Dierama plants for sale

Plant Pick: Angel’s Fishing Rod or Wand Flower

Latin name: Dierama pulcherrimum

by Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association

In the still, hot days of July or August a special treat awaits. Behold Dierama pulcherrimum with stalks so slender that even on a calm day there is continual movement. The delicate stems held high above the foliage droop with the weight of the pink flower panicle. Clumps of fine, grey-green blades support several flower stalks. A hardy perennial, this plant is eye catching alone or in groups.

A native of South Africa, and found in mountainous grasslands. The 44 species give a variety of plant size and flowers in shades of mainly pink. It grows from corms and will remain evergreen in a mild winter. The tough, linear blades of the plant’s foliage can be tidied in the early spring. Not all species are hardy. Choose from tall varieties for the back of the border to small clumps suitable for rock gardens.

At Milner Gardens view Dierama pulcherrimum and Dierama adelphicum in the flower beds near the Pool House Gift Shop.

Photos courtesy of: Angela Einarson.

Form:

Evergreen, cormous perennial.

Foliage type:

Basal tufts of erect to semi-erect, thin grass-like grey-green leaves.

Height/Width:

Leaves up to 30 to 36 inches (75 to 90 cm) overtopped in summer by slender flower stems. Basal clump 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) after several years

Hardiness Zone:

Hardiness zones 8 – 9.

Exposure:

Full sun in a sheltered site.

Flower colour:

Pale to deep magenta pink.

Leaf colour:

Gray-green.

Flower time:

Mid July into August.

Preferred soil

& watering:

Humus-rich, well-drained soil, watered freely in the growing season.

Other:

Mulch well in winter.

The foliage may fade to brown in a cold winter, but will re-sprout in the Spring.

If necessary trim back in early Spring before new growth begins.

University of Washington
Botanic Gardens

Dierama pulcherrimum is one of the more striking members of the iris family in flower, which is saying something. It flowers over a long period from late June to mid-August, along stems that elongate and arch above the basal foliage. Flowers open in sequence along the wiry stems, from furthest out from the clump to closest in as the season progresses. The funnel shaped flowers move gently in the breeze and are especially striking when sited above a low wall. From a distance they almost seem to float, as the flowering stalks are very thin.

Angel’s fishing rod is an evergreen clump-forming perennial arising from a corm. Flower color is typically a rosy pink, though can range from white to reddish purple. There are numerous named forms. ‘Blackbird’ has an especially dark flower.

Dierama pulcherrimum prefers well-draining though somewhat moisture retentive soil. In our climate, it does best with occasional summer water. Full sun is best for flowering effect. Overall it is a tough, easily grown perennial, and is tolerant of wind as well as coastal conditions. Seed heads in papery sheaths follow the flowers and are attractive in their own right. Plants sometimes seed around in gravel pathways or between stepping stones, but are easily removed if desired. They are excellent companions with ornamental grasses and in more naturalistic perennial borders. Plantings are effective singly or in masses.

Dierama don’t like being in containers for too long, and once established generally resent being moved. Divisions can be taken when the clump gets too dense, and is best done in spring. They may take a couple of years to settle in after moving. The large, 30 year old plant at the Center for Urban Horticulture was moved to a sunnier spot about 5 years ago, and after resting for a couple of years is now more floriferous than ever. This year the blooming stalks extended over 8’ wide around the clump! This and our specimen of ‘Blackbird’ are blooming as well as they ever have this year.

We recently planted another species on the west side of Miller Library in Merrill Hall, Dierama pendulum. Dierama igneum is a smaller growing species suitable for urban gardens, reaching only 2-3’ high in flower. Dierama can be obtained as seed and is offered by several local specialty nurseries. It is worth seeking out. We grew ‘Blackbird’ from seed obtained from the Cruickshank Botanic Garden at the University of Aberdeen in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Dierama pulcherrimum was introduced to western horticulture in 1866 by botanist James Backhouse. “Dierama” is derived from the Greek word for “funnel”, which refers to the shape of the flower.

Common name: Angel’s fishing rod, fairy wand flower

Family: Iridaceae

Location: A large example (Accession 108-86-A) is found the Stormwater Garden/McVay Staircase planting area at the Center for Urban Horticulture on the east side of Merrill Hall. The cultivar ‘Blackbird’ (252-90-A) is found adjacent to the north patio at the Graham Visitors Center in the Arboretum.

Origin: South Africa. There are about 44 species of Dierama, all native to Africa. They range from the highlands of Ethiopia to the southern Cape in South Africa. The center of Dierama diversity is the KwaZulu-Natal province in the southeast corner of South Africa where about 26 species occur. Dierama pulcherrimum is one of several species hardy in Pacific Northwest gardens.

Height and spread: A large perennial in time, though airy in effect and appearance, Dierama pulcherrimum can reach 4-5’ high and wide in flower. Out of flower it forms a clump up to 2” wide and about 2’ tall.

Hardiness: Cold hardy to USDA Zone 7

The South African section of the World Garden at Lullingstone Castle is currently plastered with Dierama pulcherrimum – otherwise known as angel’s fishing rod or wandflower.

When mature, its grass-like foliage gives way to pendant, arched, airily beautiful flowering spikes. When a breeze passes through, nothing including the grasses can beat the wafting this plant shows off. The fact that it’s a member of the Iris family – Iridaceae – is horticultural madness! With so many dieramas deliberately planted close to the garden paths, they now overhang gorgeously. In fact, here comes confession time: in the early hours of yesterday I ran down to the World Garden in a very short pair of shorts and massaged my legs by repeatedly wandering up and down the paths – the silky touch of the floral bracts and upper stems is extremely appealing.

Some people find that angel’s fishing rod is not the easiest plant to grow, but if I can do it, anyone can. It requires full sun in a well-drained soil that is reasonably moisture-retentive. I’ve found Dierama don’t like growing in pots, and once they’re established in the open ground, don’t move them. They will almost certainly die. My advice is to buy very small plants or seed and direct sow into its final planting position. Most seed companies including Chiltern Seeds supply Dierama pulcherrimum in a variety of colours including white and dark purple, and if you’re visiting Lullingstone, seed from my World Garden seed range and some plants are still left for sale. Within three or four years your garden will be overcome with joyous Dierama action and you’ll all be out in your shorts caressing their adoring stems!

• Tom Hart Dyke is a plant hunter, plantsman and heir to Lullingstone Castle in Kent, where he built and curates the World Garden of Plants.

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