Phormium is a genus of evergreen perennials from swampy lands of New Zealand where it has been an important part of culture and history of indigenous Maori people. For a very long time, Maori people have been using it as a medicinal plant as well as an excellent source of strong fiber that they used in production of baskets, mats, clothing etc. Today, Phormium is grown in many parts of the world as an ornamental houseplant.
The most popular and widely grown species is Phormium tenax which itself offers more than 75 cultivars of different sizes and colors. Phormium is characterized by large leaves that grow up to 3 meters long and 125 mm wide. These tough and sword-like leaves are dark-green in color though several cultivars offer colorful foliage ranging from red, pink, white and yellow to bronze, cream and scarlet.
Phormiumm, New Zealand flax, Image by Peter Stevens
Phormium tenax is commercially grown and sold as New Zealand flax. It makes an excellent accent plant for landscpaes and can be grown in containers or almost anywhere in the garden. The evergreen foliage of New Zealand flax makes it a good candidate as border plant for making hedges, or borders along pathways.
Phormium tenax or New Zealand flax is quite easy to grow in a rich soil under full sun. It can also be grown under share or as indoor plant provided that it receives moderate amount of water in a well-drained soil. Mature plants produce a long stalk of red flowers. The plan can be propagated easily from rhizomes.
Some popular cultivars of Phormium include:
Phormium ‘Alison Blackman’: Upright perennial; grows up to 4 feet and produces olive green or bronze foliage with yellow variegation.
Phormium ‘Duet’: Dwarf variety that grows up to 1 foot and produces foliage of green or variegated leaves.
Phormium ‘Jester’: Bronze leaves with green stripping; grows up to 3 feet.
Phormium ‘Amazing Red’: Evergreen perennial with upright and long reddish-brown leaves ( up to 2 feet long).
Phormium ‘Bronze Baby’: Featured by bronze foliage that grows up to about 2 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide.