Iris virginica Southern Blue Flag Iris Plants
Virginia Iris, Shreve's iris
(EYE-ris  vir-GI-ni-ca) var. shrevei 

Easyliving Native Perennial Wildflowers
Native Wild Flower Potted Plants & Seed for Home Landscaping & Prairie Restoration

Iris virginica Southern Blue flag photo by cj  Habitat Bloom Period Color Height Inches Moisture Plant Spacing Lifespan
Iris virginica var. shrevei picture Southern Blue Flag Iris picture Virginia Iris, Shreve's iris picture Sun to Light Shade May  Blue-Violet
 Yellow & White Markings
18 to 36 Inches Moist 8 to 18 Inches Perennial

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Iris Virginica seed
Southern Blue Flag seed

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    We are out of Iris virginica at this time

Iris virginica, Blue Flag Iris is a tall, bold wildflower with pale-green sword-like leaves in strong, flat vertical fans.  The showy flowers are 3.5 inches wide, and deep blue-violet with yellow and white markings growing on stems up to 3 feet tall.  It will grow in ordinary garden soil but prefers moist, rich soil where it forms colonies and can be used in bog or water gardens.  The foliage is strongest when planted in partial shade but the flowers bloom best in full sun and can be used in flower arrangements.  Native blue flag iris is an emergent wildflower.  The root mass of established colonies provides good shoreline protection.  Iris is Greek for "rainbow".  Seeds should be planted in fall/winter or receive 3 months cool, moist stratification.  

  Plant Iris virginica Southern Blue flag in a moist area, bog garden, and in large pots placed in the water garden with other native wildflowers like Marsh Milkweed, False aster, Cardinal Flower, Blue Lobelia, Bunchflower Lily, Foxglove Beard Tongue, Sweet Black-eyed Susan, and Orange Coneflower.

   Iris virginica Southern Blue flag Iris is a bold native wildflower occurring naturally from Eastern U.S. and adjacent Canada, west to Texas in wet areas like fens, marshes, bottomland prairies, and at the edge of ponds and streams. Iridaceae (Iris Family)

plant Synonyms for Iris virginica L. var. shrevei 
Iris shrevei 
Iris versicolor L. var. blandescens
Iris versicolor L. var. shrevei 

Blue flag, southern blue flag, blue iris

 Warning:  The roots of Virginia iris are toxic when taken internally, without sufficient preparation. 

 The Cherokee and other tribes in the southeastern United States are known to have used Virginia iris for its medicinal properties.  The root was pounded into a paste that was used as a salve for skin. An infusion made from the root was used to treat ailments of the liver, and a decoction of root was used to treat “yellowish urine.”  Virginia iris may have been one of the iris species used by the Seminole to treat “shock following alligator-bite.”

Iris Family (Iridaceae).  Virginia Southern Blue Iris is a perennial plant.  The slightly fragrant flowers (4 cm long, 7 cm across) consist of 3 horizontal sepals, or “falls,” and 3 erect petals.  The petals and sepals can vary in color from dark-violet to pinkish-white.  The sepals have a splash of yellow to yellow-orange at the crest.  Each plant has 2 to 6 flowers that bloom from April to May upon a single, erect, 3-9 dm tall stalk.  The stalk is sometimes branched and has a slight zigzag appearance.  The plant has 2 to 4 erect or arching, bright green, lance-shaped leaves that are flattened into one plane at the base.  Leaves are 1 – 3 cm wide and are sometimes longer than the flower stalk.  The fleshy roots (1-2 cm in diameter) are rhizomes that spread underground.  Pale brown, variably shaped seeds are born in three-part fruit capsules (3-6 cm long, 1-2 cm wide).

  Iris Virginica is common along the coastal plain from Florida to Georgia.  This plant grows in wet areas and sometimes in shallow water in both fresh and brackish tidal marshes.  It can be found in low savannas, thin woods and open meadows as well as along the edges of swamps, rivers, and ditches.  

Virginia iris is a sturdy plant that is easy to grow and, once established, needs very little care.  They make lovely additions to the garden and are ideal for the borders of a garden pond.  This is because the plants prefer moist to wet soils that are high in organic matter.  The plants will grow best in mild climates where they can be grown in partial shade to full sun.  The plants can be grown from seed, but are easiest to propagate through division.  Seeds may be planted in the autumn, without pretreatment.  To propagate by division, divide the plants either after flowering or when the new leaves just begin to appear in the spring.  Cut the roots so that each piece contains a portion the feeding roots, the rhizome, and a leaf fan.  Place the rhizomes very near to the surface of the soil when planting.  Allow 45 to 60 cm between plants.  The plants grow best if divided every three to five years to thin out the colonies that form. 

  Snails are known to eat the leaves. 

The map below shows areas where native Iris virginica Southern Blue flag plants grow wild but it can be planted and will grow over a wider area than shown.  USDA plant hardiness zones 2 to 9.

Iris virginica
Blue Flag Iris


New Jersey
New York
North Carolina

South Carolina
West Virginia

State Distributional Map for IRVI

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Easyliving Wildflowers
PO Box  522
Willow Springs,  Mo.  65793
phone-fax 417-469-2611 

Iris virginica Southern Blue flag Plant distribution map complements of USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1
  ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

Iris virginica L.
Great Blue Flag, Virginia iris
Iridaceae (Iris Family)
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.

Southern Blueflag is a member of the iris family (family Iridaceae) which consists of herbs growing from rhizomes bulbs or corms with narrow basal leaves and showy clusters at the tips of long stalks. Flowers: usually radially symmetrical; calyx has 3 petal-like sepals; corolla has 3 petals; stamens 3. All these parts are attached at top of ovary. Leaves: simple alternate folded and overlapping one another at the base and aligned in two rows. Fruit: capsule. There are about 60 genera and 1500 species distributed in temperate and tropical regions. Among them Iris Freesia Gladiolus Bugle Lily and Montbretia are popular ornamentals. Saffron dye is obtained from Crocus and essence of violets used in perfumes is extracted from the rhizomes of Iris.

Plant Characteristics
Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Size Class: 3-6 ft.
Fruit Type: Capsule
Leaf Color: Green
Fruit Color: Green Brown 

Bloom Information
Bloom Color: White , Pink , Blue
Bloom Time: May 

USA: AL , AR , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , MD , MI , MN , MS , MO , NE , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , SC , TN , TX , VA , WV , WI , DC
Native Distribution: Coastal Plain from s.e. VA to TX
Native Habitat: Marshes; wet pinelands; swamps; wet meadows 

Growing Conditions
Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist rich soils.
Conditions Comments: Southern blue flag is an ideal plant for edges of ponds lily pools or drainage ditches. I. shrevei is the northern variety of this species.
texas comments: Southern blue flag is an ideal plant for edges of ponds lily pools or drainage ditches. I. shrevei is the northern variety of this species. 

Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds
Deer Resistant: High 

Description: Clump division is the usual method of increase. Divide in early fall when the leaves begin to turn yellow. Keep stringy roots attached to the stubby rhizome sections. If propagation is to made by seed sow immediately in an outdoor seed bed. Seedlings
Seed Collection: Storage of iris seed greatly reduces viability.
Seed Treatment: Not Available
Commercially Avail: yes


Family Scientific Name: Iridaceae
Family Common Name: Iris family
Scientific Name: Iris virginica (Small) E. Anders. var. shrevei
Common Synonym: Iris shrevei Small
Common Name: Wild Blue Iris
Species Code: IRIVIR
Ecotype: Central Illinois, 650 feet msl elevation
General Distribution: I. virginica var. shrevei ranges from Ontario to Minnesota, south to Texas and Alabama.
Propagation Goal: Plants
Propagation Method: Seed
Product Type: Container (plug)
Stock Type: 1+0 container plugs
Time To Grow: 10 Months
Target Specifications: Height: n/a, herbaceous perennial.
Caliper: n/a, herbaceous perennial.
Root System: firm root plug.
Propagule Collection: Seed is collected by hand from nursery stock. The plant flowers from approx. May 22 to June 1. Seed is harvested July 15.
Propagule Processing: After drying, seed is cleaned by running it through the Dybvig. Next the seed is run through the Grinder, then it is screened by hand over a top screen of 13 and a bottom screen of 7. Finally, run this seed through the Jessee Aspirator with both vents wide open.
8 ounces of seed is saved to sow one bench in either 64 flats of the Multipot #6, or 24 flats of the Multipot #3 or #4.
Pre-Planting Treatments: Seed is damp stratified by mixing it with equal amounts of vermiculite and lightly dampening in a plastic bag or container.
Store this seed for 3-4 months in a cold room of 34-36 degrees F.
Growing Area Preparation/
Annual Practices for Perennial Crops: 
Propagation Environment: Fully controlled greenhouse.
Container Type and Volume: Multipot #3, #4, or #6 are used. Cell volumes are 6 cubic inches, 9 cu. in. and 6 cu. in. respectively.
Growing Media: Sterile, Pro-Mix PGX. Add vermiculite and perlite at a 10:1 ratio. Mix in 5 ounces of Osmocote, slow release fertilizer, 17-6-10, per cubic foot of soil. Ensure flats are tapped down to prevent settling.
Total Time to Harvest: 7-11 months, depending on weather and plant/root development.
Sowing Date: Three crops are started in the greenhouse with the first in late December and the last no later than the end of March.
Sowing/Planting Technique: Sow the seeds by hand by broadcasting. Try to sprinkle 2 seeds per cell. Seed purity rates vary from year to year. Thus, it is easier to thin than to transplant. Cover the seeds to one times their depth with the same growing media. Use a dibble board or roller to gently press seed and cover soil in the cell.
Establishment Phase: Set the greenhouse temperatures to be 70-80 degrees during the day, and 65-75 degrees at night. 75% germination is reached in about three weeks. Plants must be watered by hand during germination. Set the hose on gentle shower to prevent seeds from splashing out.
Active Growth Phase: Once germination is successful, the greenhouse temperature may be turned down gradually depending on outside temperatures. Plants are irrigated in the morning by soaking for 20 to 30 minutes. This allows the foliage to dry out during the day. Once true leaves appear, not cotyledons, the plants may be fertilized. Start with 50 ppm of Rapid Grow or Peter's Liquid Fertilizer once a week. This rate is increased to 200 ppm gradually, and, again, decreased to 50 ppm before moving the plants outside to the shadehouse. It is important to rinse fertilizer residue off the foliage by running the irrigation for 30 seconds. Plants should be thinned to 2 plants per cell. This should be accomplished before the roots are too extensive.
When foliage reaches 8 to 10 inches, the plants need to be pruned back to 3 or 4 inches. This is accomplished by turning the flats on their sides and cutting with scissors or sheers. Make sure the clippings are all removed from the flats to prevent disease spread.
Length of Active Growth Phase: 7 months
Hardening Phase: The first greenhouse crop will be moved to a hoop house in late January to February. To acclimate the plants, the irrigation rate is reduced to 50 ppm before moving and greenhouse temperatures are decreased to 55-60 degrees day. The second and third crops are moved directly to the shadehouse in April and May. Again, greenhouse controls and fertilization rates are adjusted in preparation for the move. Plants that reach 8-10 inches in the shadehouse will require pruning also.
Length of Hardening Phase: 1 month
Harvesting, Storage and Shipping: Harvest Date: Flats may be unplugged in October or November as long as most of the tops have died down.
Storage Conditions: Plugs that are not shipped during this fall's planting season may be stored for spring planting in cold rooms above freezing, preferably 40-50 degrees. Try to remove most of the dead foliage as you can before bagging the root plugs for storage.
Store them on plastic bags to ensure the roots do not dry out.
Storage Duration: Approximately 4 to 6 months. Plugs may be shipped at any time as long as the receiver has cold storage.
Length of Storage: 4 to 6 months
Outplanting performance on typical sites: Outplanting Site: Illinois prairie sites to include State Parks, highway roadsides, and limited private lands. Prefers wet prairies.
Outplanting Date: September to November

Blessman, Gary; Horvath, David J.; Flood, Roberta Mountz. 2001. Propagation protocol for production of container Iris virginica (Small) E. Anders. var. shrevei plants (1+0 container plugs); Illinois Department of Natural Resources - Mason State Nursery, Topeka, Illinois. In: Native Plant Network. URL: (accessed 25 November 2007). Moscow (ID): University of Idaho, College of Natural Resources, Forest Research Nursery.