Pictured above: Prairie iris (Iris hexagona) by Mary Keim. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View post as a PDF.
Prairie iris(Iris hexagona) (also known as Dixie iris) is a rhizomatous perennial wildflower. Its showy flowers have three petals and three sepals. Each petal is bluish to deep purple, narrow and mostly ascending. Sepals are larger than petals (measuring up to 5 inches long), spatulate, downward-arching, and have a yellow to whitish “signal” or crest along their midribs.* They are more recognizable and thus often mistaken for the petals. Leaves are bright green, sword-like and erect, standing up to 3 feet tall and overlapping at their base. Its seed is a 6-angled capsule (hence the scientific name hexagona).
Prairie iris blooms in spring. It occurs naturally in swamps, wet prairies and marshes, and along the edges of rivers and ditches.
Family: Iridaceae (Iris family)
Native range: Central and eastern Panhandle, north and central peninsula
To see where natural populations of prairie iris have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness zones: 8A–9B
Soil: Rich, moist to wet soils
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 3’+
Garden tips: Prairie iris is an excellent plant for water features, lake edges and retention ponds. Spring flowers don’t last long, but their beauty makes the plant well worth adding to moist garden or landscape. It can be propagated by division and seed.
Prairie iris is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery in your area.
*Coloring can vary greatly among specimens.