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Wild Irises

Dietes Grandiflora  • 

Photo: Wild Irises

General description

Dietes are easy-to-grow evergreen perennial plants which spread by underground rhizomes, forming large clumps +-1.5m wide. The 1m long rigid, sword-shaped leaves are dark green and the large Iris-like flowers are borne in profusion. They can be white or yellow, and are held on the ends of long flower stalks. Blooms can appear anytime in spring and summer - often after good rains - attracting bees, butterflies and many other pollinators to your garden. The insects will in turn attract many insect-eating birds. The fruit is a large capsule which splits open to release shiny, dark brown seeds.

Due to their reliability and hardiness Dietes have become popular landscaping plants. They are low maintenance, water-wise, and are usually disease-free, making them great for busy gardeners. Because of their long flowering season Dietes are perfect to plant as a groundcover in large garden beds or under trees. Although the wild iris does not flower well in very shady conditions, it is nevertheless one of the few plants that can satisfactorily grow under trees in spite of tree root competition. Give them a good start by incorporating plenty of compost into the beds and water regularly until the plants are well established. Because they grow quickly Dietes are ideal to use in areas that need to be established quickly, and are perfect to stabilise the soil on slopes.

In small gardens individual plants can be used as accents in mixed borders, or in pairs at either side of a bench, the entrance to a garden pathway, or at the top of a flight of stairs. They also grow beautifully in wetland gardens and alongside water features and ponds. Plant them in the wetland bird garden or in the exclusion bird garden. Dietes grow easily in pots, but remember that they spread quickly and will therefore need a reasonably large container.

These versatile plants will grow in full sun or semi-shade and can be grown in moist boggy soils as well as dry well-drained ones. In very hot inland gardens they will appreciate some light shade, especially during the hottest part of the day. Dietes can withstand moderate frost as long as it is not for an extended period of time. Frost damaged plants can be cut right back in early spring and should shoot again. Once Established Dietes are very drought tolerant but respond well to moderate watering during extended dry spells. They grow easily in poor soil and are adaptable to most garden soils, even clay; but perform best when planted in well-composted, slightly acid soil. Fertilise in spring with a balanced general fertiliser.

Propagation is best by division of the established clumps in early spring, just before active growth begins. .

Plant requirements

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Practical use

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Variety of
Iris 'Alba' (Iris unguicularis Alba)
1 - 60 cm
Soil type
Full sun, Partial shade
Well-drained, Moist but well-drained