African Iris - The Dietes Grandiflora

Also known as the African Iris, the Dietes grandiflora is part of the Iridaceae (or iris) family and is indigenous to South Africa (with the exception of one species, the Dietes robinsoniana, which hails from an island just off Australia).

Did you know? The Bloemfontein Botanical Garden is home to 400 species of plants, mainly from the Free State, Northern Cape and Lesotho.

There are six different species of Dietes, of which the Dietes grandiflora is a favourite amongst those who take pride in their gardens, being so pretty.

Description

The flowers of the Dietes grandiflora are, as its name implies, larger than some other species of this family, and are characterised by their white hue with yellow and purple markings in the summertime.

It is an evergreen plant that reaches about 1.5 metres in height, and grows in shrubs or clumps, rather than as individual flowers. The leaves are dark in colour, arranged in a fan shape and up to a metre long.

Flowering time

This particular species flowers during the spring and summer months, extending from September to March in South Africa. These flowers only last for a few days and should be left on the plant for maximum effect, rather than cutting them for floral displays in vases.

Use in the garden

The Dietes grandiflora attracts bees and insects, which pollinate it and add a charming quality to any garden. These also attract insect-eating birds that will enchant the garden with their song and beautiful colours.

Natural distribution

With five of the six species being found naturally in South Africa, the most common areas in which the Dietes grandiflora grows primarily along the coastlines of the areas of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Southern Cape, as well as in forest margins and on ocean-facing mountain slopes.

Growing Dietes grandiflora in your garden

This plant does particularly well in sunny and semi-shady conditions. It can tolerate a little frost and a degree of very dry, arid conditions, but not for extended periods of time. This is quite different to its more sensitive family members.

Those who live along the coast will find that their Dietes grandiflora do well in the moist, salty air. They are ideal as tall ground cover, under the dappled shade of trees, on slopes and even in containers.

Propagation

Naturally, the fruit splits and releases the seeds of the Dietes grandiflora for germination. It is easy to grow, requiring well-watered and -drained soils and sunny or semi-shade conditions. During the spring, a good fertiliser will go a long way in aiding the growth and success of these plants. Clumps can be divided manually for easy propagation too. They should be divided before flowering, in the early spring. Plants grown from seed will take a few years to flower for the first time.

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