Phormium - New Zealand Flax
DESCRIPTION: This is a group of tender perennials mainly grown for their handsome, colorful leaves. These plants, commonly known as New Zealand Flax, are natives of New Zealand. The word Phormium is derived from phormos, a basket, and refers to the use of the leaf fiber for basket making; this fiber is also used in the commercial manufacture of ropes and twine. P. tenax 'Purpureum Group' grows 6 to 8 feet high with a spread of 3 feet. It forms basal clumps of rigid, evergreen, sword-shaped leaves that are red-purple to deep copper. In the summer, large panicles, up to 15 feet high, of tubular, dark red flowers are borne atop bluish-purple stems. P. 'Dazzler' grows 6 to 8 feet high and has leaves striped with yellow, orange-red, bronze and salmon pink. Its flowers resemble those of P. tenax 'Purpureum Group' and are produced in the summer. P. tenax 'Bronze Baby' grows 18 to 24 inches high and wide. Its red-purple, sword-shaped leaves are tinged with bronze. Its tubular, dark red flowers are produced in branched heads on top of reddish-purple stems occasionally in the summer. New Zealand Flaxes are great for coastal gardens.
POTTING: These plants can only be grown outdoors where winters are mild; otherwise, they may be grown in containers and brought in during the winter months. When growing outdoors, they need deep, fertile, humus-rich, moist soil and a warm, sheltered, sunny location. Provide dry winter mulch if the winters get too cool. When cultivating in containers, they should be planted in two-thirds turfy loam and one-third leaf mold or peat moss and decayed manure, with a bit of sand added. Rooted pieces should be placed in 8-inch pots in the spring, just before the plants begin growing. Keep them in a frost-free greenhouse or frame and when they are well rooted in these pots, transfer them to larger pots or tubs. They may be set outside during the summer and brought in before frost. They need plenty of water during the summer.
PROPAGATION: These plants may be divided in the spring. It would be beneficial to plant the rooted pieces in large containers of loamy soil and keep them in a cold frame for a few weeks before planting them outdoors. Seeds may also be sown in sandy, peaty soil in a temperature of 60 degrees in January or February. They will grow to a decent size the first year.
P. tenax & var. Bronze Baby, Purpureum Group, Dazzler, variegatum, Veitchianum, alpinum;
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