In summer, the small, richly colored blooms of blackberry lilies (Belamcanda chinensis) appear on wiry stems in shades of deep yellow-orange and red. Later, each 2-inch bloom produces a beige, pear-shaped capsule that, when split open, reveals glossy, black seeds resembling blackberries. Contrary to its common name, the blackberry lily is in the iris family and has swordlike foliage similar to tall bearded irises.
Common name: Blackberry lily, leopard lily
Botanical name: Belamcanda chinensis
Plant type: Rhizomatous perennial
Height: 18 to 36 inches
Zones: 5 to 9
Family: Iridaceae (Iris)
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Well-drained
• Moisture: Evenly moist
• Fertilizing: If needed, work compost and a balanced fertilizer into the soil before planting.
• Mulch: In colder climates, protect with mulch during winter.
• Pruning: Leave seedpods on plants for visual interest.
• Belamcanda chinensis Yunnan Form has 4-foot-tall spikes of orange flowers with red spots. Zones 5 to 9.
• ‘Hello Yellow’ has bright yellow flowers without typical red spots on petals.
• Good neighbors include Goblin blanket flower (Gaillardia x. grandiflora ‘Goblin’), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and cultivars of yarrow such as Achillea Summer Pastels or ‘Moonshine’.
• Seeds stay on plants through winter.
• Seeds are attractive in dried or fresh flower arrangements.
• Blackberry lily grows well in sandy soil.
• Susceptible to bacterial crown rot, especially if planted where soil stays wet in winter.
• Leaf spot and anthracnose occur.
• Some susceptibility to iris borer.
• Sow seeds in spring.
• Divide in early spring.
All in the family
The Iridaceae family includes about 1,500 species of plants formed from corms, rhizomes, or bulbs. Some of the most familiar are the sweet-smelling freesia; crocosmia and its cultivars such as Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ with delicate, butterfly-like flowers; gladiolus; and both bearded and beardless iris.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Walters Gardens, www.perennialresource.com.