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Iris versicolor (blueflag)
Species Distribution Map: Click to enlarge
Map Color Key © 2013 BONAP

Iris versicolor


Very robust, dramatic display of boldly veined, swordlike leaves with large, violet-blue flowers accented by whitish markings at the base of the sepals. Petals and sepals spread out flat making it an attractive place for feeding by hummingbirds.

Iris versicolor LP50 - 50 per flat Availability
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2-3 Feet


2-3 Feet


18-24 Inches

Bloom Color


USDA Hardiness Zone 2-7

blueflag Interesting Notes

Moist and wet areas provide the perfect setting for blue flag in the garden. In late spring to early summer, Iris versicolor produces stems containing several striking blue 3-4” flowers with a prominent yellow blotch on 2-3’ tall plants. Its sword-like, upright foliage is an attractive accent to the summer garden. In addition to wet conditions, blue flag grows well in average soil and filtered shade to sun. Blue flag makes an excellent focal point in a small pond or can be used in an area that is too wet for other garden plants. It combines nicely with Osmunda regalisChelone glabraOsmundastrum cinnamomeumRhexia virginica and Eupatorium perfoliatum. - Mt. Cuba Center

The iris was said to have first been adopted as an emblem in the 6th century by King Clovis of the Franks, after a clump of yellow flag iris had shown him where he could ford a stream and escape a superior force of Goths. It was revived as an emblem, the Fleur-de-Louis, in 1147 when Louis VII of France set off on the ill-fated second crusade. The emblem has been used since 1180 as a badge of the kings of France, and although referred to as the "Lily of France," was probably I. pseudocorus. The iris has been adopted by many kings since and has represented the birth of Christ in many classical paintings. Not to be outdone, even the Canadian Province of Quebec uses the Fleur-de-lis on her provincial flag. Countries of the world seem unabashedly attached to the beauty of the iris and in any one garden, English, Spanish, Dutch, Persian, German, Californian, Japanese, Lousiana, Pacific Coast, and Siberian irises may be found. - Herbaceous Perennial Plants, Allan Armitage

A fine blue infusion is obtained from the flowers and this can be used as a litmus substitute to test for acids and alkalis. Some native North American Indian tribes used the root as a protection against rattlesnakes. It was believed that, so long as the root was handled occasionally to ensure the scent permeated the person and their clothes, rattlesnakes would not bite them. Some tribes even used to chew the root and then hold rattlesnakes with their teeth and were not bitten so long as the scent persisted.

Iris versicolor Growing and Maintenance Tips

Prefers rich, well-drained, loamy, peaty soils in full to partial shade. Benefits from the addition of lime and rich, organic materials. Best used in flower and water gardens, edges of ponds, and areas in which it may naturalize.

Good Substitutions

blueflag Iris versicolor 'Purple Flame'

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Sun
Full Sun
Part Sun
Part Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Salt Tolerance
Salt Tolerance

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Plug Type
Landscape Plug™
Season of Interest (Flowering)
Late Spring / Early Summer
Green Infrastructure
Bioretention/Rain Garden
Native to North America
Propagation Type
Open pollinated