Iris, Dwarf Crested  (Iris cristata)

A diminutive plant just six inches tall, this woodland beauty blooms in April on shady hillsides from Maryland south to Georgia and west to Louisiana. The leaves are short, broad and strap-like, bending over near the tips. The flowering stem is sheathed by the over-lapping leaves which grow finally to about a foot high. The stubby rhizomes are connected by slender runners.

The sepals, sometimes called "the falls", are bluish to lavender with a conspicuous splotch of orange and white at the base (the crest). The smaller petals (the standards) are uniformly bluish to lavender. There is a rare white form which is highly prized by gardeners.

Dwarf Crested Iris is easy to grow. The primary requirement is well-drained soil and partial shade. Plants should be divided in early fall when leaves begin to yellow. To divide, remove the runners from a fan and lift the rhizome from the soil, making sure the stringy roots are attached. Replant at same level about six inches apart, and water well.