Phormium – How to Grow New Zealand Flax

The Phormium, or New Zealand Flax, is a truly striking plant that adds a touch of the exotic to any garden. Its tall upright spear-like foliage explodes from the base of the plant helping to add a strong upright, modern and architectural element to the space it inhabits. Foliage is now available in several colours making it useful in design as selections can be made to add contrast and statements. Plants can be container grown and there are many dwarf species that will thrive when grown this way.

As fully hardy plants, Phormiums are almost certain to thrive in any garden and they also tolerate many soil types. After buying your plants you should move them in to their final positions as soon as physically possible. If you cannot manage to plant immediately you should ensure your plants are watered regularly and positioned in a cool and bright space out of the way so that they cannot be damaged by weather or other hazards.

Phormiums grow best when planted in full sun but they will also tolerate a large degree of shade. It is generally perceived that Phormiums are tender plants, however, they regularly come through periods of cold weather down to -5 degrees C unscathed. If leaves do fall prey to cold weather, plants will often send up new growth from the root. Plants make for useful accent plants in borders and grow well when planted next to streams and ponds.

As discussed Phormiums will grow in most soil types and are quite tolerant when it comes to soil conditions given that drainage and fertility are monitored and managed. Whatever your soil type, you can always improve it further by with the addition of organic matter and by digging it over thoroughly. Well-rotted garden compost, leaf mould or multi-purpose compost will suffice and will help to improve drainage, structure and moisture retention.

In terms of care Phormiums are not at all demanding. After planting ensure that you regularly water your plant to reduce stress and ensure correct establishement. You should be careful not to over water plants as if water logged your plants ability to function correctly will be compromised and rot may set in. Fertilise your plants as and when needed with a good quality general fertiliser during the growing season and this will help to ensure plants grow well and produce deeply coloured foliage.

Add a surface mulch around the base of plants in Autumn. Organic matter or bracken leaves can be used to protect plants from cold Winters and ensure that they grow well the following year. If growing plants in containers you can move them into a shed or frost free greenhouse. Failing this you may wish to move pots closer to the house for the radiating heat will help warm plants at night.