like, horizontal, underground stems.) Dig a hole 2 inches deep and fill the hole with water to moisten the soil before planting.
Place the rhizome horizontally in the hole and cover lightly with soil, then water again to settle it. Water regularly from the time of planting until the Iris starts to bloom, but not to the point of standing water. After flowering, Spuria Iris may go dormant in summer, its leaves dying back to the ground. This is a sign it no longer needs watering. In fact, this plant thrives in a dry, hot summer.
When to water Spuria Iris
As with most Irises, sharp drainage is essential to prevent rot, and mulch should be avoided for that reason. It likes to be dry in the heat of summer, so don’t fuss overwatering after it flowers. But do give new Spurias regular water to get them established from fall planting through spring or early summer.
Spuria is said to appreciate being fed with a top-dressing of compost. But I confess I do almost nothing for my Spurias, and they bloom well anyway.
Does Spuria Iris Need to Be Divided?
Whereas Bearded Iris benefits from being divided every few years, Spuria Iris is the opposite. It resents being divided or transplanted and will sulk for a year or two afterwards until it gets re-established.
Spuria Iris doesn’t like to be moved, so plant rhizomes about 3 feet apart to provide plenty of room for it to spread over time. Once planted, you can leave it alone for 5 or even 10 years. You might only get foliage the first year or two, but don’t get discouraged. Once it settles in, it should put on a good show.
Where to Buy Spuria Iris
Spuria Iris can be hard to find in nurseries, so search online for specialty Iris growers and order in early summer for the best selection. They are shipped from late summer through fall but be quick, growers often sell out before the end of the shipping season.
Hardiness zone 6-9