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Add Drama to Your Garden With African Iris

March 2, 2023

If you’re looking for a plant that will add dramatic flair to your garden, you may want to consider African iris (Dietes iridioides). Its spiky upright foliage and gorgeous blooms make it a great addition to borders or mixed beds.

This evergreen perennial can be grown as a ground cover in warmer zones or as an annual in colder areas. It blooms throughout the growing season and requires little maintenance.


The African iris is an evergreen perennial that thrives in full sun. Its reed-like foliage and bright flowers make it an ideal accent plant for home landscapes.

It is easy to grow and withstands drought, heat, and neglect. It is also pest free and frost resistant.

There are many different colors of irises, but the most popular ones include white and bicolor irises with purple-blue markings on the blooms. Other varieties include red irises, yellow irises and more.

These irises require a minimum of four to six hours of direct sunlight per day in order to flower properly. They will also bloom better if the soil is well-drained.

The plant prefers rich, slightly acidic to alkaline soil that is pH 6.1 to 7.8. Use a balanced fertilizer in the spring, as new growth appears and again in midsummer to keep it growing strong.

Depending on the variety, irises will reach heights of 3 to 4 feet and can be used as a ground cover or to create an accent piece in the garden. It will bloom from late spring through fall.

This hardy perennial will tolerate drought conditions, but it prefers to have regular water. It is a good choice for planting near a pond.

It does not like heavy soil, so you will want to loosen the soil and mix in compost or aged manure. When planting, it is important to place the rhizomes at least 24 inches apart so that air can circulate around the root system.

To maintain the health of this plant, you can divide it as needed to encourage it to re-grow. This will not only help the plant grow stronger, but it can also provide new rhizomes for future plants.

While African iris is a low-maintenance plant, it can be subject to occasional diseases and pests. The most common afflictions involve crown and root rot. The best prevention is to plant in well-draining soil and to regularly dig up the rotted areas and replace them with healthy roots.

African iris is also a great choice for landscaping because it can handle colder weather and can be re-planted as needed. This makes it a great plant for landscaping areas where other plants can't stand the cold, such as parking strips, flanking driveways or dry spots near your home's foundation.


Water is important for any plant, but it’s particularly vital for drought-tolerant plants such as the African iris. Whether the plant is in a container or in the ground, it needs to be regularly watered so that it can stay healthy and continue to grow.

To ensure that your African iris gets enough water, test the soil every couple of days to see if it feels dry. If it does, then it’s time to water again.

The African iris thrives in full sun and moist, well-drained soil, but it also tolerates moderately dry conditions and will grow well in part shade. To maintain good health, give this plant ample water each week and a little extra in summer.

Like most irises, the African iris is not a heavy feeder, so it’s best to fertilize it only when needed. Apply a balanced, liquid-soluble fertilizer in early spring and again in mid-summer. It’s also a good idea to fertilize your African iris in the fall to give it an additional boost before winter.

While the African iris is extremely drought-tolerant, it can sometimes become susceptible to crown rot if it receives too much or too little water. To prevent this, divide your plant often and make sure that it is planted in an area that has plenty of air circulation.

It’s easy to propagate the African iris from seed or from rhizomes. Just be careful not to cut off too many roots when you’re planting a new clump of plants, or you may damage the plant.

These irises are low maintenance and can be grown as perennials or annuals in zones 8 to 11. They have naturally clumping growth habits and grow to 2-3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. They are great for containers, borders, mixed garden beds, near ponds and mass plantings.

During spring, remove any dead leaves or withered flowers and prune the plant to keep it in shape. This will help prevent leaf blight, a fungal disease that shows up as irregular spots on the leaves and can cause the irises to look brown and unattractive.


When establishing African iris, it is important to fertilize well in spring and fall. Using a high-phosphorus, low-nitrogen fertilizer like Miracle Grow will help them bloom more fully and thrive throughout the season.

It is also necessary to provide a high-quality mulch around the base of your irises. This will help retain moisture, keep weeds at bay and protect the roots from drying out too much. The mulch should be a mixture of shredded bark, shredded leaves, aged compost or other organic materials that will break down over time.

Once the African iris has established itself in your landscape, it is actually very drought tolerant. But for the first couple of years, they should be watered regularly to establish their root systems.

Fertilize your African iris about twice a year - in spring and again in the summer - with a granular or liquid fertilizer that has a balanced formula with a high phosphorus level. The fertilizer should be applied at least several inches from the root ball to avoid burning the tender rhizomes.

Use a balanced, organic fertilizer that contains nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and other micronutrients. A granular or liquid fertilizer that is rich in phosphate, calcium and magnesium will improve the growth of flower buds as well as the overall health of your African iris plant.

African iris grows best in a rich, moist, slightly acidic soil with a pH range of 6.1 to 7.8. It thrives in loam, heavy clay or sandy soil that is well drained. Alternatively, it can be grown in containers, where it requires less care.

These plants will flourish in a location where they receive full sun, but they can also be used to accent other perennials and shrubs that do well in dappled shade or part sun. They will also do well in easy-care plantings along walkways, driveways and patios, as long as they are given a chance to spread.

These lovely plants have a wide range of foliage and flower colors, and they make attractive additions to any garden. Some popular varieties include Dietes iridioides (the White African Iris), Dietes bicolor or butterfly iris, and dietes vegeta or yellow iris.


African iris, also known as fortnight lily or yellow fortnight lily, is a hardy, drought-tolerant flowering plant that grows in clumps of sword-shaped leaves with bright white blooms extending above. It's a favorite among gardeners because it is easy to grow and requires little care.

This beautiful shrub grows naturally in Africa, but it can be grown in gardens, too, especially as a perennial. It is hardy in zones 8 through 11, but if you live in a cold climate, it may die back completely in winter.

It thrives in a variety of soil types from moderately dry to wet, but will tolerate a range of conditions, as long as it gets enough water. It is a good idea to add a balanced fertilizer, such as NPK, to your soil before planting, and then again in the fall after it has bloomed.

Once the blooms have faded, cut down the stems from the base to prevent self-sowing. This will keep the plants from overcrowding and promote new growth.

If you have a lot of African iris in your garden, consider giving them a trim once a year. This will help keep them looking tidy and healthy and prevent rhizome rot.

In late summer, when the iris plants start to look disheveled and messy, remove all of the dead leaf material and trim each fan of leaves to about half their height. This will improve air circulation and discourage rhizome rot by preventing rainwater from sitting on the blades.

Then, in the fall, after the wilted leaves have been killed by the fall frosts, cut the entire plant back to the ground. This will help limit the spread of iris diseases, which overwinter in leaf debris, and will make it easier to divide the plant in spring.

It's best to divide your African iris in the late summer or early fall, as this gives the newly divided plant a better chance of blooming the following year. It's also a good time to give your iris a feeding with a balanced, high-quality fertilizer. These include nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to promote flowering and healthy growth.

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