Virginia Iris (Virginica)

The Virginia Iris (Virginica) is generally described as a perennial forb/herb. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring . The Virginia Iris (Virginica) has green foliage and inconspicuous blue flowers, with a smattering of conspicuous black fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Virginia Iris (Virginica) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Virginia Iris (Virginica) will reach up to 3.3 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Virginia Iris (Virginica) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bulbs, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below 12°F. has none tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: 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.”

General Characteristics

General: Iris Family (Iridaceae). Virginia 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).

Required Growing Conditions

Virginia iris is common along the coastal plain from Florida to Georgia. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation 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.

General Upkeep and Control

JUBA"Hydrology is the most important factor in determining wetland type, revegetation success, and wetland function and value. Changes in water levels influence species composition, structure, and distribution of plant communities. Water management is absolutely critical during plant establishment, and remains crucial through the life of the wetland for proper community management. Juncus species can tolerate periods of drought and total inundation. It is important to keep transplanted plugs moist, not flooded, until roots are established. Water levels can then be managed to enhance or reduce spread as well as control terrestrial weeds.

Muskrats have evolved with wetland ecosystems and form a valuable component of healthy functioning wetland communities. Muskrats use emergent wetland vegetation such as Juncus species for hut construction and for food. Typically, an area of open water is created around the huts. Muskrat cleared areas increase wetland diversity by providing opportunities for aquatic vegetation to become established in the open water and the huts provide a substrate for shrubs and other plant species. Muskrats opening up the dense stands of emergent vegetation also create habitat for other species.

Traditional Resource Management: According to one Northern Diegueño basketweaver, most weavers have favorite collecting areas where the Juncus is plentiful, long, tough, deeply colored with red, or simply nearby. Any Juncus stand will have plants that are immature, mature but still in seed, and those starting to senesce. Plants can be harvested during any month or season. The stalks are cut above the rhizomes and roots, leaving plenty of buds to re-grow new shoots. As with other rhizomatous species, harvest stimulates new growth and maintains the clone in a juvenile or immature growth phase, where productivity is highest. Attempts at harvesting during times of heavy rain or flooding are likely to fail, as deep water and mud make plants inaccessible.

Juncus species tend to be fairly resilient to insect and disease problems. Aphids may feed on the stems, but rarely cause significant damage. If an insect or disease problem is encountered in the greenhouse, treatment options may be limited by cultural constraints if these plants are to be used by Indian basket weavers. Juncus culms are split with the mouth to process basketry materials; therefore, an unusually high degree of human exposure and risk occur with plants designated for ethnobotanic use. Rushes are perennial, rhizomatous plants. In most cases, they will out-compete other species within the wetland area of the site, eliminating the need for manual or chemical control of invasive species. "

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Forb/herb
Growth Period Spring
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Rhizomatous
Drought Tolerance None
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 3.3
Vegetative Spread Moderate
Flower Color Blue
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Low
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bulbs, Seed
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature 12
Soil Depth for Roots 6
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate None
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4.8–7.3 pH
Precipitation Range 45–45 inches/yr
Planting Density 2728–10912 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 6
Minimum Frost-Free Days 200 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA