Phormiums – New Zealand Flax

Updated For 2016
Phormiums – By Myles Challis

The New Zealand Flax Phormium Tenax is a very useful architectural plant to add colour and structure to any garden.

Phormium Maori Queen
Phormium Maori Queen

The variegated form Phormium Tenax Variegatum – a popular plant with landscapers and designers – is a handsome upright specimen with its lime green and cream white stripes. This Variegated Phormium does not get as large as Phormium Tenax (the dark green variety) and works well for under-planting as a contrast for taller specimens such as Trachycarpus Fortunei and Olives.

The dark green Phormium Tenax for its size alone makes a very impressive specimen – but my personal favourite is the purple Phormium Tenax Purpureum. It is very variable in colour but good dark coloured forms (dark burgundy colour) are very desirable.

Phormiums for sale - London garden nursery
Phormium Yellow Wave | Phormiums under Olive Tree | Phormium Flamingo

Phormiums should be planted in a sunny area where possible – they will also grow well in the shade provided sufficient light. The low-growing varieties which are the most colourful with pink and even reddish stripes can be grown in pots. The Phormium Tenax forms have very upright foliage but all the Phormium Cookianum forms have pendulous wider foliage, they are smaller in stature and low-growing.

Phormiums can be killed in very severe winters, but it helps to pack straw around the base of the leaves which should also be tied up through the coldest winter months.

Many new varieties of Phormium are now extremely popular to add colour to the garden. Popular new phormiums include the Cookianum varieties such as Phormium Flamingo which has wonderful vibrant pink leaves, or Phormium Yellow Wave with a brighter shiny lime green and white margins, and Phormium Maori Queen with a rainbow stripes including red, pink and bronze.

Ideal as a present to keep in a pot or for landscaping an entire garden the Phormiums are an elegant and versatile architectural plant.