Phormium tenax
Common Name: New Zealand flax 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asphodelaceae
Native Range: New Zealand
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 1.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: Red
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen
Attracts: Hummingbirds


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-11, but roots may survive in the ground in Zones 7 and 8 with a good winter mulch and protected location. Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best foliage color for variegated-leaved plants is usually developed in filtered sun. Tolerates a wide range of soils, including poor ones and will also tolerate considerable shade. In the St. Louis area, plants are best grown in pots/containers for patios or decks or sunk to the rim in garden areas. Containers should be brought inside to a cool sunny location for overwintering before first fall frost. Keep container soils consistently moist in summer.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Phormium tenax, commonly called New Zealand flax, is native to New Zealand. It is an evergreen, clump-forming tender perennial that grown for its attractive foliage. It features rigid, sword-shaped, linear, bright green leaves (3-9’ long) in erect clumps. Leaf margins and midribs are narrowly edged with red-orange. Bronze and purple leaved varieties are available in commerce with a number of cultivars featuring variegated leaves striped or edged with pink, red, orange or purple. Leaves are creased down the middle and folded into a v-shape. Panicles of dark red flowers appear well above the foliage atop stout, rigid flowering spikes (to 12’ tall) in summer. Plants in containers grow much smaller and rarely flower. The blooms are attractive to hummingbirds.

Genus name comes from the Greek word phormion meaning "mat" as the Maoris used it to weave garments and baskets.

Specific epithet means strong, tough or matted.


Watch for mealybugs and slugs. Leaf spot may damage the foliage.


Sink pots to the rim in garden areas. Pots/containers for patios or decks. Greenhouse or houseplant.