Iris willmottiana

Iris willmottiana
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Iridaceae
Subfamily: Iridoideae
Tribe: Irideae
Genus: Iris
Subgenus: Scorpiris
Species: Iris willmottiana
Binomial name
Iris willmottiana
  • Iris willmottiana (M. Foster)
  • Juno willmottiana (Foster) Vved.[1]

Iris willmottiana is a species in the genus Iris, in the subgenus Scorpiris. It is a bulbous perennial, from Uzbekistan in central Asia. It has green broad leaves, short stems, large flowers in various shades of blue.


Iris willmottiana is very similar in form to that of Iris caucasica. Sharing similar size, shape, leaf margin but having smaller flowers.[2]

It has thickened roots,[3] and it has broad leaves that are glossy lustrous green, that appear in May.[4][3][5] The leaves also have a thin white margin on the edges.[2]

It generally grows to a height of between 15–25 cm (6–10 in) tall,[4] in late spring or early summer.[3]

It has between 2 - 6 flowers on a short stem.[6]

The large flowers (about 6–7 cm in diameter),[3] come in various shades of blue, from intense cobalt blue,[7] pale lavender-blue,[5] pale purple,[3] to light purple.[8] The flowers are also blotched with white,[8] and flecked with deep lavender-purple.[3] The falls have a large white area and white crest or central ridge with purple marks.[5] The standards are about 1.5 cm long.[8]


It was collected from Bokhara in Eastern Turkestan in 1899, by a plant collector on behalf of the Van Tubergen nurseries in Haarlem, the Netherlands.[9] It was then sent to Michael Foster[2] who then first published and described it in the 'Gardeners Chronicle' of London' in 1901.[10]

He named it after Ellen Willmott, a renowned gardener. It is one of 60 or so plants named after her.[4] Mr Foster chose Mrs Willmott due to her interest in irises.[2]

It was later illustrated in colour in Curtis's Botanical Magazine, plate number 8340, in 1912.[2]

Iris willmottiana is now an accepted name by the RHS,[11] and was verified by United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service on 3 October 2014.[12]


Iris willmottiana is from Central Asia and (the former Russian state),[6] of Kazakhstan.[4][8] or Uzbekistan.[12] It grows wild in the stony foothills of the Pamir mountain range,[4] at around 2900m above sea level.[5] It has been found in the Aksu Zhabagli,[5][13] and Karatau Mountains, in Kazakhstan.[7]


It is hardy to USDA Zone 3.[8]

Although the plant is quite hardy, in the UK, it is better cultivated in a bulb frame.[4] or Alpine house, but has been grown outside.[3]

It prefers to grow in sandy loam,[14] with good drainage and in full sun.[7]

Iris willmottiana, Iris willmottiana 'Alba' and Iris warleyensis (named after Miss Willmotts garden in Essex), are all easier to find in the US than in England.[15]

The plant listed as Iris willmottiana 'Alba', is now thought to be a white form of Iris bucharica.[8][3]

It can produce hybrids very easy with Iris magnifica and Iris graeberiana.[14]


  1. "Iris willmottiana Foster". Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "(SPEC) Iris willmottiana Fos". (American Iris Society). 20 April 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Iris willmottiana". 2001. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "IRIS FLEUR-DE-LYS Iridaceae (Iris family)". 12 May 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "Juno irises S-Z". 14 April 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  6. 1 2 Cassidy, G.E.; Linnegar, S. (1987). Growing Irises (Revised ed.). Bromley: Christopher Helm. p. 146. ISBN 0-88192-089-4.
  7. 1 2 3 "Iris willmottiana". Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey (Editors) The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification, p. 259, at Google Books
  9. Audrey Le Lièvre Miss Willmott of Warley Place: Her Life and Her Gardens at Google Books
  10. "Iris". (International Plant Names Index). p. 143. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  11. "Iris willmottiana". Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  12. 1 2 "Iris willmottiana". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  13. "Celestial Silk Road 5th-21st June 2016". Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  14. 1 2 "Great Lakes Chapter, North American Rock Garden Society Fall Newsletter" (pdf). September 2006. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  15. Greer, Germaine (19 April 2003). "Country Notebook: Ellen Willmott". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 April 2010.

Other sources

  • British Iris Society, 1997, A Guide to Species Irises: Their Identification and Cultivation, page 275
  • Mathew, B. 1981. The Iris. 143.

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