I bought two plants labeled Brazilian iris. They have fronds about 3 feet tall that resemble the iris I’ve grown up with. I potted them and left them outside during the summer but have them in the house now that the weather is changing. Should I prune them back for the winter? Would they be hearty enough to stay outside? Should I plant them in the spring? None of this information was on the tag. I’m not a real “green thumb” and I really don’t want to lose these pretty plants.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Elsie in Kentucky: You did the right thing by bringing your Brazilian iris (Neomarica gracilis) indoors. Hence its name, this iris is native to Brazil as well as southern Mexico. Hardy in USDA gardening zones 8-11, it is considered a tropical for those of us gardening in Kentucky. As you mentioned they can get quite tall, reaching 5 feet at maturity. Their blooms are stunning and almost orchid-like. They only last for a day but several blooms are produced from each stem. As far as caring for it indoors, you will want to place it in a space where it will receive bright, filtered light. Outdoors it actually prefers to be shaded from the direct sun, but the light levels are much lower at this time of year so providing as much light as possible is ideal. You will want to avoid fertilizing until next spring and water only to keep the soil moderately moist. The temperature and humidity of your home will dictate how often you will need to water, but as a general rule every 10-12 days should be sufficient. Less water is better than too much; we do not want to rot the bulbs. Unlike the iris we are used to growing as perennials in Kentucky, these are true evergreens so there is no need to cut back the foliage. Just keep your tropical happy during the cold winter months and then take it back outdoors mid-May of next year. Then you can fertilize and enjoy the blooms for another season. To prevent the foliage from burning, remember not to put it in the sun when you take it back outside.