Dwarf Crested Iris, Iris cristata, is a beautiful native iris that grows in the woods all over the Piedmont. The eight-inch, sword-shaped leaves arch towards the outside of the spreading clump. Small blue flowers with yellow and white signals occur for a few weeks in April, and the leaves die back to the rhizomes in the winter.
This iris has very small, closely spaced rhizomes that form a dense carpet through the growing season and provides an appealing texture that mixes well with other garden plants. It grows best in filtered shade or morning sun and afternoon shade. It seems deer resistant based on my experiences.
Not to leave out the lower part of the state, there is another species known as Sandhills iris or Dwarf Coastal Plain iris, Iris verna var. verna. It is also common in open woods. The significant difference between the two is that it has erect foliage, and the flowers are much more fragrant and have large orange signals. In addition, it forms looser clumps due to rhizomes being further apart.
Both these native irises are great as landscape plants. Plant in well-drained soils. As with many irises, these are tough plants with little care other than pulling off the dead leaves at the beginning of spring. For more information, see HGIC 1167, Iris.