Also called snake’s-head, black iris, and velvet flower-de-luce, this herbaceous perennial is native to the Mediterranean region and a member of the iris family, Iridaceae, that also includes crocus, gladiolus, and freesia. The plant grows up to 18″ tall from a tuber and has long, strap-like leaves that are up to 2′ long, four sided, and droop on the ground. From late winter to early spring flowers appear on stems slightly shorter than the foliage. Each flower is fragrant, 2-3″ across, and has lime green standards forked at the top and reflexed, velvety, almost black falls. The tubers should be planted in the fall and may form colonies in favorable sites. Widow’s iris offers unusual flowers early in the gardening season and is a good choice for a rock garden or container. . The genus name, Iris, honors the Greek goddess of the rainbow due to the huge variation in flower color of the genus.  The specific epithet, tuberosa, comes from the Latin word, tuber, meaning swelling, and refers to the root system.

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Size: 12-18″ H x 6-12″ W

Bloom: Flowers with lime green standards and reflexed, velvety, almost black falls, from late winter to early spring

Light: Full sun to part shade

Soil: Average, medium moist, well-drained; reduce water in summer

Hardiness: Zones 7-10

Care: Do not remove foliage until it is dead

Pests and Diseases: Leaf spot, rust

Propagation: Division in late summer

Companion Plants: Crocus, snowdrop,

Photo Credit: Robert Flogaus-Faust Wikimedia Commons

By Karen