A sure spring sign is the appearance of the Iris, the subject of this months, plant of the month.
There are 16 types of neomarica all members of the Iridicaea family. Most of them are found in the wild in Central and South America, and Tropical West Africa. The Latin name ‘neomarica’ comes from ‘neo’ which means ‘new’ and ‘marica’ which was the word for a type of ‘fairy’.
The flowers of this plant resemble other irises and the leaves are green all year round.
Neomarica gracilis’ natural habitat extends from Mexico through Costa Rica to southern areas of Brazil.
It is also called the ‘Walking Iris’ and it is a plant without a central stem, formed by a clump of leaves growing from the ground to a length of about 30cm.
The larger flower petals are ivory in colour in their outer regions, changing to brown with light stripes towards the centre. The smaller petals are brown below and blue at the ends.
The plant prefers shade or part shade.
In general the flowers bloom towards the end of spring, or in early summer.
After flowering, a new plant starts from the point where the flower bloomed. The weight of the new plantlet forces the leaves to the ground and the new plant can thus take root, and the whole plant spreads. This habit gives the plant its name of ‘Walking Iris’.
In English it is also known as the ‘Apostle Plant’ because, it is believed, only when a plant has twelve leaves will flowers start to open and the plant reproduce itself.
This plant is found in sub tropical regions as ground cover within forests. It benefits from the humus and minerals it finds in such conditions. However, such forested areas are weak in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Thus the plant can survive in all types of soil except alkaline with a high pH.
To cultivate the plant you need shade or part shade and no danger of frost.
This is an iris that doesn’t like water and hence should not be watered.
Propagation is from rhizomes or separation of plantlets when formed.
This plant is not currently known in Turkey, in fact it is little used in landscaping globally because of the difficulty of obtaining specimens.
It makes a good plant to border paths or when planted in groups.
Thanks to its bright green leaves and low water needs it is an ideal container plant.
In the flowering season it will produce many blooms on one stem, and thus flower continuously over a considerable period.
If you fancy your own unusual speciimen, The Palm Centre in Köyceğiz is now selling neomarica gracilis.