Crimson Flag Iris – Schizostylis

The Crimson Flag Iris or Kaffir Lily, as it is called, is one of the most important of all autumn flowers, for it bears its spikes of bright red blooms from mid-September right into midwinter. It is a most inexpensive plant, hardy in all but heavy, badly drained soils, and it is a grand cut flower and for this purpose might, with advantage, be grown on a commercial scale, though the blooms do not like too-warm conditions. The small crocus-like blooms, arranged in the manner of montbretias, are carried on strong stems 18 in. tall which require no staking.


Flowering right through early winter they must be given a sunny situation, beneath a wall facing south is ideal, and there they will often flower over Christmas. They like a well-drained, sandy soil containing plenty of leaf mould and they should be given a mulch with peat every spring. The fleshy tuberous roots should be planted during April and the clumps are best divided every four years. They should be planted 4 in. deep and should be packed round the roots to encourage drainage. Do not expect great things from it until well established.

Schizostylis is a very pretty late-flowering subject which flourishes in a fairly rich, moist, but well-drained soil.

Perhaps the greatest value of this pretty plant is that it blooms from September right until mid-winter, when there is very little colour in the garden.

Although occasionally injured by severe frosts, it is hardier than often supposed, but it does give of its best if a favourable, sheltered spot is selected for its home. A covering of peat or leaf mould will do good and may be pricked into the surface soil in the spring. Straw and bracken will give protection too, in fact they are really necessary in exposed and northern districts if a good display of late blooms is to be obtained.

A liberal amount of moisture should be available at the roots throughout the summer, especially so because when planting a plentiful supply of silver sand should be added to the soil, which gives the desired drainage but prevents the retention of water. Planting outdoors is best done in March. When it is necessary to divide the clumps of rhizomatous roots, this, too, should be done in the spring. Stock increases by the development of little stolons.

The flower-spike is not unlike that of a small gladiolus, and varies in height from 18 to 24 in.

The best-known species is Coccinea, sometimes known as the Caffre Lily or the ‘Crimson Flag’. The flowers, often 2 in. in diameter, are a lovely crimson-scarlet, and usually go on showing colour well into December.

‘Mrs Hegarty’ has most beautiful satiny-rose flowers, and is good in pots in the unheated greenhouse. ‘Viscountess Byng’ produces spikes of flesh-pink blooms, and not infrequently goes on flowering until January.

All varieties are excellent as cut flowers, and there is nothing else quite like them in their season.



  • Schizostylis coccinea. This is the red-flowered form, a native of South Africa and a grand autumn plant for the herbaceous border.
  • S. Mrs. Hegaro. This is an even more striking variety, the blooms coming later into flower and being of a delightful shade of coral pink.

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