Spots and speckles on flowers and foliage add character to the garden. So-named because the shiny black drupes the plants produce after blooming look like blackberries, this hardy member of the iris family can't contribute to the fruit bowl, but it will provide a low-maintenance plant for the summer border.
|Botanical Name||Iris domestica|
|Common Name||Blackberry lily; leopard lily|
|Mature Size||2 to 3 feet|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil pH||Mildly acidic to mildly alkaline|
|Bloom Time||Mid to late summer|
|Flower Color||Orange with red spots|
|Hardiness Zones||USDA growing zones 5-10|
|Native Area||India, China, Russia|
How to Grow Blackberry Lilies
Blackberry lilies make fine companions for irises. That's because as a member of the iris family, they enjoy the same growing conditions: lots of sun, average moisture, and soil that drains easily. Blackberry lilies are not long-lived perennials, but they are easy to grow, and you can propagate them at home to keep the flowerbed populated with those unique orange and red speckled blooms for years to come.
Choose a site with full sun to grow your blackberry lilies. A minimum of four hours a day is necessary for plant health and blooms, and six hours is even better.
Having the perfect soil isn't important for growing blackberry lilies, but having good drainage is. Soggy soils, especially in winter, can cause the rhizomes of blackberry lilies to rot.
While blackberry lilies respond to regular watering with larger, healthier blooms, they are also drought tolerant. Dry winter soils are ideal. Err on the side of less water, not more.
Temperature and Humidity
Hot weather and high humidity are not issues for cultivating the blackberry lily. The plants are not susceptible to mildews or fungi, as long as no standing water is present.
Supplemental fertilizer is not necessary to grow blackberry lilies. The plants are not heavy feeders, and can get the nutrients they need from the soil.
Potting and Repotting
Plant up two or three blackberry lilies in the same pot to give a full look. Use a well-drained potting soil. Arrange the rhizomes close to the soil's surface so that they are not touching. Divide and repot the lilies as they expand and become crowded. Repot in late summer, when growth slows down.
Propagating Blackberry Lilies
Similar to dividing iris rhizomes, you can dig and divide blackberry lilies in August, when the flowering is over and the plants are mostly done growing. Dig the plants, and use a sharp knife to cut apart pieces that have a fan of foliage attached.
Toxicity of Blackberry Lilies
According to the North Carolina State Extension, the blackberry lily has a mild toxicity. Poisonous plant parts include the berries, so make sure children don't confuse them with edible blackberries.
Pruning of blackberry lilies can help to control self-seeding, which can lead to invasive qualities. Remove the seed capsules after they form to prevent volunteers and to tidy up the garden.
Being Grown in Containers
Growing blackberry lilies in containers is a great way to "stage" the plants when they come into bloom: Before blooming, place the containers in an out-of-the-way spot, as the foliage is not much to look at. When the blooms begin, move the containers to a prominent spot on the porch or patio where you can enjoy the flowers.
Growing From Seeds
The seeds of blackberry lilies germinate readily. Sow them in the spring about two months before last frost. Plant the seeds in moist, sterile potting mix, and cover with a fine layer of soil. Germination will occur in about 14 days.
Common Pests and Diseases
Blackberry lilies are generally trouble-free plants. However, the common iris borer can infect and even kill plants. The pest is insidious, and may leave no signs at first except an entry hole at the base of the plant. If your plant looks wilted or discolored, look for this hole. Remove and destroy any infected plants.
Blackberry Lilies vs Tiger Lilies
The similar name and appearance of the tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium) and the blackberry lily can cause confusion amongst gardeners. However, the tiger lily, which is a true lily, is more different from the blackberry lily, an iris member, than it is alike. Start with the planting material: the tiger lily produces non-tunicate bulbs with layers of scales attached to a basal plate. The blackberry lily grows from fleshy rhizomes that look like swollen roots. Tiger lilies can grow several feet tall, and are hardier than blackberry lilies, down to zone 3. The prominent stamens and recurved petals of the tiger lily also distinguish it from the blackberry lily.