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Bicolor Iris

Bicolor Iris

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Dietes bicolor   

Dietes bicolor, commonly called African iris, comes from South Africa. It is a rhizomatous evergreen perennial that resembles a beardless iris, producing fan-shaped clumps of iris-like, narrow, sword-shaped, basal, evergreen leaves. Flowers appear on branched stalks. Plants bloom from spring to fall and intermittently throughout winter in frost-free areas.

Flowers last one day but become quickly replaced. Each flower (to 2” wide) has three light yellow tepals with dark brown blotches at the bases and three petal-like staminodes that lack imperfections. Each flower stalk carries an ample supply of buds. Flowering occurs in bloom bursts that often happen at two-week intervals, hence the common name of fortnight lily (though it is not a lily). Plants generally grow to 2’ tall. Fruit is an obovoid capsule.

In the iris family, Iris is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and Dietes is native to certain frost-free areas of the Southern Hemisphere (five species from Africa and one from Lord Howe Island east of Australia). At one point, Dietes is part of the genus Moraea but separated the two genera because Dietes grows from a rhizome and Moraea from a corm.

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-11, where plants may quickly be grown in moist, moderately fertile, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best flowering occurs in full sun, but plants may appreciate light afternoon shade. Plants tolerate some soil dryness but are best grown with regular moisture. Remove seed pods as they begin to form to encourage additional bloom. Cut each flower stem to the ground when completed.

Height: 1.5’-2’
Spread: .5’-1’
Bloom: May-September
Light: Full Sun, Part Shade, Dappled Shade
Water: Low
Zone: 8, 9, 10, 11
Origin: South Africa

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