Iris foetidissima
Common Name: stinking iris 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Iridaceae
Native Range: Northern Africa, southern Europe
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: Pale lilac
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer


Best grown in moist, humusy, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Established plants tolerate some dry conditions. This species is more shade-tolerant than most other species of Iris. Plants are not reliably winter hardy in the St. Louis area where they benefit from a protected location and winter mulch. Although leaves are evergreen in warm winter climates, they usually do not survive St. Louis winters. Plants are slow to establish, and may not produce quality seed displays until the second or third year. Divide in spring or fall as needed (spring is perhaps best in St. Louis). Can be somewhat surprisingly easy to grow from seed.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Iris foetidissima, commonly called stinking iris, Gladwin iris and coral iris, is perhaps grown more for its attractive coral seed clusters than for its flowers. This is a rhizomatous, beardless iris which typically grows 1.5 to 2' tall. Pale lilac flowers bloom in late spring on scapes rising 10-24" tall. Flowers are followed by seed capsules which mature over the summer and split open in early fall to reveal stringy clusters of bead-like, bright orange-red seeds which are extremely showy and persistent, often remaining in the open pods on the plants well into winter. Seed stalks are valued for dried flower arrangements. Dark green sword-shaped linear leaves (to 24" long and 1" wide) are unpleasantly aromatic (though not necessarily fetid as the species name suggests) when cut or bruised.

Genus named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow.

Specific epithet means very bad-smelling.


No serious insect or disease problems. Winter hardiness is a concern in the St. Louis area.


Good iris for shady locations. Borders, open woodland gardens, shade gardens.