Also known as New Zealand Flax,
Phormium was actually employed by the Maoris in
making a kind of clothing made of linen, as well as
for baskets and ropes. Gardeners would recognize it
as a colorful and large spiky plant that makes for
an interesting focal point in containers or in the
garden. Its leaves are sword-like and shoot up from
the plant’s base and new hybrids now come in shades
of pink, yellow, bronze, and red.
The Latin name of the New Zealand Flax is Phormium
cookianum and Phormium tenax. Its USDA hardiness
zone is from 8/9 to 10. The NZ Flax’s size depends
on its variety and conditions for growth. Several
plants growing in containers are from 1 to 4 feet
The taller flax species, Phormium tenax, can grow
as much as ten feet under the best conditions. The average
height of Phormium plants grow to an average of 2 to 5 feet.
The NZ Flax’s ideal exposure to the sun is from full
exposure to partial shade. Its blooming period is
mid-summer, although it is mostly grown for its
The NZ Flax or Phormium is a pointy, evergreen
sword-leafed perennial that is employed as a focal
point in a garden or as a plant specimen. Some
varieties are small enough to live in pots, others
can grow several feet in diameter and more than
seven feet tall.
On fully grown plants, the stalks of the flower
shoot high above the leaves and create curving,
tube-shaped yellow or red blossoms that have very
high nectar content and a favorite among
After the flowers bloom, seed pods form. If self-seeding is
unwanted, it is a deadhead.
The New Zealand Flax can be used in place of the spiky Vinca
or Dracena or in lieu of grass in beds of gardens. Phormiums
are best shown off against delicate or low-growing foliage
such as coreopsis or perennial geraniums. They can even grow
abundantly in bogs.
During the season of autumn, the leaves of the New Zealand
Flax can used as foliage in flower arrangements.
Some varieties of Phormium are Phormium ‘Bronze
Baby’ (which has bronze foliage and grows to
approximately 2 feet high by 2-3 feet wide and is
great for planting in containers), Phormium ‘Duet’
(a dwarf variety that grows to approximately 1 foot,
it has green leaves laced in cream with very stiff
blades of leaf blades), Phormium ‘Jester’ (bronze
with green stripping which grows to approximately 3
feet tall), and Phormium ‘Sundowner’ (has green
leaves with pink rosy margins and grows to
approximately 6 feet wide and tall).The New Zealand
Flax prefers rich, moist soil and an area protected
from harsh winds, but once strong enough, the plants
are not really choosy about conditions.
The New Zealand Flax can be easily thrive in containers.
Instead of using regular soil for potting, use a rich,
organic blend and keep the plants watered well during the
heat of summer. Avoid frost from reaching the plants. NZ
Flax can thrive indoors, either under lights or as house
plants. Although they prefer cool winter temperatures they
still need lots of sunlight.