By Nikki Phipps
Walking iris makes an excellent accent along naturalistic paths and pond edges. It can be grown in containers as well.
As a member of the Iris family from Brazil, there are approximately 15 species of Neomarica found throughout the tropical Americas. The genus name Neomarica means new ‘marica’. Plants in the genus were previously called Marica from the name of a nymph. The Latin word ‘neo’ (new) was added when it was discovered that Marica had already been used to define another genus—Cipura.
The Neomarica is commonly called walking iris because the flowering stalks take root after bending over and making contact with the ground. Thus, the iris appears to “walk” as it fills the garden with graceful foliage and flowers. The walking iris is also called the Apostle plant from the belief that a Neomarica will not bloom until the plant has 12 leaves.
The walking iris is produced from rhizomes and forms vigorous clumps of foliage and spring-flowering blooms reaching up to 3 feet or more. The unusual, yet attractive, flowers of walking iris appear to grow out of its sword-like, gray-green leaves. In actuality, the stem bearing the flowers is fanned out, resembling the leaves. These are followed by small plants (or offsets) that make aerial roots, which establish themselves quite easily. The flowers of walking iris also open only for a day and then take a short rest to open again several days later. This rest and bloom cycle goes on for 4-6 weeks.
Two of the most commonly grown species of walking iris include N. caerulea and N. gracilis. N. caerulea has flowers that are vibrant, mid-blue with brown, orange and yellow claws. N. gracilis has stunning blue and white flowers.
How to Grow a Neomarica Walking Iris Flower
For those wishing to grow walking iris plants, they do well in full sun to light shade in well-draining soil. Since walking iris tolerates a wide range of soil and light conditions, this hardy plant is quite versatile in the garden. The captivating colors and fragrance also make walking iris an irresistible and welcome addition to nearly any garden.
The plant itself requires little in the way of maintenance with exception to the fact that it does require plenty of moisture. Water walking iris regularly during its growing season. This will likely be the only walking iris care necessary. Rhizomes can be planted in the ground just beneath the soil anytime after flowering has ceased.
The walking iris can be easily propagated through division of offsets or by seed, which is relatively easy as well, and flowering usually occurs within the first season.