Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'
Common Name: iris
Type: Bulb
Family: Iridaceae
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Spread: 0.00 to 0.25 feet
Bloom Time: March to April
Bloom Description: Pale blue with deeper veins
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Tolerate: Deer, Drought

Culture

Easily grown in average, consistently moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Soils should be moist during the spring growing/blooming season, but needs to become relatively dry during the summer dormant season in order for the bulbs to set buds for the following year. Planting bulbs in a gritty soil on a slope helps meet the changing soil moisture requirements. Plant bulbs 3-4” deep and space 3-4” apart in fall. Bulbs tend to separate into offsets or bulblets after bloom (particularly when planted shallowly), with each new bulblet requiring several years to mature. Although bulbs can be dug and divided (offsets removed) after bloom, it is probably best to do this only if flowering has significantly declined. In order to insure consistent flowering from year to year, it is an option to plant supplemental bulbs each fall, or to grow this plant as an annual by planting new bulbs each fall.

Noteworthy Characteristics

The reticulated iris group consists of a number of small bulbous irises whose bulbs have netted or reticulate bulb coverings (tunics) on the dry bulbs. All species of reticulated iris are native to western Asia (Turkey, Caucasus, Lebanon, northern Iraq and Iran). Leaves are gray-green with square to cylindrical cross sections. Flowers appear in early spring, with plants going dormant by late spring. Iris reticulata and Iris danfordiae are perhaps the two most commonly known species in the reticulated group.

Genus named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow.

'Katherine Hodgkin' is a reticulated iris hybrid whose parents are Iris winogradowii (pale yellow flowers) and Iris histrioides (pale blue flowers). Intricately marked pale blue flowers of this hybrid have distinctive deep blue veining with a purple-spotted yellow blotch at the base of each fall (sepal). Flowers bloom in late winter to early spring (March to early April in St. Louis) on small scapes rising to 5" tall. Flowers (usually 1-2 per bulb) have a sweet violet-like fragrance. Narrow, linear, grass like, gray-green leaves (usually 2-4 per plant) typically rise to the same level as the flower at the time of bloom but elongate after bloom to 12" before eventually disappearing in late spring as the plant goes dormant. This hybrid was introduced in 1958 by E. B. Anderson and named after the wife of rare bulb enthusiast Eliot Hodgkin.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Fusarium basal rot is an infrequently occurring disease problem. Watch for slugs and snails.

Garden Uses

Best massed in sunny areas of rock gardens, border fronts, along walks or along streams or ponds. Best planted in mass. Small groups of this diminutive iris can get lost in the landscape. Also may be forced in pots.