Iris unguicularis

Algerian Iris

Iris unguicularis - Algerian Iris
Iris unguicularis – Algerian Iris

The first time I ever noticed an Algerian Iris was in late winter just after we have moved house. Here was this pretty little flower growing in the driest, most neglected piece of soil you could imagine. Moving on 20 years it is still growing happily.

The early flowering Algerian Iris has been through a few name changes, now Iris unguicularis formerly I. Stylosa. Not matter what you call it it, the Algerian Iris is one of those delights that flowers in winter to early spring, depending a little on the climate.

It is a ‘no fuss’ plant and with attractive mauve to lilac flowers held down amongst the long strappy foliage it is one of those plants that will grow and flower year after year with little to no attention.


We could say plant and forget, this has worked for us, however a little extra care will have it flowering prolifically. And by care we do not mean lots of fertiliser and a rich soils. What this wonderful little Iris likes is good drainage and poor soils.

We can better understand its needs if we think of the rocky soils of Southern Greece, where it grows in the wild. It also grows in Algeria, Syria, Crete and surrounding countries, and always in positions not noted for great soil.

What Iris unuicularis does like is sun, and a hot summer as well. So position is important especially in the colder zones. Try a spot against a south facing wall in a raised garden bed.
We do ‘feed’ our clumps in spring with a little vermicide from the worm farm and some liquid seaweed fertiliser, however many gardeners never fetilize them at all.

Other care is limited to removing any dead foliage, which can simply be pruned or pulled away to tidy up the plant.


Best planted in early spring or autumn, and if you must divide it, then be prepared for a lack of flowers, this is another of those plants that puts up the ‘do not disturb’ sign. We prefer to dive them in autumn as they are in active growth at this time.

Container growing Algerian Iris.

Simply use a lean potting soil, water in with a liquid seaweed fertiliser and then leave them alone. You will need to watch moisture levels. Good drainage is essential, however in summer a little water may be required, no plants like a desiccated soil.

  • Botanical Name : Iris unguicularis
  • Common Name : Algerian Iris
  • Height : 18 inches
  • Growth : Rate Slow from seed, moderate once established
  • Flower color : Blue buds opening to lavender blue
  • Foliage : Green and strappy to arching.
  • Flowering period : Winter to spring.
  • Seasonal interest : Early flowers
  • Landscaping uses : Garden borders, containers and general uses
  • Soil Requirements : Well drained, not nutrient rich
  • Position : Full sun to light afternoon shade
More Iris Varieties
  • Bearded Iris
  • Dutch Iris
  • Pacific Coast Iris
  • Japanese Iris
  • Louisiana Iris
  • Iris Katharine Hodgkin
  • Iris Pallida variegata

Where to buy

Iris unguicularis is available for sale from the following growers –

WHITE FLOWER FARM phone 1-800-503-9624

STOUT GARDENS – 405-642-4190432 NE 70th St Oaklahoma City, OK 73105

SCHRIENER’S IRIS GARDENS phone 800-525-23673625 Quanaby Road N.E Salem OR, 97303 USA