A bed of striking irises is not only appreciated for its beauty, but it is also an ideal place for companion planting with herbs. Irises bloom in the springtime, only to leave behind their towering foliages that grow up to 4 feet tall for the rest of the spring and summer seasons. These make excellent backdrops for low-growing herbs. There are several herbs that make good companions for irises in the garden.
A short-lived perennial that blooms red-spotted orange blossoms, leopard lily (Iris domestica or Belamcanda chinensis) is a member of the Iridaceae, or iris, family that makes a good companion to irises in the garden. Its other names include blackberry lily and she gan in China.
While the flowers are enjoyed for their beauty, it's the rhizome of this plant that is used as a medicine in traditional Chinese medicine for coughs, throat infections, skin infections and other viral, fungal and bacterial infections, according to the Herb Society of America. Leopard lily grows 1 to 3 feet in height and requires well-drained, rich sandy soil and full sun to partial shade.
Also known as water hyssop and coastal water hyssop, herb-of-grace (Bacopa monnieri) is a perennial creeping plant that belongs to the Scrophulariaceae (snapdragon or figwort) family. Herb-of-grace is native to the continental United States, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
It produces bell-shaped white flowers with a hint of pink or blue color from April through September. It prefers moist to wet soils that mimic its native wet environments near ponds or streams and full sun to partial shade exposure. Herb-of-grace attracts butterflies and is moderately deer resistant.
Eastern Red Columbine
Eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is a good companion herb to grow with irises. Also known as wild red columbine, this perennial herb is a member of the Ranunculaceae, or buttercup, family that grows up to 3 feet tall. Its bell-shaped red, pink and yellow flowers hang downward and are in bloom from February through July. Its foliage is semi-evergreen---evergreen when temperatures are moderate and non-evergreen when temperatures are too high.
With its high tolerance to drought conditions, eastern red columbine thrives in moist to dry, well-drained soils and in partial to full shade. Eastern red columbine attracts butterflies and birds and as stated by the University of Texas at Austin, it was valued by Native Americans as a natural attraction agent.
Belonging to the Saururaceae, or lizard's tail family, lizard's tail is a native perennial that makes a good companion plant to irises in the garden. It grows up to 4 feet in height and has a slender upright and drooping appearance. It produces small fragrant white flowers that bloom from April through August.
Considered an aquatic herb, lizard's tail thrives in moist to wet soil like the soils in its native wetland environment and grows well in partial to full shade. Lizard's tail is highly deer-resistant and attracts birds to its flowers. Medicinally, lizard's tail is used to treat inflammation in various parts of the body, and in moderation, it is used as forage for sheep and cattle.
Also known as tropical sage and scarlet sage, blood sage (Salvia coccinea) makes a good companion herb to an iris flower bed. It belongs to the Lamiaceae, or mint, family and is native to the United States. Blood sage grows to 3 feet tall and produces red, pink or white flowers that bloom from February through October.
Blood sage grows in moist to dry soils and in full sun to full shade exposure. It attracts bees, hummingbirds and butterflies and is highly deer-resistant.