If you need a plant with show-stopping color for shade, Pacific Coast iris, also called Douglas iris, is your plant! It resembles bearded irises in leaf and flower appearance but is more diminutive. Bearded iris flowers tend to stand tall above their leaves, while Pacific Coast iris flowers are shorter.
Pacific Coast iris grow from 6 inches to 3 feet tall, to 2-3 feet wide. Flower colors may be various shades of white, purple, and yellow, and many flowers have cascading ruffles and colored veins. Flowers bloom in late winter to early spring, depending on your region.
| USDA Zones:5-10|
Height:6″ to 3 feet
Sun/Shade:full sun on the coast; inland morning sun with afternoon shade.
Water Requirements: drought tolerant, occasional water once established.
Pruning: remove spent flowers; after a few years, divide large clumps in winter.
Other needs: prefer well-drained soil, remove spent flowers; after a few years, divide large clumps in winter.
There are hundreds of Douglas iris varieties, but you may not be able to find all of them locally. The best places to find them are native plant nurseries and online catalogs where you can purchase them as seed, plants or bulbs (rhizomes).
Drought tolerant plants
Pacific coast iris can grow without summer water once established. They do brilliantly underneath oaks (which also need no summer water). Learn the definition of deep watering from Gardening 101: watering.
In summer, Pacific Coast iris go dormant, and their grass-like leaves die back. Trim off the dead leaves if desired, but do not water the plants while they are dormant, otherwise you may kill them. Place mulch around the plants to help their roots stay cool.
Plant for Pollinators
The brightly colored iris flowers attracts pollinators such as native bees, honey bees, and bumblebees (did you know there are 46 species of bumblebees found in North America?) Since iris bloom early in the year, they are a great source of pollen and nectar for insects looking for food in late winter or early spring.