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Dwarf crested iris forms an attractive groundcover for consistently moist areas. Will naturalize.

Dwarf crested iris forms an attractive groundcover for consistently moist areas. Will naturalize. USDA, NRCS. 2012. The PLANTS Database (, 5 December 2012). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

Iris cristata 'Tennessee White'

Dwarf crested iris (No Advance Orders)

Native to North America (selection)


FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Iris cristata ‘Tennessee White’ is a diminutive mat-forming wildflower. Plants form narrow pointed leaves that arise directly from underground rhizomes.  The distinctive foliage forms a lovely groundcover.  In spring plants carpet the ground with myriads of small white irises.  This spring beauty prospers in woodland settings with average well drained soils. 

HABITAT & HARDINESS:  The parent species is native from Pennsylvania to Illinois and south to Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma. 

Iris cristata is indigenous to rocky wooded slopes, calcareous woodlands, ravines, creek and stream banks, slopes of floodplain forests and on shaded bluffs and ledges.

The ‘Tennessee White’ cultivar was selected by Don Shadow of Shadow Nursery in Winchester, Tennessee.  The plant was chosen for its white blooms, vigorous growth and floriferous nature.

Plants are hardy in USDA Zones 4-8.

PLANT DESCRIPTION:  Iris cristata ‘Tennessee White’ is a lovely wildflower cultivar.  Plants are quickly form 2’ wide mats that expand into colonies.  New plants are formed from plump shallow rhizomes that are connected by slender runners.

Short sword shaped leaves arise from the rhizomes.  They are gray-green or bluish.  Leaves overlap at the base and fold around the adjacent leaf to form a flat fan-like arrangement. The blades tips bend in a delicate arch.

In mid-spring masses of small clear white blossoms appear.  The blooms have a typical iris form with 3 drooping sepals called “falls” and 3 small upright petals called “standards”.  The falls are marked with three parallel yellow ridges called a crest.   It is said that this cultivar blooms earlier and longer than the norm.

Plants are 6-8” tall with a spread of 2’ or more.

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS:  Iris cristata ‘Tennessee White’ grows best in partly shaded or shaded sites with rich well drained soil.  Plants will tolerate some sun if soil is consistently moist. 

This iris tolerates rocky or alkaline soils and dry shade. 

Plants are pest resistant except for occasional problems with snails and slugs.   Foliage is unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.

In garden situations, plants benefit from the addition of rich compost or mulch.  Lime is also welcome if planting sites are strongly acidic.

LANDSCAPE USES:  Iris cristata ‘Tennessee White’ is an excellent Accent plant for a Shade Garden or Rock Garden.  In residential sites, locate small Groups of plants throughout shaded areas or Mass them into a spectacular Groundcover planting.  Plants provide Attractive Foliage, showy Spring Flowers and Erosion Control.  This species is a valuable component of Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders and Wildlife Gardens

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS:  In woodland settings Iris cristata ‘Tennessee White’ mingles cheerfully with Aquilegia canadensis, Chrysogonum virginicum, Phlox divaricata and Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’. Woodland sedges like Carex plantaginea or Carex flaccosperma and native ferns like Athyrium filix-femina or Polystichum acrostichoides make good foliage companions.

In garden situations, Iris cristata ‘Alba’ could be substituted if needed. 

TRIVIA:  Iris cristata ‘Tennessee White’ flowers are pollinated by native bees and are also attractive to hummingbirds.

‘Tennessee White’ is produced by division and since it is cloned, is consistent in appearance.  Iris cristata ‘Alba’ is a white flowered form of the species so plants have slight variations in size, crest color or bloom duration.

This plant is a No Advance Order plant, which means it is only available to order when the plant appears on our Availability and must be shipped within 2 weeks of ordering.  We are more than happy to add you to a list to contact you when the plants become available.  We cannot offer approximate dates of when the plants will be available next. 


6-8 in


18-24 in


18 in

USDA Hardiness Zone:


Bloom Color:


Iris cristata 'Tennessee White' Characteristics

Attracts Wildlife

  • Hummingbirds
  • Butterflies


  • Ground Cover


  • Partial Shade to Full Shade

Deer Resistant

  • Deer Resistant

Flowering Months

  • April

Foliage Color

  • Green

Season of Interest (Foliage)

  • Summer
  • Spring

Soil Moisture Preference

  • Moist/Well-Drained
  • Moist

Plants that work well with Iris cristata 'Tennessee White'

Pennsylvania sedge Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica)
Hairy alumroot Hairy alumroot (Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride')
Fern-Lady Fern-Lady (Athyrium filix-femina)
Blue wood sedge Blue wood sedge (Carex flaccosperma)

Substitutions for Iris cristata 'Tennessee White'

Dwarf Crested Iris (No Advance Orders) Dwarf Crested Iris (No Advance Orders) (Iris cristata 'Powder Blue Giant')