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Iris cristata (Dwarf crested iris)
Cressler, Alan

Iris cristata

Iris cristata Aiton

Dwarf Crested Iris

Iridaceae (Iris Family)

Synonym(s): Iris cristata var. alba, Neubeckia cristata


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

This is a small iris, its clusters of narrow, pointed leaves ranging in height from only 4-16 in. The sepals of the its blue-violet flowers are distinctly marked with a central yellow or white, purple striped band. Crested ridges called beards occur along the band. One (occasionally 2) violet-blue flower with 6 spreading, petal-like parts, atop a short slender stalk.

This is a low iris of southern and midwestern wooded uplands. Dwarf Iris (I. verna) has non-crested sepals, narrower leaves less than 1/2" (1.5 cm) wide, and occurs in peaty soil and pine barrens from New York south to Florida, west to Arkansas, and northeast to Missouri, Kentucky, and Ohio.


From the Image Gallery

17 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 16 inches tall.
Flower: Flowers 2.5 inches across.
Fruit: Tan

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Yellow , Blue , Purple
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul
Bloom Notes: Colors range through various shades of blue through purple to white.


USA: AL , AR , DC , GA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , MO , MS , NC , OH , OK , PA , SC , TN , VA , WV
Native Distribution: PA to GA, w. to e. OK; Zones 5 to 7
Native Habitat: Rocky, rich, wooded slopes; bluffs; sandy stream banks

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained, rich, acid soils.
Conditions Comments: Soils which are too rich encourage rank vegetative growth in this species. Ordinary, dryish soil is preferable.


Use Ornamental: Popular for its large, blue to white, spring flowers on small-statured plants in Southeastern shade gardens.
Use Wildlife: Flowers attracts hummingbirds and bees.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Hummingbirds
Nectar Source: yes


Propagation Material: Root Division , Seeds
Description: If seeds are collected, they should be planted immediately in acid soil. Seedlings will take two or three years to flower. Propagating by division is much more reliable than seeds. Divide in early fall when the leaves have begun to yellow.
Seed Collection: Collect the leathery capsule approximately 6-8 weeks after flowering when they have turned brown. Only a small percentage of flowers in a population will produce capsules. Storage greatly reduces viability.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Colonizes by rhizomes, so separate as desired.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Iris cristata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Iris cristata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Iris cristata


Record Modified: 2023-04-06
Research By: TWC Staff

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