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Products > Neomarica northiana
Neomarica northiana - Apostle Plant
Image of Neomarica northiana
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Perennial
Family: Iridaceae (Irises)
Origin: Brazil (South America)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: White
Bloomtime: Spring/Summer
Synonyms: [Trimezia northiana, Marica northiana]
Height: 2-3 feet
Width: 1-2 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30° F
Neomarica northiana (Apostle Plant) - A member of the Iris family, this tender evergreen perennial spreads by rhizomes and plantlets that form in the flowers. It typically grows 2 to 3 feet tall with fans of two foot long and two inch wide sword-shaped shiny green leaves that arch over gracefully. In late spring through early fall appear the flattened inflorescence rising just above the foliage, or often draping downward, with a cluster of lightly fragrant 3-4 inch wide flowers. Each attractive flower opens for just one day and only in the mornings and has white petals that are mottled near their base with yellow and orange-brown spots, erect inner perianth segments that are white and blue and prominent white anther filaments. The inflorescence bends over under the weight of flowers and plantlets that emerge after the flowers to root in the ground, allowing this plant to "walk" and help spread it through the garden.

Plant in a well amended soil in full to part sun or bright shade and irrigate regularly to occasionally - requiring less water in a shady location. It is not usually listed as hardy below freezing but has proven useful in gardens in USDA Zones 9 and 10, tolerating temperatures with short term durations down to the mid 20s, particularly if grown under the protection of trees or a structure. It in a nice groundcover in shaded locations or as a potted hanging plant - in the 19th century it was actually a popular parlor or house plant.

Neomarica northiana is native to Brazil, where it was gathered in 1779 by Sir Joseph Banks on the island of Raza, near the mouth of Rio Janeiro, while on Captain James Cook's expedition around the world on the Endeavour. The plant came into the possession of Mrs Henrietta-Maria North, the Wife of Bishop Brownlow North, who acquired it in Lisbon and brought it back to England in 1789. It was first described in 1793 as Morea northiana by the Dutch botanist George Voorhelm Schneevoogt in Icones Plantarum Rariorum as the type of the genus with the specific epithet to honor Mrs. North. It was renamed Marica northiana in 1803, with the genus name being that of a nymph in Roman mythology. This name was corrected to Neomarica, meaning "new Marica" by Kew botanist Thomas Archibald Sprague in 1928 because the name Marica had also been used to describe a plant in the closely related genus Cipura. Interestingly both genera, Neomarica and Cipura have been recently combined into the genus Trimezia, making this plants name Trimezia northiana (Schneev.) Ravenna. This change has not been widely adopted and we continue to list this plant as a Neomarica species.

Apostle Plant has many other common names including Walking Iris, Fan Iris, Twelve apostles, North's False Flag, Poor Man’s Orchid, Broad Stemmed Marica, Mrs Norths Marica. The name “Apostle Plant” was derived from the number of leaves in a fan once the plant was thought mature enough to flowering, which is was often 12 and associated with the twelve apostles of Jesus. We first started growing this plant in 1992 and also grow the taller blue flowering Neomarica caerulea

This information about Neomarica northiana displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.