The Blackberry Lily - An Iris In Disguise?
The Blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis) is truly a lovely plant, featuring bright yellow to orange blossoms with dark spots. Consequently it is also known as the leopard lily. While the plant appears to be a full fledged member of the lily family, it has been determined that B. chinensis is actually an iris. A new (botanical) name has been proposed, Iridaceae domestica, Iridaceae indicating that it is a member if the iris family. There is little doubt however that I. domestica will be referred to as the Blackberry lily for many years to come.
Blackberry Lily Culture - The Blackberry lily grows to a height of anywhere from 3 to 6 feet, and can either be planted from seeds or from root stock. It grows tallest when grown in a fertile soil. The plants will tend to be short if planted in poor soil, but will still provide plenty of colorful blossoms. Typically the plant is propagated by dividing mature root clumps. This plant has a definite tropical appearance, but is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 10, with some reports that it also can do well in zone 4. It will grow best in well drained soil in either full sun or partial shade.
The seeds need to go through a brief period of dormancy before planting if they are to germinate. If planted out of doors, seeds should be placed in the ground a few weeks before the last frost. Otherwise, place seeds with some moistened soil in a plastic bag, and keep them in the refrigerator for a week or two before putting them in pots for transplanting outside 7 or 8 weeks down the road. The seedlings of this plant transplant easily. In areas where the Blackberry lily is hardy, the seeds can be sown in the garden in the late autumn, with seedlings emerging the following spring. The sword-like leaves will appear first of course, with the blossoms appearing in mid summer. The Blackberry lily does not have large blossoms, but rather numerous smaller ones. Once the blooming season is finished, seed pods will form, which upon opening, are themselves somewhat ornamental and can be placed in floral arrangements.
A Potentially Invasive Plant A- If you allow the seed pods to remain on the plant, the Blackberry lily will not only propagate itself though its seeds, but can actually become rather invasive if left untended. When gardeners have as many of these plants as they want in a particular spot in the garden, they usually cut off the seed pods before the pods open and the seeds drop. The plant gets its name from the seed clusters, which closely resemble blackberries.
Best Planted With Companion Plants - Until it begins to bloom, the Blackberry lily is not an overly interesting or attractive plant so is seldom grown alone but with any number of companion plants. The lily and its companions can make a very attractive container planting or a perennial border. When it blooms, the blossoms are short-lived, lasting only a day. Fortunately, as one blossom dies, it is replaced by another, and the blooming period of the plant will last for several weeks. It is usually at its best when placed together with other plants whose blooming periods occur not only when the Blackberry lily blossoms, but a few weeks earlier and a few weeks later as well. However you choose to plant it, this lily (or iris, if we must) is a beauty when in bloom, and deserving of at least a trial in your garden. If it does well for you, you can quickly become popular by sharing seeds and root stock with your neighbors.