My love affair with the Blackberry Lily

Iris domestica, Blackberry lily

I love flowers.

Cannot help myself. It has been hardwired in my DNA to find joy and peace in gardening and to admire the colors, the smells, and the textures of nature and her limitless palette of beauty. I also cannot help myself to enjoy the beauty of this not so popular and sometimes elusive July bloomer-the Blackberry lily {Iris Domestica}. Best sown by seeds, the Blackberry lily will give you years of  July/August blooms.

Iris domestica, Blackberry lily

My first time every seeing this beautiful flower was many years ago and only until about 8 years ago did I find a patch growing in the edge of wood near my home. It was late summer and I was walking along the edge of the woods from taking my son to school when they caught my eye. In late summer, it is not hard to see why they are called Blackberry lilies. The seed pods open to reveal a dozen or more black round seeds clustered together to resemble a very large blackberry. Actually I find this almost as pretty as the flower.

The Blackberry lily (some may call them Leopard lily) are not even lilies! They are actually in the Iris family and this is evident by the shape of the leaves. In my zone (7), I have them as tall as 4 1/2 feet and some as short as 12 inches. The internet search will tell you the average is 2-3′ but that may be in lower zones. However, in my zone 7, they start to bloom around the first of July (which seems to get earlier and earlier) and last the whole month with sporadic blooms in the fall. I find these ‘sporadic’ blooms from small plants that had been sown  too late  in the fall. This garden beauty grows from zone 4 to 10.Iris domestica, Blackberry lily, blackberry lily seed pods

The Blackberry lily is best sown in the fall after the pods open to reveal the beautiful black seeds so  you can enjoy some blooms the following year. If you cannot sow them until the spring I highly recommend starting them in pots in the fall in a  protected area in colder zones because the seeds need to be cold stratified (they need the winter to jump start them). The plant will bloom the following year and do not despair because the plant will grow larger the 2nd year and give you  more of a beautiful display of these speckled orange blossoms. They can become a prolific seeder so if left to self sow you will end up with a large beautiful clump within a a couple of years. The best chance for success, and I know this from years of experience, is sowing seeds and not from the rhizome. Dividing clumps can be done but seeds do have a very high germination rate. To keep the clump healthy, you must let it self sow because one draw back is that the lily lives only about 3 -4 years (I have found in my own gardens).

The best thing about Blackberry lilies are that they grow in just about any soil and if you have clay soil they will do just fine. The only thing I caution is against sowing or planting them in a poor drainage area because they do not like wet feet. Otherwise there seems to be no pest problems {except as cautioned by the Missouri Botanical society-Iris borers} but I am here to say that I have never had any problems and they grow in sandy soil, heavy clay, and even in heavily mulched areas where I just ‘threw down’ the seeds in the fall. They grow in full sun as well as part sun . In my gardens they receive morning sun and do fantastic! They are very adaptable which makes this a great beginner plant.

The open in the morning and are done by dusk. The seed pods should stay on until they open so you can collect the seeds

The open in the morning and are done by dusk. The seed pods should stay on until they open so you can collect the seeds

Many gardeners would love to swap and share seeds which gives every gardener-novice or expert-the chance to increase the flowers and foliage in their garden. The Blackberry lily is one plant that really needs no special care and will grow peacefully among other yard tour daylily 017flowers such as Iris, coneflowers, Blackeyed Susans, Salvia, Daylilies, and more. It is a suitable backdrop for many flowers and in many areas is one of the few things blooming in the hot summer sun. I know there are other colors such as different reds, oranges, and yellow but in my area I have only found and grown this beautiful speckled orange. If you get a chance, I would definitely add these to your garden!

NOTE: the botanical name has been changed to Iris Domestica from Belamcanda chinensis. They are native to Japan, China, India, & Central Asia

2014 copyrighted material from C Renee Fuller

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