Garden Log 3/23/22: Reticulated Irises

These adorable little drought-tolerant and deer-resistant bulbs are an early favorite in my garden, arriving with the scilla, a little after snowdrops begin. Before they open, the bulbs look like colorful spearheads; then they bloom just like larger irises, generally in shades of blue accented with yellow. (They’re not scented, unlike some of the large bearded irises).

These are a good plant for xeriscaping (or just conserving water). But they do die back over time, so if you want a strong display, you’ll need to either divide the offsets and replant to rejuvenate, or add new bulbs, every few years. Mine are starting to disappear, so I’ll try to remember to try dividing, and I’m making a note now to buy some more bulbs to plant this fall — I’m going to try to find “George,” which leans more purple-magenta.

The light blue variety pictured here is “Katherine Hodgkin,” the dark blue is more commonly found. The species name, reticulata, means “netted” or “reticulated,” a reference to the netted pattern on the plants’ bulbs.

As you can see, they do just fine planted amongst the strawberries, and coexist harmoniously. I’ve also seen recommendations to plant them where you have phlox or other later bloomers, so you can get double the flower power in one spot. Although digging to divide may be a bit tricky then!

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