Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana) is a West Coast native iris found in the wild from Santa Barbara, California to Oregon. It favors heavy, rich, moist soil. Douglas iris's flower color can vary from dark purple to white. Its love of water and fertile soil allows this native plant to fit into most traditional landscapes well.
Douglas Iris can be planted as a border plant along a lawn or in a mixed bed of traditional garden perennials, because it benefits from the regular water, tilling and feeding that goes into a traditional flower garden.
Douglas iris can also be used very successfully in a drought-tolerant native garden. If you are planting it in a dry southern California garden, it will need added irrigation because of the lower rainfall so make sure to plant it with other plants that have similar water requirements. Some good choices are California Fuchsia and Gooseberry. It will need part or full shade in very hot inland climates. Plant it among the boulders along a dry creek bed or accenting a water feature. Douglas iris is great for those small, hard-to-fill beds around the house that are bordered by a sidewalk and a bit too shady for many plants. In this situation they work great with western columbine.
Douglas iris, as a native of the northern Pacific coast, can tolerate bad drainage and high moisture, but can also handle summer drought in areas with higher winter and spring rainfall. This makes it a good candidate for areas of the garden with drainage problems. It can even grow in areas of the yard where water pools in the winter.
Douglas iris can be planted in a dryland garden with no irrigation. It needs about 25 inches of rainfall to make it on its own. In this situation, it can be planted under oaks with island alum root and hummingbird sage with great success. Use boulders to anchor it in the landscape and let leaf litter accumulate around it to encourage healthy soil and retain moisture. You can also mix in Miracle-Gro® Moisture Control® Garden Soil to help keep your soil moist.
Douglas iris goes dormant under stress. In cold winters and dry summers, it may seem to vanish. Don't panic; it isn't dead. This is a natural survival mechanism of the plant. As soon as the weather warms in spring or winter rains return, it will reemerge, healthy and happy as ever.
Photo courtesy of Penny Wilson. Article by Penny Wilson. Penny is garden writer who specializes in California native plants.