Rivercities Garden Club

Meeting 9/7/2008

Program - Louisiana Iris Ron Killingsworth

Prior to 1900, the iris was a simple purple flower frequently seen growing in the swamps of southern Louisiana, along the Mississippi and on into Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.  Then the flower was noticed growing in the swamps and collections began.  New varieties were identified and named then interest in hybridization developed leading from five varieties to over 1900 varieties over the subsequent years.

louisiana irisInterest in the flower has grown so that now it is grown in most of the states as well as in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

Unfortunately, the numbers of wild irises are diminishing as real estate development results in the filling of the bogs where the flowers used to grow, and the canals of the oil companies bring in salt water to destroy even more.

Growing the Louisiana Iris

The iris requires a lot of water.  If one wants a level bed, Ron suggests digging a channel, then lining the channel with plastic then filling it with humus.  Also consider raised beds also lined with plastic to maintain the water.   A final alternative is by planting the iris next to a pond.

These flowers have to be planted in areas where there is at least 50% sun else there will be a minimum of flowers and often a single bloom on one stalk.  They do not like shade.

Planting is simple.  Get one of the rizomes; keep it moist as they don't tolerate dry shipping or storage.  The roots must be kept moist.  When planting, cut the foliage back; soak the rizome in water for a couple of days.  Then in a prepared bed, plant them so that the rizome is between 1 and 1 ½ inches below the top of the dirt.

Initially, water enough to keep the soil a little moist.  Once there is new growth, the keep the plants well watered. 

These flowers require heavy fertilization.  During the summer Ron recommends using 13-13-13 fertilizer and in the fall 6-24-24 with trace elements.

The Speaker

Mr. Killingsworth is retired army and chief of police for 12 years and now lives in Belcher, La with his wife and many thousands of Louisiana irises.  He describes himself as a "flower nut" and now raises over 350 varieties of La irises plus day lilies, and bearded irises.  He is now an expert in the raising and hybridization of new varieties.

National Convention for the Society for Louisiana Irises is in Shreveport, La.  April 23-26, 2009

The Society for Louisiana Irises

118 E. Walnut

Alma, Ar 72921


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