How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Blackberry Lilies

Are you interested in blackberry lilies? This perennial is easy to grow and remains disease-free in the proper conditions, In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago shares how to grow blackberry lilies.

A close-up reveals several vibrant orange Blackberry lily flowers, their petals dotted with darker hues. Bathed in sunlight, the flowers sway gently in a summer breeze, their beauty contrasting against a backdrop of clear sky.


With their leopard-printed flowers and berry-like seed heads, blackberry lilies are enchanting perennials for zones 5-10. In spite of their nickname, these plants are actually orange irises. They are very low-maintenance and suitable for many garden styles and soil types. It only takes a few steps to ensure that your plant is growing in the right space, and you can enjoy spotted iris flowers all summer long!

Let’s dig in to everything you need to know to successfully plant, grow, and care for blackberry lilies!

Blackberry Lily Overview

A close-up shows a vivid orange Blackberry lily with a smattering of red polka dots on each of its six petals. Wispy yellow stamen, like golden threads, emerge from the flower's heart, contrasting against a soft, blurred green background.
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Family Iridaceae
Genus Iris
Species domestica
Native Area Asia
Exposure Full sun
Height 2-4 feet
Watering Requirements Average
Pests and Diseases Iris borer, slugs and snails, root rot
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Well-drained
Hardiness Zone 5-10

What are Blackberry Lilies?

Blackberry lilies are upright herbaceous perennials belonging to the iris family. These rhizomatous plants have underground stems that help the plants spread. They begin blooming in mid-summer. Each spotted flower only lasts for about one day, but new flowers continuously emerge for a few weeks. 

This perennial gets its name from the shiny black berries that appear when the flowers age. These berries emerge from pear-shaped seed pods after the pods have dried. The berries are arranged in clusters that resemble the blackberry fruit, but they are not edible.


A single Blackberry lily (Iris domestica) showcasing its vibrant orange petals adorned with red speckles. The central stamen display a string-like arrangement of yellow pollen, contrasting against a blurred backdrop of green foliage.
The flowers are usually bright orange with red freckles, but a yellow variety is also available.

Blackberry lilies are sometimes nicknamed leopard lilies because the flowers are bright orange with spotted red freckles. There is also a yellow variety. Each flower is made up of six petals and blooms on a stem in a spray of flowers. The foliage is sword-shaped and a medium shade of green. 

Native Area

Vibrant orange Blackberry Lily flowers bursting with life. Dark red spots adorn the base of their petals, adding a touch of drama. Lush green leaves peek through in the background, hinting at the plant's thriving presence in its grassy arboreal home.
Native to Russia, China, and India, these irises flourish in a variety of environments.

Blackberry lilies are native to India, China, Taiwan, Japan, and Russia. They grow well in gardens throughout USDA zones 5-10.


This spotted iris species is simple to plant and does not require any special expertise. You can start with bare root stock or seeds. Plant each clump about four inches apart. 


A close-up view of a fresh orange Blackberry Lily blossom, its surface speckled with crimson dots. The flower's center bursts with bright yellow pollen, while another, out-of-focus bloom peeks through below, all nestled in a bed of moist, dark soil.
It is easy to move nursery starts from pots to your garden.

Transplanting from a nursery pot to your garden is very simple!

  1. Water your plant while it is still in the nursery pot.
  2. Dig a hole that is twice as wide and deep as the root ball.
  3. Situate the plant in the hole with its best face forward. 
  4. Backfill the hole around the plant and press the soil in place.
  5. Ensure there are no air pockets around the roots, which could cause settling or shifting.
  6. Water the plant thoroughly and check back regularly as it establishes.

Growing from Seed

A macro shot of green Blackberry lily seed capsules, their surfaces wrinkled and textured. One capsule is splitting open at the seams, revealing glimpses of tiny seeds within while the remaining capsules are intact.
Collect seeds when the pods are dry but before splitting, then cold stratify and sow indoors.

Growing from seed is a simple task! You can collect seeds right off your plant or you can purchase blackberry lily seeds from an online retailer or at your local garden center. 

  1. Collect seeds from plants when the seed heads are dry but before they split open.
  2. If you can hear the seeds rattling around in the seed pod, it is peak harvest time. 
  3. These seeds require cold stratification. Place them in the refrigerator for 4-8 weeks. 
  4. In late winter, sow your seeds into a tray or pots filled with seed starting mix.
  5. Cover with about ¼” of soil mix. 
  6. Place your containers in a sunny location.
  7. Keep consistently moist and water when the soil has dried out.
  8. When the weather warms, harden your seedlings off outdoors.
  9. Keep your seedlings in their original containers until they have strong root systems. 
  10. Transplant into your garden when you think your plants are strong enough. 

How to Grow

If you want to enjoy the elegant sword-shaped foliage and striking spotted flowers, this perennial needs full sun, well-drained soil, and occasional deadheading.


A cluster of blackberry lily blooms in various stages of life. Some flowers stand tall, their orange petals adorned with dark spots, while others nestle in green buds, promising future beauty. All emerge from a bed of rich, dark soil.
They need full sun, ideally six or more hours per day.

For the healthiest blackberry lilies possible, plant them in full sun. The bare minimum is four hours, but six hours or more is best. These leopard-printed irises are healthiest and prettiest with lots of sunlight.


A stunning close-up of a single blackberry lily in vibrant bloom. Dotted red patterns dance across its orange-hued petals, while the yellow and orange center adds a touch of warmth. Lush green foliage blurs in the background, highlighting the flower's delicate beauty.
This perennial is drought-tolerant but benefits from regular watering for vibrant blooms.

Blackberry lilies are drought-tolerant perennials. For better blooms, water regularly. Depending on your weather conditions, rainfall may do the trick. If you are going through a dry spell, consider supplemental irrigation to keep those blooms looking beautiful!


Close-up of two bare hands, their sleeves rolled up, cupping a pile of rich, dark brown compost. The crumbly soil reveals small bits of bark and twigs, hinting at its organic origins. Sunlight catches the edges of the hands and soil, highlighting the potential for life within the compost.
Make sure there is adequate drainage to prevent root rot.

Blackberry lilies are not picky about soil type or pH. The most important thing is that your soil is well-draining. You can improve drainage by adding compost, perlite, or horticultural sand. 

If your soil holds too much water, these plants can suffer from root rot. This irreversible disease decays the root systems and can lead to plant death. You can save part of your plant by digging up the clumps of roots and cutting away any rotting portions. Replant the healthy clump in fresh, amended soil.

Temperature and Humidity

An orange blackberry lily, its petals kissed by dappled sunlight in a lush garden. Long, green leaves blur in the background, and other colorful blooms peek through for a glimpse of summer's bounty.
USDA zones 5 through 10 are ideal.

Blackberry lilies grow happily in USDA zones 5-10. This perennial grows well in dry climates as well as humid regions. Keep yours in an area above 23°F (-5°C) and it will do just fine.


A view inside a brown wooden compost bin with metal reinforcements, overflowing with a mixture of dry leaves, twigs, and other organic materials. A rusty metal garden fork rests against the pile, ready to turn the ingredients for nutrient-rich compost.
Plant-tone or compost fertilization in the spring can help blackberry lilies.

In general, these irises get plenty of nutrients from the soil they are growing in. They do not require any additional fertilizer. However, if your soil is poor, you may add supplemental fertilizer in the springtime. Use a well-balanced fertilizer or compost to boost the nutrition of your soil.


A soft focus of an orange Blackberry Lily, its vibrant petals blurred at the edges against a backdrop of lush, green foliage. Red spots dance around a center filled with bright yellow pollen, while hints of another flower peek through.
Deadhead spent blooms, trim fading stems, and stake if needed.

Blackberry lilies are very low maintenance. Deadheading spent flowers will prevent the seeds from spreading while keeping the plant neat. Once the stems of your flowers begin to fade, trim those back as well. This can help to encourage more blossoms throughout the season.

When fall rolls around, cut the plants back to the ground. Remove any yellowing foliage and any remaining flower stems.

Taller flower stems may need staking so they don’t flop over. However, if you interplanted with other taller plants, there may be enough support. 


The best and easiest way to propagate these irises is by division. Divide in summer or fall when the plants have stopped blooming. Let’s take a closer look at how to get this done.


A detailed view of captivating red-orange blackberry lily flowers in a botanical garden. Their long, arching petals, delicately curved at the tips, boast darker orange spots, creating a striking contrast against the lush green grass.
When dividing plants, remove damaged parts and replant healthy clumps.

First, gather your tools! You will need a garden shovel and a garden knife.

  1. Gently dig up the clump of iris you want to divide.
  2. Using a garden knife, separate portions of the plant with some foliage attached.
  3. While you have the clump out of the ground, check for any rotted pieces and remove them.
  4. Replant the original clump and transplant the newly divided clump elsewhere.

There are not many blackberry lily varieties on the market, but this one is common and easy to find!

‘Freckle Face’

'Freckle Face' blackberry lily showcases its vibrant orange blooms with red spots. Some flowers are fully open, while others wait in bud form. Sword-shaped leaves complete the scene in a clean garden.
This cultivar produces vivid orange blooms dotted with deep red pigments.
botanical-name botanical name Iris domestica ‘Freckle Face’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1-2 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-10

‘Freckle Face’ produces sprays of bright orange flowers adorned with deep red spots. These flowers begin blooming in mid-to-late summer and continue producing new blossoms for a few weeks. The sword-shaped foliage is medium green. 

Common Problems

Blackberry lilies are fairly problem-free, but there are a few potential issues you should be aware of. 


Multiple iris rhizomes reveal damage from early spring iris borers. The brown rhizomes, partially visible in the frame, show a single large hole near the center, likely caused by burrowing insect larvae.
The iris borer is a common pest, but it is challenging to detect early.

The most common and unique pest you will run into is the iris borer. These bugs can be quite difficult to deal with. This is primarily because you may not notice any symptoms before it is too late! 

If your plants appear wilted or discolored and you feel confident in your watering regimen, you may have an iris borer. Look around the base of the plant for an entry hole. If you find this hole, dig up your clump and begin looking through your roots. Remove any roots that are affected. Closely examine all of the roots. You may be able to salvage anything that has not been damaged. 

Slugs and snails tend to enjoy the leaves of iris plants. You can remove them by hand as they do their feeding at night, or you can bait them with slug bait. A beer trap will also deter them.


A single blackberry lily bursts open, its fiery orange petals splashed with crimson spots, announcing its arrival to the world. The surrounding buds, still tightly closed, wait their turn to unveil their vibrant hues. A blurred background draws focus to the blooming star of the show.
Too much moisture in the soil can cause root rot.

Blackberry lilies suffer from root rot if the soil is too wet. These perennials grow best in well-draining areas, but they are not picky about the type of soil.

Signs of root rot:

  • Brown, soft leaves
  • Wilted Leaves
  • Mushy rhizomes

Unfortunately, there is no “cure” for root rot. The best action you can take is to dig up the plant and take a look at the roots. Using a clean garden knife, cut away all pieces of the plant with black or squishy rhizomes. Replant with fresh soil that is rich in organic matter, such as compost. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you plant a blackberry lily with?

The best companion plants for blackberry lilies are plants that like well-drained soil and full sun. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Blanket Flower
  • Coneflower
  • Daylily
  • Ornamental Grasses
  • Salvia

Is blackberry lily safe for pets?

Blackberry lily is not a great option if you have pets and children roaming through your garden. All parts of this plant can irritate the stomach. The seeds and berry-like fruits are toxic.

How do you overwinter blackberry lily?

There are no special requirements for overwintering blackberry lily. If you like to keep your garden neat and tidy over the winter, cut back the foliage and flower stems to the ground. The plants produce beautiful black, glossy berries after their blooming period has ended. These berries can add lovely winter interest to your garden. Be careful if you choose to leave your plants as is. Those berries are toxic.

Why isn’t my blackberry lily blooming?

 There are a few reasons your blackberry lilies may not be blooming:

  1. Check its growing conditions. Is it getting enough sun? These perennials like full sun. 
  2. How frequently do you fertilize? Too much fertilizer can cause the plant to produce fewer flowers. If you are worried about your plant’s nutrition, add compost or other organic matter to your soil.
  3. Lastly—the easiest— is your plant too young? It takes blackberry lilies about three years before they begin to produce their beautiful blossoms. Just be patient!

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a new iris to add to your garden, blackberry lilies are a great choice. This dependable perennial provides beautiful foliage and whimsical flowers as long as it has full sun, proper drainage, and occasional moisture.

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