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Genus Phormium (New Zealand flax)

Phormium Phormium 'Rainbow River' Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
FORM-ee-um Common Name: New Zealand flax
The genus Phormium contains a couple of species of perennials from New Zealand that are grown for their large clumps of strap-like leaves and spikes of small, tubular flowers on leafless stems. Many cultivars have colorful or variegated foliage, ranging from green to red to bronze-purple. They are a strong structural presence in the garden. Grow as a border specimen, in containers, or in a coastal garden.  
Noteworthy characteristics: Large, evergreen leaves and architectural flower stalks.
Care: Grow in full sun in fertile, moist but well-drained soil. Plants may be overwintered in a cold greenhouse or mulched heavily if left out in winter where not hardy.
Propagation: Divide plants or sow seed at 55° to 64°F in spring.
Problems: Generally trouble-free, but leaf spots sometimes affect plants.

Species, varieties and cultivars for genus Phormium

no image available Phormium 'Amazing Red'
('Amazing Red' New Zealand Flax)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This New Zealand flax has dark reddish brown leaves that form a neat clump less than 2 feet tall and about as wide. It makes a great container plant.

Phormium tenax Phormium tenax
(New Zealand flax)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

An excellent architectural specimen, New Zealand flax has a striking geometric shape and intriguingly colored foliage. Rigid, upright leaves to 10 feet long grow in a clump. Cultivars come in chocolate-brown or a mixture of cream, pink, and green stripes. In summer, this Phormium produces a 12-foot-tall spike of tubular red flowers.