The genus dietes is comprised of only 6 species of flowering plants. This small genus contains only rhizomatous plants that are part of the iris (iridaceae) botanical family.
The common names for members of the genus are dependent on the growing regions of the local plant. Some common names are wood iris, fortnight lily, African iris, Japanese iris, or butterfly iris.
The genus name comes from 2 different Greek works; di, which means two, and etes, which means affinities. This is in relation to the original genus that these plants were part of, genus moraea.
Dietes plants are grown for their stunning and show stopping flowers, though not many know that this is actual a type of ornamental grass! Planting dietes is perfect for both ground cover and for stunning bloom bursts.
What do Dietes Plants Look Like?
The dietes plant is highly valued for its lovely flowers. Each individual flower is comprised of 6 outer tepals and 3 inner tepals.
A flower will usually be about 3 inches around with varying sepal and outer tepal colors. They are often a white flower with accents of yellow, blue, or violet.
These showy blossoms will usually start their blooming season in the late spring or early summer, and depending on the dietes species, their blossoms can last only a couple days or several weeks!
A dietes flower will produce fruit in the form of a small seed pod that contains several seeds. This seed pod will eventually harden and pry open to release seeds that can be dispersed through wind, water, or through animal fecal matter.
Now that we know that dietes are actually rhizomatous grasses, it’s easy to picture their leaf pattern! Dietes plants grow simple, narrow, and sword-like foliage (like giant blades of grass).
This attractive and spiky foliage of dark green leaves make for a wonderful combination with the elegant and showy bloom bursts of flowers.
Dietes are rhizomatous evergreen perennials; this means that the plant possess leaves that remain green and persist all year long, flowers that will continue to bloom year after year, and all of which that grows from an underground bulbous root system.
From an individual rhizome will grow the plants’ leaves, and a long flower stalk that can grow to be quite tall. Depending on the species and growing conditions, a flower stalk can grow to be over 1.5 metres in height.
What are the Dietes Species?
- Dietes Bicolor – also known as the yellow wild iris, peacock flower, or butterfly iris, dietes bicolor is a clump perennial plant with long sword-like leaves and pale yellow flowers with 3 dark purple spot accents.
- Dietes Butcheriana – also known as the wide leafed dietes, dietes butcheriana is a perennial evergreen grass with striking white flowers with orange “claws” as accents.
- Dietes Flavida – also known as the wood iris or the wild iris, dietes flavida grows long and narrow blue/green leaves with white flowers and yellow accents that only last a single day in bloom.
- Dietes Grandiflora – also known as large wild iris or fairy iris, dietes grandiflora is a plant that grows very long and rigid sword-like leaves and white flowers with yellow and violet accent colors.
- Dietes Iridoides – also known as the African iris, fortnight lily, or moraea iris, dietes iridoides is a plant that grows long stems and branches that bear lily-resembling flowers of white with yellow centres.
- Dietes Robinsoniana – also known as the Lord Howe wedding lily, dietes robinsoniana only grows on Lord Howe Island and bears sword-like leaves and white and yellow flowers that only last a single day in bloom.
Where are Dietes Flowers Native to?
The majority of dietes species are native plants to southern Africa and central Africa, there is one species (dietes robinsoniana) that is native to only Lorde Howe Island which is an island off the coast of Australia.
Only the most tropical regions of the world have been able to naturalize a wild dietes population, though they can survive as cultivated plants in colder areas. They can exist in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 11.
Though not particularly cold hardy, they are a resilient plant nonetheless – as is usually the case with plants that grow from rhizomes. They can be found growing in the wild along forest margins and in boggy landscapes.
How do you Propagate a Dietes Flower?
A dietes plant can be propagated either through sowing seed, or through rhizome division. Whichever method you choose, the most important thing to remember is that picking the perfect spot in your garden is crucial!
Dietes flowers grow from rhizomes, which are bulbous underground roots that contain all sorts of nutrients to help keep the plant alive in sometimes hostile conditions.
Digging up these rhizomes dividing them is a great way to keep your dietes population growing. Simply choose a plant that seems to be the healthiest, divide its rhizome, and the subsequent plant will have those identical healthy genes.
Otherwise, the plant itself will produce its own fruit once the flowering season is over, and the population will grow that way through seed germination. We’ll go into further detail in the next section on what the best growing conditions are for the dietes plant.
What are the Growing Conditions of Dietes Plants?
Though dietes aren’t particularly fussy about the soil type that they exist in, it is clear that they tend to perform best in soil that is rich and well drained.
Soil should be moist and rich in nutrients. A simple way to achieve this is by incorporating a compost mix into the potting soil! They also grow well in sandy soil, both indoors or outdoors.
Another cool thing about dietes plants is that they can be grown completely in water. These specimens actually exhibit taller growth overall. Those that grow in soil will attain 1 metre in height, whereas those that grow in water can reach over 1.5 metres!
Dietes require a moderate amount of watering, though natural precipitation will usually suffice. Simply remember that soil should remain relatively moist, so give your plant a weekly watering if it’s a particularly dry season.
That being said, dietes can also survive in completely water logged soils or in pure water! They tend to grow near waterways in the wild in moist soil.
Dietes are also quite flexible when it comes to sun exposure. They tend to produce the most prolific flower blossoms when they are growing in full sun, though they are tolerant of partial shade and light shade as well.
Dietes are not a cold hardy plant, and they won’t survive a North American winter. Since they are native to southern and central Africa, it’s not hard to guess what temperatures they can tolerate. They exist in USDA growing zones 8 through 11.
Dietes plants will respond rather well to fertilizer, and it can sometimes help extend the length of their fleeting blooming season.
Apply a high phosphorous fertilizer at the very beginning of the plants blooming season to help give it a little boost!
Dietes plants expend a lot of energy on their long and lovely leaves, and so dishevelled leaves can sometimes waste that precious energy!
Help out your dietes plant by pruning away browning leaves. These fibrous leaves can be hard to cut, so use a very sharp pair of shears and cut at the very base of the leaf.
Dietes plants are wonderfully easy to care for as long as they can exist in a region that doesn’t experience cold temperatures. They are intolerant to frost and drought intolerant as well.
How is the Dietes Plant Used?
Dietes plants are a very beautiful plant that can be used in a myriad of ways in a garden or in a home. They are often used as border plants, for ground cover, or for mass planting.
Since this flowering plant loves to live in wet boggy areas, they make for a great addition to a water garden, though they can be a show stopping indoor plant as well!