Iris sanguinea ©

Iris sanguinea: Unveiling the Beauty of the Blood-Red Iris

Iris sanguinea, also known as the Blood-red Iris, is a captivating rhizomatous perennial that belongs to the Iridaceae family. Native to regions spanning from South Siberia to Japan, this remarkable iris species enchants with its vibrant reddish-purple flowers and graceful foliage. Renowned for its distinct appearance and rich history, Iris sanguinea is a treasure in the world of ornamental plants.

Discovery and Taxonomy:

In 1794, Carl Peter von Thunberg (1743-1828), a Swedish naturalist and revered father of South African botany, bestowed the name Iris orientalis upon this species. His explorations took him to Dejima, Japan in 1775, where he embarked on a botanical journey that would shape his contributions to the field. The official publication of Iris sanguinea came later, in 1813, when Danish botanist Jens Wilken Hornemann (1770-1841) introduced it in Hortus Regius Botanicus Hafniensis.


Iris sanguinea displays an elegant stature, with stems reaching a height of approximately 90cm or 3ft. Its striking foliage consists of erect, narrow, sword-like leaves that add vertical interest to the plant’s overall profile. The true spectacle, however, lies in its reddish-purple flowers, which gracefully adorn unbranched stems.

Unlike its close relative Iris siberica, Iris sanguinea showcases a unique trait—its stems do not branch. Each stem carries two or three exquisite flowers, further enhancing its visual appeal. The flowering season of Iris sanguinea occurs during the summer, enchanting onlookers with its captivating blooms.

The flower itself consists of two pairs of petals: three large sepals or falls and three inner petals, collectively creating a harmonious and balanced composition. After the flowering phase, Iris sanguinea develops ellipsoid-shaped seed capsules, adding an element of intrigue and ensuring future generations of this remarkable plant.

How to grow Iris sanguinea:

To cultivate Iris sanguinea successfully, consider the following guidelines:

Light and Soil Requirements: Plant Iris sanguinea in a location that receives ample sunlight or partial shade. While it can tolerate some shade, providing it with at least six hours of direct sunlight each day will promote optimal growth and flowering. The ideal soil for this iris is neutral to slightly acidic, well-drained, and rich in organic matter.

Watering: Iris sanguinea thrives in moist but well-drained soil. Water the plant regularly, especially during dry periods, to ensure the soil remains consistently moist. Avoid overwatering, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases. Mulching around the base of the plant can help retain soil moisture and regulate temperature.

Fertilizing: Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring or incorporate well-decomposed compost into the soil to provide necessary nutrients for healthy growth. Avoid excessive use of nitrogen-based fertilizers, as they can encourage excessive foliage growth at the expense of flower production.

Pest and Disease Management: While Iris sanguinea is generally resilient, it is important to be vigilant for potential pests and diseases. Common pests such as slugs, snails, and thrips may occasionally target the foliage and flowers. Regular inspection and prompt action, such as using organic pest control methods or introducing natural predators, can help keep these pests at bay. Additionally, watch out for gray mold (Botrytis), particularly in humid conditions. Proper spacing, good air circulation, and avoiding overhead watering can help prevent the occurrence and spread of this fungal disease.


Iris sanguinea generally requires minimal pruning. However, it is recommended to remove any dead or diseased foliage throughout the growing season to maintain the plant’s health and aesthetics. After the flowering period, you can deadhead the spent flowers by removing the faded blooms, which can promote further blooming and prevent the plant from allocating energy to seed production.


Propagation of Iris sanguinea can be achieved through both seed sowing and division of rhizomes. Sow seeds in a well-prepared seedbed and provide them with consistent moisture and warmth for successful germination. To propagate through division, carefully separate the rhizomes during the dormant season, ensuring that each division has viable roots and at least one healthy shoot.

With careful attention to these cultivation practices, you can cultivate a thriving and enchanting display of Iris sanguinea in your garden. Its vibrant blooms, graceful foliage, and rich cultural heritage make it a captivating choice for any landscape. Let this mesmerizing iris species bring a touch of elegance and beauty to your outdoor haven.

Iris sanguinea
Iris sanguinea

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