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Re: Iris Compatible Plants

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: Re: Iris Compatible Plants
  • From: Bill Shear <BILLS@hsc.edu>
  • Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 14:24:51 -0700 (MST)

>rimat wrote:
>> william b. cook wrote:
> Bill,     Two Iris compatible annuals are Vinca and Penta.  Vinca is
>very heat and drought tolerant, blooms heavily, and sheds the dead
>bloom.  Thus, it does not need dead heading.  Since it does bush
>thickly, it must be properly spaced so it does not smother the Irises.
>The only problem with Vinca is that it will eventually (within 2/3
>years) be a complete ground cover. It will not smother the irises, but,
>will make a covering so thick, that moisture will be held so well, that
>the irises will rot. It's also a devil to get out, since it puts out a
>one inch stem, then two leaves, then a one inch stem, etc. At each of
>the leaf parts, it will set down roots, and branch out from there. I had
>it, and don't recommend it because of this. If you leave only a partial
>stem, it will grow & reproduce.

Are two different Vincas being confused here?  The Vinca Diana accurately
describes sounds like Vinca minor (or major, with larger leaves), a
perennial ground cover that indeed is the very devil to get rid of and
which I would never plant with irises or any other plant.

Mark's Vinca, I'm sure, is the shrubby annual Vinca based on species from
Madagascar and Africa, which self-seeds, but not aggressively, and is
killed by light frosts.

Personally, I would be cautious with companion plants to bearded irises.
My feeling is that they are too restrictive of air circulation and may
compete too successfully with the irises.  I would use only light-foliage
perennials like columbines mingled with the irises, or the aforementioned
poppies, which don't make a mass of foliage and quickly disappear after
blooming.  I would also make sure everything, especially the irises, has
lots of space.

Siberians are another matter--they seem to be able to take care of
themselves very well in a mixed border, even crowding/shading out other
plants; likewise the Spurias.

Almost all of my iris plantings are border-style.  The bearded irises are
always near the front, with plenty of room around them.  The Siberians seem
to mix well with smaller hemerocallis.  Columbines and lilies are also good
companions.  I also have a lot of seed-raised Alstroemerias; they appear
too rambunctious at first but die back completely after blooming.  At the
back of the border, self-sown foxgloves dominate, replaced later in the
summer by spider-flowers (Cleome; an almost too-aggressive self-seeder) and
Nicotiana sylvestris.  For persistant color, I use a lot of coleus--named
varieties, not the seed-grown strains which are too dwarf and bloom out too

Much of my garden is now getting too shady for TBs--why did I plant all
those trees 20 years ago?  So shade-tolerant "companion plants" are now the
real backbone of much of the garden.

Bill Shear
Department of Biology
Hampden-Sydney College
Hampden-Sydney VA 23943
FAX (804)223-6374

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