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Oregon Iris
Oregon Iris in bloom (Iris tenax). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.

Oregon Iris

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Iris tenax

Oregon Iris, aka Toughleaf Iris, is a show-stopper. When mature, it grows into low mounds of hardy, lance-shaped foliage which eventually flaunt many stalks of extraordinary and long-lasting blooms in late spring and early summer. The flowers are typically lavender-blue to purple, but in rare and special cases they can bloom white, yellow, pink, and even orchid-shades. Oregon Iris does not grow quickly, so it may behoove you to splurge on a larger size to enjoy its lavish blooms sooner.

  • Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous, perennial herbaceous plant
  • Size at maturity: 10-20" tall, 1-2' wide
  • Light requirements: full sun, part sun/part shade
  • Moisture requirements: dry to moist soil
  • Bloom time: March - July
  • Growth rate/ease: moderate growth rate, moderately easy to grow
  • Wildlife support: attracts and provides nectar for adult butterflies, bees and other insect pollinators, attracts and supports beneficial and other pest-eating insects, attracts and supports hummingbirds
  • Native habitat/range: uncommon along roadsides, in meadows and in west-side forest openings at low to middle elevations across the western Oregon, northwestern CA and south-western WA. Portland Plant List - yes.
  • Special features & uses: supports hummingbirds, great in a meadowscape, pollinator garden, rock garden, raingarden or bioswale. The exceptionally strong fibers leaves can be used for weaving and rope making. 

Gardening with Oregon Iris: Oregon Iris prefers dry to moist, well-drained soils, but can tolerate drought once established. It works well along the top edges of sunny raingardens and bioswales but does not like to have it’s feet wet for prolonged periods of time. It grows relatively slowly by rhizomes, eventually forming small clumps. Although it can tolerate shade, you will not enjoy the plethora of blooms it can produce when planted in more sun. But, that said, even the smallest pops of it’s bold purple petals can be a sight to behold in a shady woodland garden.

Photo Credit 1: Karli Del Biondo, Beetles and Bees 

Photo Credit 2: "Oregon Iris (Fen Meadow)" by catalex7 is licensed under CC BY 2.0