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Mr. Smarty Plants - Non-native Dietes bicolor leaves brown after freeze in Austin

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Sunday - January 31, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native Dietes bicolor leaves brown after freeze in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Austin, and my butterfly iris (Dietes bicolor) that I've had for the last 6 years are all turning brown after the most recent freeze. Should I cut them back, with the thought being they would sprout new growth? Or are they dead, and should be dug up and replaced?

ANSWER:

Dietes bicolor, Butterfly or African iris, is a native of South Africa, and therefore out of the purview of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where we are dedicated to the use, care and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown.  Both it and members of the genus Iris are related distantly by being part of the family Iridaceae. We can tell you that the Dietes is hardy from Zones 8b through 11; they are evergreen through the winter unless the temperature goes below 25 deg. F., at which time the leaves will turn brown. Since this plant regenerates from a rhizome, it will no doubt come back in warmer weather. We would suggest simply trimming down those browned leaves and not fertilizing.
 

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