Phormium 

(for' me-umm)

Common name: New Zealand Flax

Family: Xanthorrhoeaceae (formerly listed under the Agave family, Agavaceae)

Height x width: 5-10' x 3-6' (at least half that in cool and northern climates, or pots)

Growth habit: upright crowded fan-shaped clumps from rhizomes

Growth rate: slow in north, moderate in warm climates

Foliage: linear, sword-shaped, keeled, narrowed at base into V shape; variously colored from green to multicolor pink, red or yellow stripes; length varies as above, and with species as below

Flowers: only in native habitats, seldom seen in cooler climates where overwintered indoors; tubular, in panicles on erect stems above foliage in summer, color varies

Hardiness: USDA zone 8

Soil: moist, well-drained

Light: sun

Pests and Problems: few, mealybugs especially indoors if overwintered

Landscape habit, uses: accent in containers or gardens, good alternative to commonly used Dracaena spikes; in native habitats where is perennial outdoors good for backgrounds, building corners; adaptable to coastal habitats; leaves last well in cut arrangements

Other interest: from Greek phormos for basket, referring to the use of the leaf fibers; native to New Zealand

Other culture: deeply mulch over winter in marginal climates, roots susceptible to near freezing temperatures either in ground or overwintered under protection

Propagation: division, seeds less common except where native

Species: only 2 species exist, sizes below are for native habitats

Cultivars: some of those listed with no species may be seen under cookianum, parentage and taxonomy among references is a bit confused; the following are the most commonly seen
 
Cultivar species leaves, other
'Amazing Red'   red, pink effects, narrow
'Apricot Queen'   light yellow, apricot tints, green margins
'Bronze Baby' tenax bronze red, to 2'
'Chocolate Baby'   dark bronze, green edge, compact 18"
'Chocolate' cookianum bronze chocolate, to 4'
'Chocolate Fingers'   bronze-green, coppery margins, to 4'
'Cream Delight' cookianum yellow bands, subsp. hookeri, RHS award
'Dusky Chief'   deep purple, coral edge, to 6'
'Dwarf Burgundy'   bronze red fading copper late, brown edge
'Flamingo' cookianum pink, coral, apricot, green striped, to 3'
'Hunter Green'   deep olive, to 5'
'Jack Spratt'   pale bronze, dwarf
'Maori Chief' cookianum bronze, pink and red stripes
'Maori Maiden'   bronze, striped red
'Maori Queen'   deep pink, edged purple
'Maori Sunrise' cookianum apricot, pink stripes, bronze margins
'Pink Panther'   bright pink, edged red
'Pink Stripe'   purple, pink edge, to 4'
'Platt's Black'   dark burgundy
'Red Edge' tenax deep green, reddish edges
'Sundowner'   purple, pink edge, to 4', RHS award
'Tricolor' (subsp. hookeri) cookianum red, yellow margins; RHS award
'Variegatum' tenax yellow margins, RHS award, plum flowers
'Yellow Wave'   yellow, green banded, to 4', RHS award


©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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