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Corn Leaf Iris
by Kelly D. Norris - February 2013

Pair corn leaf iris (Iris bucharica) with something blue to set off those cheery flowers.

With a name like corn leaf iris, this denizen of early spring deserves a home in Iowa gardens. It’s a bit unusual as far as irises go—it’s one of the true bulbous species, unlike the rest of the genus, which grows from rhizomes. Planted in the fall with the tulips and crocus, these fingerling bulbs establish and naturalize about as well as any you could plant. In the rock garden or front border, they grow into cheery splashes of aureolin and ivory, flowering from uniquely pleated foliage that vaguely resemble blades of corn. Amid the company of other spring-awakening perennials, corn leaf irises are as essential as salt and pepper.

Consider this dynamite combination—corn leaf irises with white rockcress (Arabis caucasica) and the emerging, dark chocolate foliage of Sedum album ‘Murale’. Throw in a dash of blue—either a small Veronica such as ‘Christy’ or ‘Tidal Pool’ or some grape hyacinths—and you’re set for an instantly active garden scene in early to mid-April. Take care that other perennials later in the season hide the dying autumn-shaded foliage, which while lovely in its own right, looks a little out of place against the riot of spring color.  

Common Name: Corn leaf iris

Botanical Name: Iris bucharica

Color: Yellow and white

Blooming Period: Early spring

Type: Perennial

Size: Up to 12 inches tall and wide

Exposure: Full sun

When to Plant: Fall

How to Plant: Plant bulbs approximately 5 inches deep.

Soil: Adaptable to a range of soils with good drainage. Great in xeric conditions.

In Your Landscape: Excellent spring-flowering bulb for drift planting in borders or rock gardens.

From Iowa Gardener Volume I Issue I. Photo courtesy of Kelly D. Norris.


Kelly D. Norris is an Iowa author and plantsman who manages Rainbow Iris Farm (rainbowfarms.net) in Bedford.


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