Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Louisiana Iris, Abbeville Red Iris, Abbeville Swamp Iris
Iris x nelsonii

Family: Iridaceae (eye-rid-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Iris (EYE-ris) (Info)
Species: x nelsonii

Synonym:Limniris x nelsonii

» View all varieties of Iris

20 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden

Louisiana (LA)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Fuchsia (Red-Purple)
Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:
Midseason (M)


Other details:
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings
Very high moisture needs; suitable for bogs and water gardens
This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Awards (if applicable):
Unknown - Tell us

Click thumbnail
to view:

By Margiempv
Thumbnail #1 of Iris x nelsonii by Margiempv

By raysplants
Thumbnail #2 of Iris x nelsonii by raysplants

By Margiempv
Thumbnail #3 of Iris x nelsonii by Margiempv

By bmanuel
Thumbnail #4 of Iris x nelsonii by bmanuel

By bmanuel
Thumbnail #5 of Iris x nelsonii by bmanuel

By bmanuel
Thumbnail #6 of Iris x nelsonii by bmanuel

By sthrngardner
Thumbnail #7 of Iris x nelsonii by sthrngardner


4 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive lilybob On Jun 15, 2009, lilybob from Longmont, CO wrote:

I have just come in from admiring a deep purple Lousiana Iris in our back yard. Bought in Austin Tex; struggled here in Denver, Co area for 3 years; but flourishing this year. They like acid, but our soil in alkaline. Anyone else out there have luck in zone 5b? Alkaline soils? Lillybob

Positive Margiempv On Mar 15, 2006, Margiempv from Oro Valley, AZ (Zone 9a) wrote:

A smaller flowered Louisiana specimen with big impact! The Abbevilles vary in height of growth about two feet to possibly four feet. Absolutely breathtaking in clumps.

The flowers of this group of iris have thick leathery almost overlapping petals and sepals of varying size and shape.

Examination of early registrations indicate that relatively few registered Louisiana iris were anything but collected species or their hybrids. In other words, breeding of Louisiana iris had not really made a start prior to the times these Abbevilles were found.

Evidence of the significance of this group of iris can be obtained from the study of the pedigees since the discovery of the Abbevilles.

In conclusion, it appears that it was the Abbevilles that gave the real start to the breeding and improvement in our Louisiana iris.

Further, the presence of the flat flower form, branching, flower substance, rich velvety flower texture, and increased flower size can be attributed to a considerable extent to the Abbevilles.

Named in Honor of Professor Ira Nelson; Native species of Abbeville, Louisiana swamp-lands.

Easy to grow.

Positive suncatcheracres On Nov 24, 2003, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

Often called 'Abbeville Irises,' these unique red irises were found in the wild in 1938 by W. B. MacMillanm growing in a very small area South of Abbeville, in South Louisiana, and their discovery is considered "the single most important discovery during the period of collecting" of Louisiana iris--from "The Louisiana Iris, The Taming of a Native American Wildflower" second edition by The Society of Louisiana Irises. The species was named after Ira S. "Ike" Nelson, professor of horticulture at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, and one of the founders, and early show managers, of The Society for Louisiana Irises. The first show was held in 1942. Nelson collaborated with Lowell Fitz Randolph, a professor of Botany at Cornell, and together they identified I. nelsonii, and Randolph named it after Nelson.

This species was "used extsnsively in early hybridizing" and "probably contributed as much or more than any of the other (four species of Louisiana iris) to the quality of present-day hybrids."

The plant has large flowers, often almost six inches across, most often drooping or flaring, in bright red to purple colors, more rarely in brownish beige or yellow. There are two top (terminal) flower buds, and often two buds together on the stalks. There is often a "signal" or bright spot on the petals. The plant is thought to be a natural hybrid form of I. fulva and I. giganticaerulea, two other species of Louisiana irises, that became adapted to just a small geographic area. Or perhaps it was a very recent hybrid (only several centuries) and had not had time to extensively grow in area before being discovered by man and having its natural habitat disrupted by civilization.

DNA studies have found that much of the genetic material of I. nelsonii comes from I. fulva, the other red Louisiana iris, and it is now known that I. fulva was the pod parent for the first natural cross, but no one knows exactly how many years ago.

I have a beautiful white I. nelsonii descendent named 'Clara Goula' growing in my garden along with some beautiful cannas. It is a double winner of both the DeBaillon Award in 1982 and the DeBaillon Medal in 1987. Many descendents of I. nelsonii can be found among the current spectacular hybrids including 'Violet Ray,' 'Wheelhorse,' 'W.B. Macmillan,' and 'Charlie's Michele,' all Debaillon Award winners, meaning they are the "Best of the Best." 'Peggy Mac' is a beautiful deep violet colored, single flowered, collected, natural hybrid of I. nelsonii from the early 1940's that is still grown today amid all the fancy doubles, ruffles and triploids that so dominate modern Louisiana iris cultivars. "Ann Chowning' is another double DeBaillon winner (1980, 1986) with I. nelsonii heritage, and I'm growing this beautiful, hardy iris with a bright red flower and a large yellow signal in my garden, along with red and yellow cannas.

Positive dogbane On Nov 23, 2003, dogbane from New Orleans, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

One of the parents of the 'Louisiana Iris', this iris seems to be itself a true-breeding, natural hybrid of I. fulva, I. brevicaulis and I. giganticaerulea. It was found and identified in Abbeville, Louisiana.

Along with I. fulva, this species was heavily exported to Europe because of its ease of interbreeding and its red colors. Both species were nearly wiped out of their native range, but have nicely recovered.

Does well in gardens far out of its native habitat, and quite usefull in ponds and gardens for Spring blooms. Foliage grows beginning in Fall and usually dies back in the Summer.

Attracts hummers and bees. Grown easily from seed.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Tucson, Arizona
Fayetteville, Arkansas
Pensacola, Florida
Tallahassee, Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
Cordele, Georgia
Elkhart, Indiana
Coushatta, Louisiana
Lafayette, Louisiana
Mandeville, Louisiana
Marrero, Louisiana
Maurepas, Louisiana
Springfield, Louisiana
Germantown, Maryland
White Lake, Michigan
Madison, Mississippi
Greensboro, North Carolina
Eugene, Oregon
Lebanon, Tennessee

We recommend Firefox
Overwhelmed? There's a lot to see here. Try starting at our homepage.

[ Home | About | Advertise | Media Kit | Mission | Featured Companies | Submit an Article | Terms of Use | Tour | Rules | Privacy Policy | Contact Us ]

Back to the top

Copyright © 2000-2015 Dave's Garden, an Internet Brands company. All Rights Reserved.

Hope for America