Purple iris

The purple iris, Iris versicolo, aside from being one of the most beautiful plants out there, has one of the most interesting common names: the Harlequin Blueflag.

Mythological origin

In Greek mythology, Iris was a goddess, believed to act as a messenger between Heaven and Earth, personified as a rainbow. Purple irises were planted on graves, mostly graves of women, to help guide them towards heaven. But Greeks weren’t the only ones fascinated by this magnificent flower. Iris flowers come in a variety of colours, which is most likely why the flower became the symbol of the goddess.

Egyptian kings marveled at the beauty of purple irises, with drawings being found in many palaces. During the Middle Ages, the symbolistic of this flower became even more powerful. It mainly became linked with the French aristocracy, the dominant power in Europe at the time – the Fleur-de-lis eventually became the recognized national symbol of France, which it remained for many years.

Purple iris meaning

Through all its intricate history, the purple iris symbolizes faith, wisdom, and hope. Especially in France, it also symbolizes royalty and majesty.

From the Middle Ages, irises were used to create perfumes and all sorts of medicinal remedies; some suspect they were used even in the old Egyptian days.

In the early 17th century, the historic book “Partheneia Sacra”, written by English Jesuit priest Henry Hawkins was considered to be an important landmark, addressed to a strict devotional society, the Parthenian Sodality of the Immaculate Conception. In this book, he described the purple iris as a symbol of the Virgin Mary.

In some parts of Asia as well, dark blue or purple iris can be a symbol of royalty or even passion, while in the Americas, these purple flowers are given as a “gel well soon” sign. Also, in more modern times, it is common to give them out at your 25 year wedding anniversary. However, in most areas of the world, it is a symbol of hope and faith.

Caring for purple irises

Caring and growing purple irises in your garden is the bomb – it will bring a burst of colour and beauty! There’s some 200-300 species of iris in the world, with different characteristics.

However, there are some characteristics common to all species. Irises love the Sun. Plant them in the early fall, and avoid soggy soils which can cause them to rot. Place plants at least 30 cm apart for best results, if you want to apply fertilizers (which isn’t really all that necessary), avoid directly on the clumps as this can burn and injure the rhizomes. Also, avoid using mulches.

There aren’t really many pests issues, but if you see such a problem, be sure to take care of it promptly, because it can really scale out of control.

You can also successfully grow irises in pots, inside your apartment. Again, the key is sunlight – give them as much sun as possible and water only when the top two inches of soil are dry.

For other beautiful purple flowers, check out purple roses

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