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Everybody loves Irises for their big, colorful flowers, but when the blooms are over, the plants sort of fade into the background. Not so with Variegated Dalmatian Iris. This arresting Spirit produces a plethora of beautiful lavender blooms in late spring, but that’s not the end of the show. Throughout the growing season, you’ll enjoy its striking gray-green and cream-striped leaves. In mild areas, the foliage remains showy into December. Variegated Dalmatian Iris makes a pleasing pop of color in your entryway garden, mixed border, or patio plantings. It’s happy in sun or part shade.
- Hardiness Zone: 4-9
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Dalmatian Iris… no, it isn’t covered in black spots, but it does come from the same place as the famous firehouse dog. Dalmatia is a region along the coast of Croatia. Another name for this plant is Sweet Iris, because the blossoms smell sweet—like grape soda! The roots have a fabulous fragrance as well; they’re used in making perfumes. This flashy variation with the cream-striped leaves has been around for a long time. No one is sure where or when it originated, but it has been passed along from garden to garden for ages.
Variegated Dalmatian Iris is a type of bearded Iris. You’ll see the fuzzy yellow beards on the three lower petals. Plant breeders love this species of Iris for its tough constitution and showy, fragrant flowers. They have utilized it as a parent to thousands of varieties of Hybrid Tall Bearded Irises—those popular Spirits that come in every color of the rainbow.
How to Grow
Adaptable and unfussy, Variegated Dalmatian Iris is easy to please, provided a few conditions are met. Most important is good drainage. Soggy soils spell trouble (root rot), especially in the winter. Planting too deeply can also increase chances of root rot; the top half of the rhizomes (the swollen roots) should rest above the soil’s surface. All-day sun will produce the most blooms, but part shade is acceptable if foliage is your focus. In the midwestern and eastern states, keep an eye out for Iris borers, which burrow into the rhizomes. Destroy any infested sections—do not compost them.
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