What Is A Starfish Iris – Tips On Growing Starfish Iris Plants

What Is A Starfish Iris – Tips On Growing Starfish Iris Plants

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Starfish iris plants aren’t true iris, but they certainly share many of the same characteristics. What is a starfish iris? This remarkable plant is from South Africa and has an exotic, although familiar, appearance. Best grown in USDA zones 9 to 11, the corms can be planted indoors in northern locations. If you are a gardener who is always looking for something interesting and amazing to add to your landscape, growing starfish iris will provide you with those attributes and a whole lot more.

What is a Starfish Iris?

Ferraria crispa, or starfish iris, blooms in late winter to early summer and then enters dormancy in summer. A single corm will develop numerous corms over time, giving a brightly colored floral display after several seasons. In spite of the plant’s exotic appearance, care of starfish iris is minimal and the corms are easy to grow in a sunny location. However, this is a frost tender plant and cannot withstand freezes.

Starfish iris has thick, fleshy sword-like leaves that rise from the corms in fall. The 1.5 inch (3.8 cm.) blooms are the stars of the show. They have six creamy white petals with ruffled edges and purple to mauve spots dotted across the surface.

Many forms of Ferraria also have a delicious vanilla-like scent while others have a strong disagreeable odor that attracts insects. Each corm produces just a few flowering stems and flowers are short lasting, often for only a day. Starfish iris plants do, in fact, resemble a frilly spotted starfish.

How to Grow Starfish Iris

Growing starfish iris is easy in a frost free zone, in full sun where soil drains freely. You can even grow the plants in containers with a loose slightly sandy soil. The corms produce best in temperatures of 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (4-24 C.). Happiest plants should experience cool nights 65 Fahrenheit (18 C.).

To grow the flowers in containers, plant corms 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart (2.5-5 cm). Outdoors, install plants 3 to 5 inches deep (7.5-10 cm) and space them 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm). Keep the soil moderately moist.

When the flowers begin to die off, allow the foliage to persist for a while to gather solar energy to fuel the next season’s growth. Then let the soil dry out for a couple of weeks and dig up the corms to store over winter in a dry paper bag.

Care of Starfish Iris

The biggest thing to remember with these plants is to divide them every 3 to 5 years. The developing corms will tend to pile up on each other, minimizing the number of blooms produced. Dig around the area and at least 12 inches (30 cm.) under the corms and gently lift them. Separate any that have grown together and only plant a few at a time in each location.

Container plants will benefit from feeding just as the corms begin to produce foliage. Few pests and disease impact these pretty plants but as with anything having foliage, slugs and snails can be a nuisance.

There are several cultivars from which to choose. The plants can be quite addictive so avail yourself of the many other colors and hybrids available. Your neighbors will gasp at the array of exotic flora in your garden.

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Low Light Starfish Snake Plants

Starfish Snake Plants has silvery green foliage that reaches a maximum of about 10 inches. It stays extremely compact, and growth is near vertical without branching. Pups, or new “Starfish Arms” appear in the same container as the mother plant and are sent out on runners underground. These new plants can be dug up and divided to yield new small pups that can be planted in their own container. Snake Plants are very slow growing, and handle extremely low light conditions.

These plants do extremely well in offices or buildings where they can live away from windows or natural light. They are frequently found in atriums indoors as they pair well with many different plants and add a vertical element to mixed containers. They can be moved outdoors during the summer months and into part sun as long as they are transitioned to handle higher levels of light. Starfish Snake Plants do not require very much water, and do well in small spaces.

Growing Zone: 9-11
Mature Height: 8 to 10 Inches
Mature Width: 10 to 12 Inches
Classification: Colorful Foliage
Sunlight: Fluorescent light to bright, indirect
Habit: Upright
Flower Color: Does not flower often
Foliage: Silvery green
Soil Condition: Well draining, cactus or succulent mix (part sand)
Water Requirement: Likes to go dry between waterings
Uses: Does well in narrow spaces and in low light conditions

This Plants Growzone: 9-11

Ferraria Starfish Iris

Surprisingly easy to grow.

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These Starfish shaped blooms are a remarkable addition to the garden. The petals are cream with hints of gold, overlaid with a marvellous purple pattern. The decadent, heavily ruffled edges are a blend of bronze and gold. The flowers have a sweet, vanilla perfume.

The blooms open in succession on a multi branched stem. Blooms 5cm across with two to three branches per corm.

These exotic blooms are surprisingly easy to grow and will gradually multiply in the right conditions. They are endemic to the African Cape and adore hot dry summers and wet winters. Plant into a moderately fertile, well drained soil, in a full sun to semi shade position free of frost. They can be grown in pots, garden beds or rockeries. You can use a half strength liquid fertiliser every other week in growth.

Ferraria ferrariola (Spider Iris)

Scientific Name

Ferraria ferrariola (Jacq.) Willd.

Common Names

Spider Iris, Starfish Lily


Moraea ferrariola (basionym), Ferraria angustifolia, Ferraria antherosa, Ferraria longa, Ferraria minor, Ferraria viridiflora

Scientific Classification

Family: Iridaceae
Subfamily: Iridoideae
Tribe: Irideae
Genus: Ferraria


Color: Greenish-white, or pale greenish-yellow to greenish-blue
Bloom Time: Summer to early fall


Ferraria ferrariola is a very rare flowering plant with greenish-white or pale greenish-yellow to greenish-blue flowers with the outer segments finely striped with short dark lines. Other distinguishing characteristics are a stem not covered with leaf sheaths and red or purple-spotted basal leaf sheaths. It is sweetly scented. Each bloom lasts only a day, but are borne over two months.

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How to Grow and Care

Ferrarias are easy bulbs to grow. These plants prefer to be located in full sun or semi-shade in loamy, well-drained soil just beneath the surface (1-2 inches/2.5-5 cm). Plants in too much shade will fail to bloom and will eventually die out. The rarer species are generally best grown in pots or containers.

The care of Ferraria corms doesn't require too much either. Once their spring flowering has completed, the foliage will slowly begin to fade, and the Ferraria flowers go dormant in summer. During this time, all watering should be limited.

Bring any container-grown plants indoors for overwintering and provide a generous amount of mulch for winter protection to those growing outdoors.

Established Ferraria plants will produce large clumps each year. These can be easily divided in the spring when overcrowding becomes a problem or if additional plants are desired elsewhere in the garden. See more at How to Grow and Care for Ferraria.


Native to the western coast of South Africa.


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How to Care for Dutch Iris Bulbs

Dutch iris bulbs are typically planted in full sun and are often used as cut flowers. Dutch irises bloom in late spring to mid summer and are available in many varieties. The bulbs are considered hardy and need little care to survive, even during the winter. However, there are several things you can do to help care for your Dutch iris bulbs so they bloom and thrive.

Water your Dutch iris bulbs right after planting (generally in the fall). Then only water them during the growing season during long dry spells. If you notice that puddles remain five hours after a hard rain, consider transplanting the bulbs or amending the soil with some compost. A lingering puddle indicates that the soil is not draining well, and root rot and disease can occur over time.

  • Dutch iris bulbs are typically planted in full sun and are often used as cut flowers.
  • The bulbs are considered hardy and need little care to survive, even during the winter.

Allow the foliage to die away before pruning it back. This allows the leaves to soak in as much sunlight as possible, thus the process of photosynthesis will make lots of sugar (plant food). The food is stored in the bulb for next year’s growth.

Add extra mulch for the winter. Mulch dissipates over time and you need to add more on occasion. Winter is the perfect time to do this to add a layer of insulation that will help keep the bulbs nice and cozy underground until the next year.

Divide Dutch iris bulbs every three or four years in the fall, especially if you notice the blooms are not as large or as many as previous years. To divide Dutch iris bulbs, simply dig them up, divide them with your hands and replant them in a new location, 4 inches deep and 3 inches apart from one another.

Watch the video: German or Bearded Iris Maintenance and Care