June – Sisyrinchium striatum, is this a good plant to grow?

Sisyrinchium striatum

Sisyrinchium striatum – cloudy day near end of bloom period

My neighbor grew these for many years and I routinely admired them from across the street. Now any plant that catches your attention from across the street is worth looking into.

Sisyrinchium striatum

S. striatum beginning of bloom

Sisyrinchium striatum is a member of the iris (Iridaceae) family. It has stiff, evergreen leaves similar to what you see with bearded irises but there the resemblance stops. The leaves are plentiful, about 18″-24″ tall, and dense with tall stalks rising from the center carrying creamy yellow flowers along the stem.  Not everyone likes its looks. I asked my husband what he thought of S. striatum and he said, “ugly, weedy and the name is ugly too.” Even if you like its looks there are definite downsides to this plant:

  • self sows (can be good or bad)
  • the fan of leaves that goes with each flower stalk dies with the flower stalk and needs to be removed
  • needs to be divided often
  • flowers open for only one day and may not open on cloudy days
Sisyrinchium flower stalk

S. striatum flower stalk on a cloudy day near end of bloom period

So my statuesque plant has some issues. It’s high maintenance and according to some – plain ugly. I still admire it’s form set in among softer textured, blowsy plants and remember how 3 of them set off a planting so well at my neighbor’s house.

If you decide to take one on, know that they need sun, and aren’t too picky about soils except they don’t like too much winter wet or too much winter dryness. Would I plant one? Not where I’m currently living, but if I had a planting in a nice sunny spot that came across as a mash of plants and needed something to stop the eye, Sisyrinchium striatum might be a good choice.

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