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Products > Neomarica caerulea
Neomarica caerulea - Walking Iris
Image of Neomarica caerulea
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Perennial
Family: Iridaceae (Irises)
Origin: Brazil (South America)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Dark Orchid
Bloomtime: Spring
Synonyms: [Trimezia coerulea, Marica caerulea]
Height: 4-5 feet
Width: 2-3 feet
Exposure: Cool Sun/Light Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
Neomarica caerulea (Walking Iris) - An evergreen perennial with short rhizomes that forms large clumps of 3-5 foot long, stiff, dark gray-green sword-like leaves that are 3/4 to 1 inch wide. It has strikingly beautiful flowers that appear well above the foliage on a stout leaf-like winged inflorescence in late spring and early summer. The 3 to 4 inch wide fragrant flowers, with bright violet-blue petals, purplish brown bases and upright white and blue inner perianth segments, open only for a day, but succeed each other in flushes so that it gives a good show of color over a long period and offsets are produced to replace the flowers, which are both curiously attractive and can be planted out to extend ones planting.

Neomarica caerulea will grow in full sun but foliage color is best in light shade with regular to occasional irrigation in summer months pretty drought tolerant in shady locations. A rich well-drained soil produces the best results, but plants also tolerate clay soils. Cold hardy to short duration cold at least down to 25 F and was unharmed in our garden and nursery during the January 2007 cold snap with 3 nights down to 25 F and reportedly was undamaged down to 23 F in an inland San Diego garden. It is also resistant to deer predation. This is a stunning plant for the garden and was a favorite of the late Dennis Shaw, a landscape designer extraordinaire, who like to pair it as the understory under Jacaranda.

This plant comes from southern to southeast Brazil and Paraguay, where it can be found in the forest and open woodlands from sea level up to around 5,200 feet. It was first described in 1820 as Marica coerulea by British nurseryman and botanist George Loddiges, but Sir Joseph Paxton noted in his 1834 Magazine of Botany and Register of Flowering Plants that it was already introduced into cultivation in England as early as 1818, and it later became a popular "stove plant" in their cooler climate. It is sometimes listed as being both native to Brazil and to Guinea, as plants were discovered on the west African island of Sao Tome, but this is presumed to be from plants transported from Brazil by the Portuguese, according to Brian Mathew in his article "Neomarica caerulea": Iridaceae" in The Kew Magazine (Vol. 9, No. 1, 1992).

Neomarica is a genus in the Iris family (Iridaceae) with 15 species found in the tropical Americas. Plants in the genus were previously called Marica with the genus name being that of a nymph in Roman mythology. This name was corrected to Neomarica, meaning "new Marica" by Kew botanist Thomas Archibald Sprague in 1928 because the name Marica had also been used to describe a plant in the closely related genus Cipura. Interestingly both genera, Neomarica and Cipura have been recently combined into the genus Trimezia, making this plants current name Trimezia coerulea (G.Lodd.) Ravenna. This change has not been widely adopted and we continue to list this plant as a Neomarica species. It has long been called Walking Iris but this is a bit of a misnomer as it is not Iris species and it really does not "walk" like the related lower growing white flowered Neomarica northiana, which we also grow. The common name, Apostle Plant, comes from the belief that a Neomarica will not bloom until the plant has 12 leaves, representing the 12 apostles of Jesus.

We have grown this wonderful plant since 1993 and its introduction into cultivation in California is credited to Santa Barbara's own Dr. Francesco Franceschi (AKA Emanuele Orazio Fenzi) in the early 1900s. 

This information about Neomarica caerulea displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.