How to Grow Blackberry Lily: Effective Tips

The blackberry lily, sometimes known as leopard lily, is not actually a lily but a species of Iris. How to grow Blackberry Lily: It forms clumps and grows from spreading rhizomes, featuring flattened, strap-like leaves that can reach lengths of up to 10 inches. During mid to late summer, tall, wiry stems emerge, reaching heights of about 4 feet, adorned with vibrant orange flowers speckled with red spots, each consisting of six petals. How to grow Blackberry Lily: As summer draws to a close, pear-shaped seed pods develop, opening to reveal clusters of seeds resembling blackberries, giving rise to its common name.

When planting blackberry lilies, it is typical to use potted nursery plants or bare roots purchased from online sellers in the spring. Alternatively, they can be grown from seeds, although this method may require three years for the plants to bloom. Bare roots generally mature into flowering plants within their first season, although sometimes it may take up to two seasons. How to grow Blackberry Lily: Originating from various regions in India, China, and Russia, blackberry lilies are relatively short-lived perennials. However, their rhizomes gradually spread, ensuring the plant’s survival in the garden. Moreover, they have the ability to self-seed, leading to the establishment of a continuous colony of plants.

It is worth noting that all members of the Iris genus contain mildly toxic compounds that can affect both humans and pets.

How to grow Blackberry Lily

Common Name:  Blackberry lily, leopard lily

Botanical Name:  Iris domestica

Family:  Iridaceae

Plant Type:  Herbaceous, perennial

Mature Size:  2–3 ft. tall, 9–24 in. wide

Sun Exposure:  Full

Soil Type:  Well-drained

Soil pH:  Acidic, neutral, alkaline

Bloom Time:  Summer

Flower Color:  Orange, yellow, red

Hardiness Zones:  5–10 (USDA)

Native Area:  Asia

Toxicity:  Toxic to humans2, toxic to pets

How to grow Blackberry Lily

Blackberry Lily Care

Blackberry lilies, belonging to the Iris family, thrive under specific growing conditions. They prefer abundant sunlight, moderate and consistent moisture, and well-draining soil. Although they are not known for their longevity as perennials, cultivating blackberry lilies is simple, and you can easily propagate them at home to maintain a flowerbed adorned with their distinctive orange and red-speckled blossoms.

When planting bare rhizomes, it is recommended to space them approximately 3 to 4 inches apart (around 6 to 9 per square foot) and plant them 5 inches deep. Adequate watering is crucial until the plants establish themselves, but excessive watering should be avoided thereafter.

As the flower stalks of blackberry lilies can grow quite tall, it may be necessary to provide support such as staking to prevent them from toppling over in exposed locations. As long as the plant is cultivated within its recognized hardiness range, there is no need for winter cold protection.

How to grow Blackberry Lily


Select a location that receives abundant sunlight for cultivating your blackberry lilies. It is essential to provide a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight each day to ensure the well-being of the plants and promote optimal bloom development. Ideally, if the site receives around six hours of sunlight, it would be even more beneficial for the lilies.


While achieving the perfect soil composition is not crucial for the successful growth of blackberry lilies, ensuring good drainage is of utmost importance. Excessively moist or waterlogged soils, particularly during the winter season, can lead to the rotting of blackberry lily rhizomes. These plants are not overly particular about the pH of the soil, as they can thrive in slightly alkaline, neutral, and slightly acidic conditions, ranging from a pH of 6.1 to 7.8. It’s worth noting that in nutrient-deficient soils, the plants may exhibit shorter growth, whereas in nutrient-rich soils, they tend to attain taller heights.

How to grow Blackberry Lily


Blackberry lilies exhibit a positive response to consistent watering, resulting in larger and healthier blooms. However, they also possess the ability to withstand drought conditions. In fact, dry soil during winter is considered ideal for their growth. It is advisable to err on the side of providing less water rather than excessive amounts. If your garden receives rainfall every one to two weeks, additional irrigation is typically unnecessary. During periods of drought, a weekly water supply of around 1/2 inch is entirely sufficient. It is important to reduce watering during the dormant winter months to discourage the occurrence of root rot.

How to grow Blackberry Lily

Climate and Moisture Level

Blackberry lilies are commonly regarded as hardy plants suitable for USDA zones 5 to 10, although gardeners in zone 4 can often achieve successful cultivation as well. The presence of hot weather and high humidity does not pose significant challenges when growing blackberry lilies. These plants are generally resistant to mildews or fungi, as long as there is no stagnant water present.


Blackberry lilies do not require additional fertilizer for their growth. They are not demanding in terms of nutrient requirements and can obtain the necessary nutrients from the soil. In cases where the soil quality is poor, a single application of a balanced organic fertilizer during spring or a synthetic fertilizer specifically designed for blooming plants is ample to meet their nutritional needs.

How to grow Blackberry Lily

Types of Blackberry Lily

Before 2005, the blackberry lily was classified as Belamcanda chinensis, and there may still be sources that refer to it by that name. However, through genetic sequencing, it was revealed that this plant is actually a species of Iris. As a result, it is now officially recognized as Iris domestica. Alongside the pure species, there are two well-known cultivated varieties that are commonly cultivated:

Hello Yellow: This particular cultivar of blackberry lily is characterized by its dwarf size, with leaves reaching a height of only 10 inches. The flower spikes, on the other hand, grow to a height of 20 inches and bear butter-yellow flowers without any spots.

How to grow Blackberry Lily

Freckle Face: Unlike the standard species plant, this cultivar is known for its abundant blooming, often producing up to 12 blossoms per individual plant.

Finding blackberry lilies at typical garden centers is not common, which means you may have to explore specialty nurseries or rely on online retailers to obtain them. These sources usually offer blackberry lilies in the form of rhizomes or seeds.

How to grow Blackberry Lily

How to Prune

While blackberry lilies do not necessitate formal pruning, it is beneficial to remove the seed capsules as they develop. This practice prevents them from maturing and dispersing seeds throughout the garden, which would require additional effort to remove unwanted seedlings.

Trimming back the faded flower stems can extend the bloom period by encouraging the growth of new blossoms. Towards the end of the growing season, it is advisable to remove the yellowing foliage to maintain a tidy garden appearance. This also helps eliminate fungal spores and potential nesting areas for pests.

How to grow Blackberry Lily

How to Propagate

Just like iris or daylily rhizomes, blackberry lilies can also be propagated through division by digging and separating the root clumps. The ideal time for this process is when the flowering period has ended and the plants have mostly finished their growth, typically in late summer or fall. Here are the steps to follow for dividing blackberry lilies:

  • Gently excavate the plants using a shovel or garden fork, taking care not to damage the roots.
  • Employ a sharp knife to separate sections that have a fan of foliage attached.
  • Thoroughly examine the root pieces for any signs of soft or rotted areas, as these may indicate damage caused by iris borers. Remove these affected areas, retaining only the firm and healthy root sections.
  • Proceed to replant the divided pieces in the desired locations, ensuring they are spaced at least 4 inches apart.

Regular division every few years is beneficial for maintaining the health of the clump since individual plants do not have a long lifespan without this intervention.

Grow Blackberry Lily from Seed

Blackberry lily seeds, obtained from the dried and opened seed pods, can be successfully grown by following a few steps. To enhance germination, it is advisable to refrigerate the seeds for several weeks before planting. In mid to late winter, sow the seeds indoors using a seed-starter mix, ensuring they are covered with a 1/4 inch layer of the mix.

Maintain adequate moisture in the pots placed in a well-lit area until the seedlings emerge. Once they sprout, transfer them to a sunny location and continue their growth, ensuring the soil doesn’t dry out completely. As spring arrives and the weather warms up, gradually acclimate the pots to outdoor conditions until the seedlings are well-established. At this stage, they can be transplanted into the garden.

Alternatively, if sowing seeds directly in the garden, it is recommended to do so in late fall or early spring when the soil is workable. While seeds sown in the fall may bloom in their first year, those sown in the spring will likely not flower until the following year.

Notably, blackberry lily readily self-seeds, and it is a straightforward task to transplant some of the small volunteer seedlings to new locations.

How to grow Blackberry Lily

Potting and Repotting Blackberry Lily

Cultivating blackberry lilies in containers provides an excellent opportunity to showcase the plants when they bloom. Prior to blooming, it is advisable to position the containers in a secluded area since the foliage is not particularly visually appealing during this stage. Once the flowers start to emerge, relocate the containers to a prominent spot on your porch or patio, allowing you to fully enjoy the beauty of the blossoms.

To create a lush appearance, consider planting two or three blackberry lilies in the same container. Ensure that the container has proper drainage and utilize well-drained potting soil. Arrange the rhizomes near the soil’s surface, making sure they do not come into contact with one another. As the plants expand and become overcrowded, divide and repot them accordingly. Late summer, when growth slows down, is an ideal time for repotting.

In most climates, where freezing temperatures and snowfall occur, dormant plants in containers can generally be stored in a sheltered yet cool outdoor area throughout the winter. However, gardeners in Zone 5 might discover that potted blackberry lilies do not survive the winter unless they are moved into a garage or basement. Above-ground roots in containers are more vulnerable, hence the need for added protection in colder regions.

How to grow Blackberry Lily


For the majority of gardeners, providing winter protection against the cold is generally unnecessary for blackberry lilies. However, if you are attempting to grow blackberry lilies in Zone 4, which is beyond the recommended range, applying a layer of winter mulch can be a beneficial precaution.

During the winter season, the black seed berries on the plant can add visual appeal to the garden. Many gardeners choose to leave the flower stalks intact as snow arrives. However, it’s important to note that this can promote self-seeding in the garden. If you prefer to avoid self-seeding, it is advisable to trim off the flower stalks before they have a chance to produce seeds.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Blackberry lilies are typically low-maintenance plants, but they are susceptible to the common iris borer, which can pose a serious threat and even lead to plant death. Initially, the presence of this pest may go unnoticed, except for an entry hole at the plant’s base. If you observe wilting or discoloration in your plant, check for this characteristic hole. Infected plants, including the roots, should be promptly removed and disposed of to prevent further spread. To salvage root sections, closely examine them and eliminate any areas with rot or borer damage.

Inadequate soil drainage or excessive watering can result in root rot for blackberry lilies. This issue is particularly common in excessively wet climates. Plants severely affected by root rot should be carefully uprooted and discarded to prevent the problem from spreading.

How to grow Blackberry Lily

How to Get Blackberry Lily to Bloom

The vibrant blooms of the blackberry lily have a short lifespan, typically lasting only a day or two. However, by deadheading the faded flowers, you can encourage the plant to produce more blooms, extending the colorful display for several weeks during the mid to late summer period. If your blackberry lily fails to bloom, it is often attributed to one of several potential reasons:

  • Plant maturity: Young plants may not produce flowers until their second year, and those grown from seeds might exhibit shyness until their third year.
  • Insufficient sunlight: Similar to most iris varieties, blackberry lilies require a minimum of four hours, preferably six or more hours, of direct sunlight each day to ensure abundant blossoms.
  • Excessive fertilizer: Unlike many flowering plants, blackberry lilies prefer deriving nutrients from naturally fertile soil. The overuse of synthetic fertilizers can actually hinder flower production. It is recommended to fertilize these plants once in the spring using organic or flower-specific fertilizers. Exceeding this amount may yield disappointing results.

Common Problems

Apart from the risks of iris borer infestation and root rot due to excessive moisture or compacted soil, blackberry lilies are generally trouble-free plants. However, some gardeners may feel let down by their relatively short blooming period and understated floral display. This plant may not be the best choice for those seeking long-lasting, striking colors. Nevertheless, it can be a perfect fit for those who appreciate diverse and intriguing elements in their garden.

One common issue with blackberry lilies is that their tall flower spikes are susceptible to toppling over in windy conditions, particularly in exposed areas. To mitigate this, it is advisable to provide support by staking the plants, ensuring their stability and upright growth.

How to grow Blackberry Lily