About Iris verna
There are several species of small beardless iris that are suitable for
the woodland garden or for the rock garden if given a more moisture
retentive soil and some protection from the hottest sun. One of the most
rewarding of these irises is Iris verna
, a native of the eastern United
States in the Appalachian and Ozark Mountains. Iris verna
of a loner in the genus iris. It is the sole member of the series vernae
with no other closely related species. I. verna
, the Vernal Iris, blooms
as it's name would indicate, in early spring, March to April in the
is a small delicate looking plant that seems to stand up to
rainy spring weather better than one would guess from it's general
appearance. However slugs can do it in overnight so you must be diligent
in it's protection from our favorite mollusks. The narrow grayish green
leaves grow to about 3" to 4" the whole plant at bloom time being no
more than 5" at a maximum. The flowers are a deep clear lavender blue
with a distinct orange slash on each fall. It is generally listed as
needing acid soil but I find that it seems to do better for me on a rich
well drained soil closer to neutral.
I have grown it for many years. My first plant came from a U. of W.
Arboretum sale. I do not have a date when I acquired it but it was over
fifteen years ago. It grew and bloomed most years until I had to move it
twice in one year when we were building our new home. It is often said
that I. verna
resents disturbance and I guess that clone had heard the
My second plant came from Lorena Reid shortly after the demise of the
first. That had to be in 1986 or 1987. I still have that plant and it
has been moved once. It blooms usually every year and is growing in well
drained soil at the edge of my rock garden. The rock garden scree soil
in this area has been amended with a lot of peat and humus. The third
clone I acquired of I. verna
was from WeDu Nursery a form called I.
verna smalliana which I purchased in 1989. It was planted near the
second and though neither has increased greatly they both bloom most
years. I. verna smalliana
does seem to be slightly more compact as it
was supposed to be.
Two years ago I was given a start of I. verna alba
which I planted
across the path from the other two in a newly worked bed that had been
heavily amended with a commercial compost that is near to neutral in PH.
This small start quickly grew to a clump as large as either of the other
two plants but has refused to bloom for me. All of these plants are in
high shade between my rock garden and the woods. I hope for bloom from
the white one this spring.
It seems that a very humus rich but well drained soil with a neutral to
slightly acid PH is to the liking of I. verna. The most beautiful plants
of I. verna
I have ever seen were in the Chase Garden near Graham,
Washington. There were several clumps each at least eighteen inches to
two feet across. They were totally covered with blooms. They were
growing in nearly full sun. Their companions were phlox and daphne
indicating the need for a rich neutral to slightly acid soil.
If you have a chance to obtain I. verna
give it a try. If it is happy it
will reward you with one of the best spring shows you can imagine. I
must admit it is not often offered but watch for it at places like the
Arboretum sales and at specialty nurseries. Seed is usually offered in
the seed exchanges.
Submitted by Carla Lankow for the February 1998 KCIS Newsletter