Plant of the Week: Douglas Iris

Find some native plants for your garden! This week we're highlighting the lovely Iris douglasiana and its 'Canyon Snow' cultivar.

By Samantha Chavez
In Greek mythology, Iris was the messenger of the gods and personification of the rainbow. It’s no wonder then, that Iris flowers can carpet the ground in a rainbow of colors. But with the current drought, how can anyone grow these beautiful plants in a garden? Luckily, California has a native Iris that can handle the drought better than any non-native could. It’s called the Iris douglasiana (Douglas Iris) and you can buy your own at Elkhorn Native Plant Nursery.

“It’s amazing to see the natural variety in [Douglas] Iris, from a deep blue-purple to pale white,” says nursery manager Rob de Bree.

Douglas irises can occasionally hybridize with other native Iris species along the California coast. “People can also select interesting forms or flower colors. These cultivars are grown by plant nurseries so people have a wider selection to choose from,” de Bree points out.

These are often called PCH (Pacific Coast Hybrid) Iris, and the beautiful white and yellow ‘Canyon Snow’ Douglas Iris is one such flower. If a white and yellow Iris isn’t enough, the Nursery also sells the more common bluish purple variety.

The Douglas Iris may be bereft of flowers in the fall, but come spring they bloom in full force. These natives can spread to form clumps that widen each passing year.  This makes them great ground cover for any bare patch created by plants that couldn’t handle the heat (or lack of water). They thrive in full sun along the coast but can take a lot of shade. An Iris may not scream “autumn,” but it’s best to buy and plant one now so it can take advantage of the wet season and bring in some powerhouse blooms in the spring. 

Elkhorn Native Plant Nursery is a wholesale nursery open to the trade by appointment, and open to the public on Friday. “Because we are a wholesale nursery, we can offer retail customs great prices not found at other nurseries," de Bree says.

It’s a very good idea to check out, where you’ll find useful information including prices and an updated plant-availability list.

Elkhorn Native Plant Nursery: 1957B Highway 1, Moss Landing. (831) 763.1207

Read: Elkhorn Native Plant Nursery