New Zealand Flax Growing Facts

July 15, 2016 in Trees and Shrubs by Christine

New Zealand Flax Caring for New Zealand Flax 

New Zealand Flax Plant Information Caring for New Zealand FlaxNew Zealand flax plant or Phormium Tenax is a colourful and a spiky ornamental plant suitable for perennial gardens and coastal areas. The multi coloured plant can be grown easily from the rhizome and the plant has a fan like appearance which can become the focal point of your garden. They can grow to a height of 20 feet and to a width of 6-10 feet under perfect conditions. There are different cultivars of the plant with different foliage colours such as red, purple, green, yellow, maroon, etc. Maoris used the fibre of this plant to make linen clothing, baskets and ropes hence the name flax plant. The plants that are grown in warm regions are usually free from diseases and insect attacks. The leaves of this evergreen perennial are sword shaped. The mature plants produce the flower stalk which shoots up above the leaves and produce red or yellow blossoms. The tubular flowers are very rich in nectar content and attract nectar feeding birds such as honeyeaters in Australia and hummingbirds.

How to Grow New Zealand Flax?

This plant prefers well-draining soil and needs full sun to achieve perfect growth. Heavy clay soil can reduce the growth. It can tolerate moderate sun situations. This is a slow growing plant and requires protection from harsh winds till they get well established. They can withstand different weather and soil conditions once they get established. When planted in windy areas this can cause the plants to have shredded or damaged leaf tips.

You can grow the plant from rhizome divisions or from the rooted specimens available from nurseries. They are easy to grow and maintain as the maintenance and care needed is minimal when the plants are mature. It can be grown in containers containing a rich organic mix. The best time to divide the plant is during spring. You can plant the rhizome pieces indoors and allow them to grow a bit before you transfer them to outdoor locations.

Caring for New Zealand Flax

  • They need to be watered during the summer.
  • Excess watering can make the rhizome and stems to rot.
  • These plants are, can be used for erosion control in the garden.
  • The hybrid flax plants are not as tough and are more prone to burning of leaf tips during hot sunlight than the original species and need more protection.
  • It is better to avoid frost exposure. Potted plants can be moved indoors during the frost seasons of autumn and winter.
  • Mulching the plant using organic mulch near the root system prevents frost damage to the rhizomes. Mulching will also help to prevent weed growth.

If there is any damage occurred to the flax plant due to heat or frost, cut off the damaged and dead leaves as required. If the plants get infested by mealy bugs it is very difficult to eradicate the bugs and it is better to dispose of the affected plant.

New Zealand Flax Varieties 

floral art New Zealand flax Plant leavesThere are many colourful and variegated varieties of New Zealand Flax on the market today these include-

  • Phormium Anna Red Flax- clear bright colour of dark red/maroon/purple leaves that grows to 1.2m high, 1m wide.
  • Phormium Jester Flax- has long arching red/pink and bright green leaves, medium to large variety 1.2 metres
  • Phormium Cookianum Greensleeves- apple green sword leaves great contrasting plant with darker New Zealand flax grows to 90cm and is tough
  • Phormium Tenax Pink Ribbon- has silvery grey leaves striped pink and white on the leaf edges with upright foliage grows up to 1 metre
  • Phormium Black Rage New Zealand Flax- Black/purple good mass planted variety grows 1.2 metres

Apricot Queen, Bronce Baby, Green Delight, Crimson Devil, Dark Delight, Duet, Evening Glow, flamingo, Gold Sword, Golden Ray, Jack Sratt, Maori Maiden, Maori Queen, Maori Sunrise, Margaret Jones, Pink Panther, Platts Black, Sundowner, Surfer, Tomb Thumb Tricolor, Emerald Gem, Firebird, Nigra.

These named varieties are mainly hybrids that originated from the 2 major species Tenax (tall Grower) and Cookianum (low grower).

New Zealand Flax Plant Popular Plant for Floral Art

New Zealand Flax has a great assortment of colourful leaves, the flax plant leaves are commonly used for floral art, the leaves are cut, rolled and glued to the desired floral design or even plaited or woven to create a stunning, affective floral art piece.

These plants can survive well, even in poor soils and therefore there is no need for fertilisation. Adding rotted compost to the top soil can add nutrients and will increase percolation.

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