So... Japanese water iris aren't really water plants

In my last post, I shared the beautiful purple Japanese water iris that is blooming in the garden right now.  But the deep purple variety isn't the only one I have. I thought the others should get their time in the spotlight too. And also I wanted to share a bit about what I've discovered about Japanese water iris since I planted my first one (the deep purple) years ago without any idea what I was doing.

Years ago, I found my first Japanese water iris rhizome (it looks like a gnarled potato) in a package hanging on a display at WalMart along with other water plants like water lilies. I'd just finished digging and lining our pond and thought, "Cool! I've never heard of these but I love iris and they say 'water' on the label. Must be a good pond plant." 

Fortunately, I didn't have the space for the iris in the pond, so I planted it in a large pot without a drainage hole that I situated next to the pond. I installed a dripper connecting it to the drip-mist system that waters the rest of the garden and left it alone. It rewarded me immediately with beautiful foliage (that I would later discover is prized in Japanese ikebana floral arranging) as well as the deep purple blooms that I've come to treasure each year.

Years later when I found out about the benefits of having the green spearlike foliage in floral arrangements, I decided to expand and find more varieties of Japanese water iris. This time I went online and ordered from reputable growers.

I got them home and planted them in large pots generally in the same area as the first and installed drippers in each one.

Then I waited....

... and waited.

Hmmm... something wasn't right. They put out foliage but not much, and they didn't bloom.

I did some online research and found out that the Japanese water iris would be much happier in smaller pots. The fact that the first one did so well in the large pot must have been beginner's luck.

I also found out that Japanese water iris don't like to grow in the water like other water plants. Soggy feet make them unhappy. The fact that the first one did so well in the pot without a drainage hole must also have been beginner 's luck.

At the end of last summer, I transplanted the struggling new varieties into 10-inch terra cotta pots. I positioned one pot far away from the pond's edge next to where a couple of pots of sun-loving lavender. I positioned couple others closer to the pond amidst the wide swath of river rocks around the pond, but not close enough to benefit from any water.

I ran small watering lines to each pot to connect them to the drip-mist watering system with one dripper per pot. They would be watered on a timer along with the rest of the garden for 15 minutes each morning. That isn't a lot of water but enough to keep things flourishing during the dry months half the year.

The existing foliage withered and browned after the transplant, but I didn't give up hope. I figured it was to be expected, and they'd need the winter to get used to their new homes.

Then I waited...

... and waited.

Finally, my waiting was rewarded last week when I discovered the first blooms on the transplants! They are happy and thriving in the small pots, even in the locations farther from the pond (see the variegated one above).

I learned that Japanese water iris don't need a pond to thrive and grow. They don't even need a big garden--just a 10-inch pot, full sun and a regular drip of water will do. Such beautiful blooms and a non-demanding plant are a perfect pairing for this gardener.

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  1. After years of living in a condo, I'm discovering this year that my comfort zone is definitely with pots, not large garden plots. My Mom has a huge garden now, thanks to my & The Frenchman's efforts this spring. I have a teeny tiny portion of that with some herbs and lettuce. The rest of my plants, lilies, for the most part, have gone into pots.

    You sure do have some lovely plants.

  2. Your nature photography is so very inspiring! Was introduced to your photos through Artful Blogging magazine. I especially love the unique violet-colored flowers you photographed on page 127...what kind of flower was this? Was this in Hawaii?

    Wishing you all the best,

  3. Mary--

    The flower you are wondering about is a dahlia, believe it or not. In San Francisco's Golden Gate Park by the Conservatory of Flowers is a plot of land that is dedicated as a dahlia garden. It's tended by volunteers every year. My husband and I love to go and walk around it's perimeter and see all the varieties of dahlias. There are hundreds. Those purple ones looked just like little grape lollipops!

    I blogged about it here:

    Warmest wishes,
    Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage


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