A Garden Chameleon: Blackberry Lily

 Are you looking for an interesting addition to your fall garden? Maybe something with a ‘stop-you-in-your-tracks’ seedpod?  Or perhaps what you really want is a tropical feel to your garden without the headaches of exotic (annual) plants?  Or maybe you’re just looking for an easy-to-grow perennial that’s not going to be found in everyone else’s garden.  Well, have I got a plant for you…  

A chameleon, in disguise?


Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis) is all that, and more.  This chinese native, hardy from zones 5 – 10, is terribly unassuming for weeks upon weeks.  The quintessential wallflower.  To tell you the truth, I completely forgot she was even in my garden this year.  I got a few blackberry lily plants from a plant swap last fall, planted them in my perennial border and then simply forgot about them.   

But, once she starts to flower, you’ll wonder how you ever forgot about her. To me, it seems like blackberry lily, aka leopard lily or freckle-face, is a garden chameleon, changing her look depending on the day.  Don’t believe that this dainty, unassuming flower is capable of such a trick?  Well, consider the evidence…  

•  Each flower looks like a mini daylily.  And, just like a daylily, lasts only one day.  But, contrary to its common name, blackberry lily is not related to a daylily.  

•  The sword-like foliage resembles the foliage of an iris.  This is not too surprising since blackberry lily is actually a member of the iris family.  

•  The seed pods bear a striking resemblance to ripe blackberries.  So much that you want to reach out and grab one to see if it’s soft and juicy.  But don’t eat them, they are poisonous.  

Here’s a slide show of blackberry lily in my garden this year.  Look at the interesting way the spent flowers twirl tightly into themselves.  

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If you’re considering adding blackberry lily to your garden, keep in mind she prefers a location  in full to part sun with fertile soil.  Surround blackberry lily with earlier flowering companions, such as asclepias, baptisia and coreopsis, who will take center stage until she’s ready to flower.  And then stand back and enjoy the show!

12 thoughts on “A Garden Chameleon: Blackberry Lily

  1. Great photos, Debbie. I agree with your assessment …I have one blackberry lily that quietly grows at the back of a border then shines when in bloom. Now the berries are its highlight. An underused mid to late summer easy-to-grow perennial.

    • It is pretty amazing at this time of the year, the deep purple color of the berries really does make you do a double take. I’m hoping my two plants seed freely this year so I’ll have lots more next fall.

  2. I grow this perennial not for the berries but for the powerful color contribution it makes to the “hot’ corner of my flower garden. It is quite thrilling. And this is coming from a gardener who actually dislikes orange and/or gold flowers.

    • Allan, Orange isn’t my favorite color in the garden either but I do love the way blackberry lily combines with other flowers too. I think because the flowers are fairly small, it is less in-your-face than some other oranges.

  3. I’m right there with you Allan and Debbie … not a fan of orange. But when used sparingly with deep blues and purples the orange touch is striking.

    Debbie, I love the new header.

    • Joene, The other orange I love in my garden is Crocosmia ‘Emily Mckenzie’. It actually overwintered in my garden this year (supposed to be hardy to zone 7). I think I only had one or two flowers but the intense orange color is worth it.

      Glad you like the new header. I made it with Picassa.

  4. Pingback: Blackberry Lilies « Gardora.net

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention A Garden Chameleon: Blackberry Lily « A Garden of Possibilities -- Topsy.com

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