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Northern blue flag iris

Iris versicolor

Iris versicolor

Regular price $6.48 USD
Regular price Sale price $6.48 USD
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Size

Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade

Soil moisture: Medium to wet

Height: 3'

Spread: 1'

Flowering period: June

In May and June, northern blue flag iris produces impossibly ornate blooms patterned in blue and yellow. Pollinators find the color combination to be as striking as we do, and they follow the yellow markings like paths that lead to nectar and pollen. Bumble bees are the plant’s main pollinator, and due to the flowers’ early bloom, many of these bees are queens foraging to feed their first offspring.

Northern blue flag iris is a wetland plant, occurring in swamps, marshes, and along the margins of water bodies. In these places it typically occupies a zone that is too wet for grasses but not quite wet enough for cattails. In the garden, northern blue flag iris likes full sun to part shade and soils of wet to moderately wet moisture. If grown in average moisture, which is typical of most yards, the plant will do fine as long as it gets watered during summer dry spells. Northern blue flag iris is so water tolerant that it can be grown in continuously standing water up to a depth of about 4”. This makes it the perfect plant for water gardens, pond edges, and wet parts of the yard that are difficult to vegetate.

Northern blue flag iris is not an aggressive plant, but it spreads slowly via rhizome to form a patch. The plant’s tall, linear leaves arise from its base and make a nice textural contrast with the foliage of other early season plants. For a lovely springtime trio, plant northern blue flag iris with golden alexander and smooth penstemon.

Northern blue flag iris’s range in the Great Lakes region is a fascinating reflection of the area’s glacial history. The plant’s seeds float and are dispersed by water, often being deposited at the edges of lakes and wetlands. In the vicinity of the great lakes, some populations of northern blue flag iris occur along what were once the shorelines of ancient glacial lakes.  As the glaciers receded at the end of the last ice age, their meltwaters pooled, forming the precursors of the modern great lakes. Northern blue flag irises grew along the lake margins and their descendants still grow in some of these same locations, even though the lake boundaries have shifted considerably in the past 10-13,000 years.

Photo by Ashley Keesling.

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