Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Plant profile: Dietes

The genus Dietes has six species, five African and one oddball from Lord Howe Island between Australia and New Zealand, D. robinsoniana. We have two types: Dietes bicolor (light yellow) and Dietes iridioides (white.) They're lovely, elegant plants with pretty little flowers that look like miniature irises.

Latin name: Dietes spp. ("dye-EET-ees")
Common name: Various names, but most people call them Fortnight lily, Moraea, or African iris.
Originally from: Africa, mostly.
Blooms: From Spring to Fall, every couple of weeks (hence the common name) you'll see a new flush of white or pale yellow iris-like flowers, with yellow, lilac or dark purple/brown markings.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Drought tolerant, but does best with some water.
Drainage: Excellent to average
Height x width: 30-40' tall and wide
USDA Zones: 8-10
Where to find in P. Garden: We have many clumps in the left and top beds.

Dietes are a municipal gardening cliché in San Francisco for good reason. They flower all the time, require little water, and grow happily on poor soil. Ours are just starting to bloom - I think they might want more water. We'll see.

UPDATE: Tough as old boots - this plant cannot be killed by 5 years of drought and benign neglect. We have loads of clumps and now we have three clumps of a variegated form too. Winner winner, chicken dinner!

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