Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: New Zealand Flax
Phormium tenax

Family: Phormiaceae
Genus: Phormium (FOR-mee-um) (Info)
Species: tenax (TEN-aks) (Info)

One vendor has this plant for sale.

5 members have or want this plant for trade.


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

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There are a total of 23 photos.
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6 positives
2 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive AlextD On Apr 19, 2013, AlextD from London
United Kingdom wrote:

Another brilliant wind resister and an incredibly easy one to divide for planting elsewhere in your windbreak, just get that shovel in and split it at the base.

Very unfussy and a versatile addition to a tropical or exotic planting, we have it bordering a large Gunnera Manicata for contrast. Also makes a very good string tie around the garden, just tear a strip off a healthy leaf - you won't be able to snap it easily with your hands!

Do keep an eye on them if you have a mature clump on top of a ledge, they do grow fairly dense and sometimes prone to collapse if the soil is too thin or they receive a strong gust from the opposite direction to the prevailing winds. Again, just a case of dividing anything that looks too big.

Positive RosinaBloom On Oct 27, 2012, RosinaBloom from Waihi
New Zealand (Zone 1) wrote:

New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax) is ideally suited to growing on seacliffs, in a natural setting, or as a filler in a large area. This flax has been here apparently for millions of years, and used to be grown and milled for its good fibre. It is still used today for Maori weaving.

Positive nmcnear On May 3, 2011, nmcnear from Novato, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

Grows very well here in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have frosts every winter and rare temperature drops into the mid to upper 20s, and these plants handle that no problem. Flowers emerge from tall stalks (5-6'), and are not very colorful but the hummingbirds love them.

Neutral lehua_mc On May 22, 2009, lehua_mc from Portland, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

A previous owner of my property planted upwards of 5 or 6 in a side yard, meaning that a decade later I have the privilege of seeing them at their true HUGE mature size. They look so dainty in everyones pots! Our last wet cold winter killed or severely set back flaxes across Portland, but with a close crop two of mine seem eager to tell me they aren't dead yet. Personally, I'm not in love with them, they lose a lot of their special coloring when older and since mine are planted on a southern side of the property, just look like large dark masses. Update: after another harsh winter dip into the teens, all of the above huge mature flaxes are dead dead dead. Not a one or thing left to stand for their former glory. Tough love and now I have room for smoke bushes!

Positive henryr10 On May 22, 2004, henryr10 from Cincinnati, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

After being bombarded w/ these on the TV garden shows, they have finally started to appear in small quantities here in Cincinnati.
Large ones are still rather pricey though.
Look for the smaller 4" pots and you can get a deal though.

Lovely bronze foliage and quite sturdy they should make a strong statement.
I found them rather lax as youngsters but they developed that strong upright habit rather quickly.
In the Midwest the more sun the better.

Of course these will need to go in w/ the bananas and other 'tenders' come Winter.

Positive Happenstance On Aug 23, 2003, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

Family name may be listed as Agavaceae or Phormiaceae, Giant New Zealand Flax has olive green foliage and can reach 6-10' high. Very easy to grow, cold hardy and impervious to wind. Makes a good screen.

Positive jkom51 On Nov 23, 2002, jkom51 from Oakland, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Here in zone 9 coastal Nor. CA. many local nurseries offer the P. tenax hybrids, which are more brightly colored and smaller, better sized for the urban gardens. They are a bit less cold-hardy than the bigger P. tenax, and need a bit of shade in desert temperatures. Once established they can be very drought-resistant, but can take water unlike many xeric plants, without crown rotting.

Neutral Baa On Jan 24, 2002, Baa wrote:

An evergreen clump forming plant from New Zealand.

Has lancelike-sword shaped, upright, rigid, dark green leaves. Bears long spikes of tubular, red-brick red flowers upto 2 inches long.

Flowers June-August but needs to be several years old before if begins its flowering stage.

Likes moist, well drained, fertile, soil in full sun. Only hardy down to 23F and will need mulch in winter in frost prone areas.

Good accent plants with many leaf colour forms.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Auburn, Alabama
Chowchilla, California
Clovis, California
Davis, California
Huntington Beach, California
Lathrop, California
Manhattan Beach, California
Merced, California
Novato, California
Oakland, California
Redondo Beach, California
San Leandro, California
Stockton, California
Wildomar, California
Venice, Florida
Cincinnati, Ohio
Portland, Oregon
Des Moines, Washington
Kirkland, Washington
Long Beach, Washington
Seattle, Washington (2 reports)

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