A group of evergreen perennials, native to New Zealand. Architectural plants with large, long pointed leaves, which eventually spread to form large impressive clumps.

Family: Asphodelaceae
Botanical Name: Phormium
Common Names: New Zealand flax, flax lily.

Foliage: Evergreen, bold clumps of large leathery, strap-shaped leaves, which remain attractive all-year-round.

Flowers: Tall flower spikes may appear on mature specimens in summer.

Flowering Period: Mid summer to early autumn.

Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH. Protect from winter wet.

Conditions: Full sun or part shade. Plant in any aspect.

Habit: Clump forming.

Type: Perennial.

Origin: New Zealand

Hardiness: Moderately hardy in the UK, provide protection in harsh winters.

Planting and Growing Phormiums

Easy to grow. Plant out in late spring, in a light, reasonable fertile, deep soil. Plant in full sun for best flowers.

Suitable for well drained borders, gravel gardens or large containers. Makes an impressive specimen plant for the lawn or as the centrepiece in a bed of annuals.

Not fully hardy in the UK and can easily rot in very wet conditions, so are best protected over winter with straw or horticultural fleece.

Taking Care of Phormiums

Pruning Phormium

Cut out dead flower stems as soon as they fade, and remove any dead or damaged leaves.

Pests and Diseases

Generally trouble free

Propagating Phormiums

Sow seeds under glass in spring. Prick out, pot up and grow on under the protection of a cold frame. Harden off before planting out in the spring of following year.

Named varieties will not come true from seed so are best increased by division in spring.

Popular Varieties of Phormium

A wide range of attractive modern hybrids are available, many with colourfully striped leaves.

Phormium 'Amazing Red' is a robust, fully hardy evergreen which forms a dense clump of sword-like, bright red, lustrous foliage. Compact form. For sale at You Garden.

Phormium 'Black Adder' is a robust, fully hardy evergreen which forms a dense clump of sword-like, deep purple, almost black, lustrous foliage. Compact form. Height to 4ft (1.2m). For sale at You Garden.

Phormium 'Black Velvet' ('Seivel' PBR) produces bronze-black sword-like leaves. Height to about 6ft (90cm). For sale at Van Meuwen.

Phormium Blondie (PBR) Forms a compact mound of colourful foliage. For sale at Crocus.

Phormium cookianum has lax arching green leaves. Brown flowers are followed by twisted nodding seed pods in summer. Height to 5ft (1.5m), spread 20th (60cm) or more. Cultivar hookeri 'Tricolor' produces attractive variegation of creamy-yellow and green striped leaves, with a thin red edge. For sale at Crocus.

Phormium 'Evening Glow' is a robust, fully hardy evergreen which forms a dense clump of sword-like attractive, bright red, lustrous foliage highlighted with a bronze edge. Compact form. Height to 3ft (1m). For sale at You Garden.

Phormium Jester produces a colourful blend apricot-pink and greyish green, evergreen foliage. For sale at Crocus.

Phormium tenax has leathery, sword-like, olive green leaves. Dark red flowers are held on tall stiff stalks in July-September. Height from 3 to 10ft (1-3m), spread to 4ft (1.2m). For sale at Crocus. Cultivars include:

  • 'Purpureum' produces bronze-purple leaves.
  • 'Variegata' or 'Variegatum' bears dense clumps of thick colourful green leaves with a contrasting creamy margin.

Phormium Yellow Wave has attractive yellow and green variegation For sale at Crocus.