07 Mar2012

If you had asked me the other day if I thought we had “wild” irises growing in the Philippines, I probably would have guessed “no”… And I would have been wrong. (Actually, turns out I may have been right, see postscript below…) I’ve always associated large, voluptuous irises with such iconic impressionist paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. One of his paintings of irises shattered auction records in 1987 at over USD50 million, just after I graduated from college and taken several courses in impressionist art… I just assumed they were a flower that needed cold weather, and have never seen any for sale in local markets. So I was a bit sceptical when I was making my rounds at the plant/garden section of the Centris market last Sunday and spotted these lush, robust and imposing plants that vendors said were “native irises” — without any blooms on them, how could one be sure? But the foliage certainly looked like that of irises…

Intrigued, I ended up bargaining for three huge “clumps” of the plants, hoping to make a humongous indoor live plant arrangement. The vendor said the plant would bloom continuously for up to 4 months or so, and although there was nothing to see that morning, they would come out soon… I certainly hoped they would, and at PHP400-500 for a large plant, soil and all, this was a bit of a gamble.

Back at home, we struggled to find a vessel big enough to hold the plants, and ended up using a giant copper fish poacher (yes, the mother of all fish pans, and it has appeared on this blog before) that held two clumps of irises and was set on a large side table. The greens looked good, but I wondered if they would indeed bloom again. That evening, I noticed some buds rapidly emerging from the plant, they were growing so fast you could almost imagine them moving! The following morning, the buds were nearly fully formed, and as I left for the flower market, they were all still closed. When I returned two hours later, the plants were blooming! The most stunning blue/purple irises had popped open like unexpected presents. There were at least 40 blooms on the three plants, and while a little small, they were utterly stunning!

The downside? The blooms last just 12 hours or so, the fleeting beauties soon wilt, but make room for more blooms the next day… it’s amazing really… At 3-4 feet in height, they make for an imposing indoor arrangement, and the constant new blooms every morning are a joy to watch unfold… We sent one plant to our neighbor, who keeps plying us with all manner of food treats, and I think it’s the first time she will have ever seen Philippine irises as well!

P.S. Turns out they aren’t irises at all, but rather, a kind of day lily… So maybe I wasn’t wrong in thinking we didn’t have any local irises… See this post for more.



  1. Rowi says:

    That’s the most stunning Iris blooms I have ever seen! And from the Philippines! Even more amazing! The plants look similar to Cymbidiums but the flowers certainly are not. I would love to have those plants here in Stockholm and your gardiniere(?). Thanks for making my day, MM!

    Mar 7, 2012 | 4:35 pm


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  3. kristin-on-kidney-diet says:

    my mom got these in yellows also…they grow abundantly near her pond cum fountain water feature at home… never thought they are iris! yes, they bloom all the time but as you said they only last for a day..but thats the beauty of it…fresh blooms for everyday :)

    Mar 7, 2012 | 4:35 pm

  4. Footloose says:

    Do they have a local filipino name? I know “iris” as in “arco iris” is Spanish for rainbow, a far flung departure from our bahag hari.

    In spring the Metropolian Museum of Art in NY brings out from their cold vaults a pair of japanese six-fold screens depicting clumps of ultramarine irises growing in a shimmering swamp of gold foil. Quite dramatic http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/53.7.1-2

    Mar 7, 2012 | 4:48 pm

  5. Elmot?PinoySoundingBoard says:

    Wow! The flower is so beautiful although if one will take a look at it from a distance, one cannot really easily appreciate the flower. But the close-up shot is amazing revealing the beauty it has in its velvet sanctum.

    Mar 7, 2012 | 4:48 pm

  6. Kasseopeia says:

    Beautiful! My mother would approve!

    Mar 7, 2012 | 6:51 pm

  7. Betchay says:

    Like Kristin-on-kidney-diet, we also have yellow local irises in our garden. We also have the purple ones but I dont see them bloom anymore :( Actually your iris flowers look bigger than ours… probably ours need more fertilizers! :)

    Mar 7, 2012 | 8:13 pm

  8. Joey Pacheco says:

    Ganda! I wonder how they will fare this summer- I’m guessing they should be kept indoors or in the shade. BTW- is that a Bencab on the table beside the irises?

    Mar 7, 2012 | 8:41 pm

  9. odie says:

    Nice shots!!!

    Mar 7, 2012 | 9:57 pm

  10. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    And who said a poacher is only for fish? aha…the Abueva sculpture!

    Mar 7, 2012 | 10:02 pm

  11. Tracy says:

    What’s the difference between a fish poacher and an ordinary roasting pan?

    Mar 7, 2012 | 11:00 pm

  12. EbbaBlue says:

    We have a dozen clumps of these in our front edge yard, here in Houston,, our local gardener said its a by-product of day-lily and Lousiana swamp-wild irises. They thrive in hot weather, just water them often. You are lucky toget them for that prize; 2 years ago I bought several potted flowering palnts in Manila seedling to take with me to Quezon province; they average P300 – 400 each.

    Mar 8, 2012 | 2:47 am

  13. bisdakRN says:


    Mar 8, 2012 | 2:58 am

  14. Guest says:

    Appears to be genus Neomarica, not sure of the species. Not indigenous, but most likely indigenized.

    Mar 8, 2012 | 4:21 am

  15. KUMAGCOW says:

    Now after this blooms… I wonder who in a RANT will MM hit with this FISHPAN haha :))

    Mar 8, 2012 | 5:22 am

  16. orb says:

    Tried identifying the plant in question (since I got intrigued about Iris species in the Philippines) and it seems like this one is called the walking iris or twelve apostles (sci name is Neomarica caerulea). It is included in the Iris family but its native habitat is Brazil. It was probably introduced to the Philippines via the ornamental plant trade.

    Mar 8, 2012 | 6:37 am

  17. Connie C says:

    I always look forward to late spring when my miniature irises are in bloom, clumps of them all over the garden and they seem to self propagate. In my many years in the property I have not divided a single clump but they continue to bloom and provide enjoyment both as indoor arrangement or for gifting to friends with or without any occasion.

    For the fleetingness of the shortlived blooms of the native variety featured here, we appreciate them more and is a constant reminder that yes, we have to stop and smell the blossoms.

    Mar 8, 2012 | 8:29 am

  18. ami says:

    Do the flowers give off a pleasant smell? If yes are they overpowering or subtle?

    Mar 8, 2012 | 8:34 am

  19. cherryoyvr says:

    Thanks for posting these MM! These are stunning and unique… just like Philippine orchids. Wish you had their scientific name. Also love the way that you have arranged them in the fish poacher on your entry table – really classy.

    Mar 8, 2012 | 9:37 am

  20. Peter says:

    I’ve been looking for those for ages and never found them here in Cebu. All I’ve ever seen were the yellow ones which have appeared a couple of years ago and have become quite popular since then. The plants are called walking irises or Neomarica and come from South America, in case of the blue ones above from Brazil. When the flowers fade, plantlets form on the stalks, the stalks then sink to the ground and the plantlets take root – hence the name walking iris. They are easy to propagate this way. Unfortunately I don’t know where the Centris Market is – is it in Cebu? In case it is in Manila, could I possibly buy a plantlet from you through Zubuchon here in Cebu? Thank you for this great post!

    Mar 8, 2012 | 10:13 am

  21. greenthumb says:

    we also have this in our garden, but, in yellow i’m just not sure if they are of the family.
    they grow abundantly near the water same with what “kristin-on-kidney-diet” mentioned…

    Here’s one image i grabbed from the internet courtesy of http://www.rv-orchidworks.com


    i don’t think they are endemic here, hence, the name “Philippine iris”. because, it was mentioned in one forum that they are called “walking iris” or “neomarica” here’s the link for forum page, hope this helps…


    nonetheless, they are stunning and very easy to propagate, a new plat stalk will appear after the flowers are gone… =)

    Mar 8, 2012 | 10:20 am

  22. bakerwannabe says:

    It made it all the more vibrant by the way you took the pictures. The colors seem to be deeper and the variation more prominent.

    Mar 8, 2012 | 10:36 am

  23. Risa says:

    Did you have to punch drain holes on your fish pan?

    Mar 8, 2012 | 11:09 am

  24. Sleepless in Seatlle says:

    Your Iris flowers look like gemstones(Tanzanite,blue topaz,amethyst colorings) i have clumps of bearded iris of different colors growing under our dogwood tree on early summer, they flower profusely..but none compare to the coloring of your irises,they made up with their small size,the foliage itself are gorgeous.

    Mar 8, 2012 | 11:56 am

  25. docgelo says:

    ang swerte naman ng kapit-bahay mo, may regalong potted iris from marketman!

    Mar 8, 2012 | 3:30 pm

  26. Ging says:

    Ooohh! So those are Irises. I saw them growing wild while i was still studying at UP Los Banos. Everybody called them Ground Orchids. I brought some home to Cebu to plant but my mother uprooted them and threw them out. She said they were weeds.

    Mar 8, 2012 | 6:08 pm

  27. Footloose says:

    Connie C, a touching sentiment because it’s true. Mother tended this local dove orchid the whole year long for a few hours of ephemeral glory. The tiny buds looked like doves resting on a line and when fully open seemed to mimic white doves in mid-flight. Gave off a unique scent too.

    Mar 8, 2012 | 11:56 pm

  28. millet says:

    footloose, i “rescued” a colony of native dove orchids from a fallen tree ang stuck them on a wall in my garden. They were scraggly the first six months, and everyone told me to get rid of them. But now they’re healthy and every few months or so are covered with small white doves with a faint fragrance. i rejoice and stay in the garden a bit longer when i see them in the morning, because i know the flowers will be gone in a few hours. fleeting pleasure, indeed!

    Mar 11, 2012 | 1:40 am

  29. Marketman says:

    Peter, will try and see if we successfully transplant these to the ground, and they thrive and start to multiply… then if I manage to get “babies” will try and bring some to Cebu…

    Mar 18, 2012 | 9:09 am

  30. Leonard Marucci says:

    A friend gave me a plant in a pot and told me it was Philippine Iris. I have had it for three years, left in the pot, on my back deck. It bloomed this year after sending up a three foot flower stock. It was a beautiful blue in colour, something similar to that submitted above. When the lowers faded it left behind a little bulb, could be a seed bulb. I am going to try to propagate it by planting the seed bulb.

    Jul 3, 2012 | 6:15 am

  31. evan manalang says:

    It may be of Neomarica longifolia family -Yellow walking iris or Apostle plant from South Mexico to South America . I bought my yellow walking iris at the Eco Park years back.

    Jul 12, 2012 | 7:51 pm

  32. shula says:

    I love your plant, where could I buy in Manila. Thanks in advance for the info.

    Jul 28, 2012 | 6:17 pm

  33. lia says:

    where to buy those irises?

    Sep 30, 2012 | 8:42 pm

  34. victor guanzon says:

    there is a lot of iris plants here in baguio. the one in the picture we call them peacock iris and have a lot of stocks in plastic pots. we have also the yellow ones. we call them japanese iris plant. we have as well have plenty of stocks in plastic pots.

    May 23, 2013 | 6:19 pm


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