PACIFIC COAST IRIS CULTURE Reprinted from 'Basic Iris Culture'

Pacific Coast Iris are members of the Series Californicae, and are commonly called PCNs, PCIs, or Pacificas. They contain many species which are all native to the western coast of the United States from the coastal regions to the inland mountains. Their forms are usually small and compact with a range of height 6 to 24 inches, although some species will reach a height up to 36 inches. Most varieties are evergreen and grow in full sun along the coast, but prefer slightly shaded areas in warmer inland areas. Most of the moisture they receive comes from winter rains and snow, depending on their elevation. The plants are not reliably hardy with temperatures below 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit. They are native to a Mediterranean climate with long, dry summers and cool, wet winters.

Although the most commonly grown plants today are hybrids of the various species, they should be treated in a similar way in cultivation as their parents. The single most important factor, along with good air circulation, is drainage. A sloping ground, a raised bed, a mound or a container with appropriate soil conditioners and a proper pH is an excellent way to achieve this. In the wild, you normally find them on sloping cuts that are often full of stones and grit where the drainage is fast and effective. They will not perform in light and sandy soil. The soil itself should have a neutral to slightly acid pH. A light mulch may be added to provide a condition similar to their native habitat where they are mulched with humus from natural leaf fall. They all benefit from an occasional summer watering but never should be watered in the heat of the day as experienced gardeners have found this to be a major cause of crown rot.

Transplanting and dividing, only when necessary, is best done when the roots are plump, white, at least one inch long, and actively growing. This is done along the west coast in the late fall, although in areas of harsher winters early spring may be the preferred time. During both of these periods, new roots are often observed and great care must be used to avoid much disturbance. Following the dividing, it is necessary to keep the roots moist until replanting. If they are to be held for a considerable period of time, the roots may be soaked in water. They will keep this way if the water is changed every 2 to 3 days. When they are lacking new or plump roots, the water soaking should continue until new roots appear prior to planting. If they need to be held longer before replanting, a compressed peat or paper container is recommended, as this allows the replanting without root disturbance, while allowing the plant to adjust to the soil conditions.

Pacificas are mostly grown in areas throughout the world that have average conditions similar to their native habitat, although they are being successfully grown in surprisingly different conditions. Plants from seeds may be the preferred method in many areas. Seeds may be planted in the fall in a fine starting mixture and moved into the garden after they have 2 or 3 new leaves, but if transplanted in the summer months should be kept moist for their first year.

Although hybridizers have achieved tremendous results in developing new garden forms with a full spectrum of colors which are sold by various nurseries and through mail order sources, seeds will produce a plant that is only similar to the parents from which it came. Only the species will come true from seed. An excellent source of seeds is the seed exchange of The Society of Pacific Coast Iris through their fall sales program.

Used in the garden, the bloom season will vary depending on the locality in which they are grown. In the coastal area of California, this is normally from January to mid-May with the peak bloom period in early April. As you move north, the bloom is about one month later. Typically, PCN bloom is about three weeks ahead of the Tall Bearded. Although most varieties are evergreen, those that develop an unsightly appearance may be trimmed of most of the dead foliage in the early fall by cutting the leaves down to the appearance of new growth. In this way the plants will emerge in the spring with all new growth and the ability to flower is not affected. In some western areas where the I. douglasiana grow in a native condition and the fields are cut short for hay, the plants respond quickly with full new growth and flowering each spring. The occasional feeding with a liquid or a granular fertilizer developed for azaleas and camellias will show profound results. Any application with a granular medium should be thoroughly watered in following a spring or early fall application.

Whether you garden on the west coast (with limited success in the southeastern or northern areas) of the United States, in England, in Southern Europe, in the southern hemisphere, or in the upper valley of Mexico City, these cultural suggestions should allow you to grow Pacific Coast Iris and enjoy its many varied colors and color patterns

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Interested in Pacific Coast Native iris? Please visit the: Society for Pacific Coast Native Iris website.

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-- Main.RPries - 2011-03-07
Topic revision: r3 - 13 Nov 2014, af.83
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