Blue-Eyed Grass and Pale Yellow-Eyed Grass

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Sisyrinchium

Sisyrinchium striatum – Pierre Joseph Redouté

BACKGROUND IMAGE: Narrow-leaved blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) growing in an alpine bed with stonecrop, auricular primula and thrift.

The blue-eyed grasses are a broad genus of New World flowering plants which include several garden-worthy perennials. Two that I have come to value are the ground-hugging S. bellum (background photo) and the taller S. striatum (illustrated here).

Despite their common name, they are not grasses, but actually members of the iris family (Iridacae), which is evident in their sword-like foliage. Their penny-sized starry flowers, however, are quite unlike irises, opening in succession for many weeks in the summer.

I like these Sisyrinchium for their architectural structure and quirky botanical details, but also for the strong splash of colour they add to the summer border.

Although there are hundreds of species, only a dozen cultivars are commonly available, but among those you can find a range of colours including blues, purples, white, yellow, and pinkish-browns.

Side-by-Side

PALE YELLOW-EYED GRASS

Sisyrinchium striatum

A medium sized clump forming perennial with semi-evergreen iris-like foliage produced in fans. In summer tall flowering spikes carry flowers that open in succession over many weeks.

20 in (50 cm)
18 in (45 cm)
yellow
late May-July
full sun
free-drained
tall spires of flowers
avoid over-fertile or waterlogged soil

Blue-EYED GRASS

Sisyrinchium bellum “Rocky Point” or “E.K.Balls”

A small clump forming perennial with bright green grassy foliage. In summer it produces a succession of violet-blue starry flowers on short stalks. It spreads slowly by runners as well as seed.

4 – 8 in (10 – 20 cm)
12 in (30 cm)
blue | purple | yellow
June-July
full sun
moist, free-drained
compact grassy clumps of foliage
avoid over-fertile or waterlogged soil

Garden Sisyrinchium comparative sizes - infographic

LARGE
45-60 cm | 18-24 in

S. striatum
(pale-yellow)

S. striatum ‘Aunt May’
(variegated foliage)

S. boreale
(yellow, aquatic)

MEDIUM
20-45 cm | 8-18 in

S. bermudiana/angustifolium
(purple)
S. ‘Quaint and Queer’
(crushed strawberry)
S. graminoides
(purple)
S. palmifoliumCanary’
(bright yellow)

SMALL
10-20 cm | 4-8 in

S. bellum ‘E.K Balls / Saphire’
(purple)
S. angustifolium ‘Album’
(white)
S. ‘Californian skies / Devon skies’
(sky blue)
S. ‘Biscutella’
(buff/mauve)

Article continues on page 2
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5 thoughts on “Blue-Eyed Grass and Pale Yellow-Eyed Grass”

  1. These are such pretty plants, I would love to see them take over my small lawn. I am really finding tiny flowers like these to be some of my favorite. I have quite a bit of wild phlox with tiny purple flowers all over the yard and I hope they just keep spreading. They are little pockets of happiness!

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