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Caring for Pacific Coast Irises-Summer in So. Calif.

Caring for Pacific Coast Irises – Summer in Southern California

Bob Sussman

Pacific coast irises are among the most colorful of all California natives (and hybrids of natives too) but they are not native to Southern California. They mostly grow from coastal Santa Barbara on up to Washington State with some in our mountains too.  Their color range and flower size is nothing less than phenomenal and in the shade no less. And yes, the flowers are big at roughly 4” across.  Here are a few of the ones that we grow just to give you a range to look at.


Growing pacific coast irises in Southern California from November through April is indeed child’s play.  Keeping them looking nice and alive during May through mid-October, even at the coast, is the challenge.  The big difficulty is that our temps, soil, water, and rain just aren’t like the S.F. Bay area or Portland or Seattle.

So what do you do, just through up you hands and keep planting, watching them die, and repeating the same? I’m told that doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result is not a good way to go.

So what to do? The biggest and the most important is selection. I’ve been fooling with these for years. Crossing all kinds of combinations that should work, may work, and shouldn’t work and some even do work.  Once you’ve made your selection from the group that does do well in this region then we can move on to “summer care”.    The care part is actually easy and it mostly depends on how and where they were planted. Pacific coast irises need to be planted a bit high (not while high), in a shaded or semi-shaded area, and mulched.  During their first growing season they should have been watered roughly 1x per week. If you did all that you’ve most likely made it to the first May and summer. Now what? Not much really. You actually might want to hold the watering to 1x per week or cut it back just a little. If your iris garden is established, you might want to water only 2x per month. If you’re doing the “right” thing your pacific coast irises should look like this, shown below, over the summer.




The big iris killer for PCI”s at this point is overwatering but if you’ve selected irises to do well in So. Calif., they are planted in a shaded area, they’re planted a bit high, and mulched you should be in good shape come next spring.

For further information you can email me,  post a question on my Facebook page, and /or go to the Society for Pacific Coast Native Iris Facebook page


Good luck,



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Featured Plant



Botanical Name

Mimulus cardinalis

Common Name

scarlet monkey flower


Flower Color

Orange / Red

Mature Size

1-1/2' tall × 2' wide

Climactic Requirements


Part Shade / Shade


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