New Zealand Flax

Make sure you give this big, bold plant plenty of space to grow.

New Zealand flax can be used in place of ornamental grass, where you need more texture and a dash of color. This low-maintenance plant has no problem with heat in the summer and works well in containers. Hardy in Zones 9-11, New Zealand flax can be grown as an annual or evergreen perennial.

The striking lance-shaped leaves of New Zealand flax grow in erect clumps and can come in several bold colors. All of these plants previously came in foliage shades of green with a few bronze-red. Now, there are countless variegated forms in differing heights and mixes of color from pinks, whites, reds, burgundies, and every shade in between.

New Zealand Flax Overview

Genus Name Phormium
Common Name New Zealand Flax
Plant Type Annual, Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 3 to 8 feet
Width 1 to 3 feet
Flower Color Red, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Chartreuse/Gold, Purple/Burgundy
Season Features Colorful Fall Foliage, Fall Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Attracts Birds, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 11, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Slope/Erosion Control

Where to Plant New Zealand Flax

In cold regions, New Zealand flax is usually grown as an annual, though it can be taken indoors to overwinter. As these plants continue to grow where they're hardy, keep in mind that they can get quite large, especially when in the ground. In containers, the size is usually a little more restrained, but they can still quickly fill pots.

Plant in well-draining soil or use a soilless medium for containers. Site in full sun with some afternoon shade, so plants have the most intense coloration and the best, most dense habits. However, some varieties, especially ones with large amounts of white foliage, will do better in part-shade because they're more susceptible to leaf burn.

How and When to Plant New Zealand Flax

New Zealand flax is a tough and rugged accent plant with many different uses. Plant in spring along with other perennials. New Zealand flax does equally well in containers as in gardens. Make sure to give these plants lots of room to grow up and out.

New Zealand Flax Care Tips

Patience is needed to see New Zealand flax grow to its full height and width.


Generally, New Zealand flax prefers full sun, but afternoon shade is beneficial for brightly colored foliage.

Soil and Water

New Zealand flax grows in any average, well-drained soil. These plants like to remain evenly moist, but once they're established, they do fine with drought now and then. However, depending on the parentage of a specific cultivar, some may require a little more water than others.

Temperature and Humidity

Because New Zealand flax is hardy in warmer zones, gardeners in cooler locations find better success when they grow their plants in containers and bring them inside for the winter. If grown outdoors, mulch heavily to protect them after they die back for the winter.


The New Zealand flax needs little if any fertilizer. Add compost annually to plants.


Prune in the fall or in the spring. Cut off dead or dying branches and leaves at their base. If your plant has been damaged by cold weather, cut it down to its base. It may be that the roots are still healthy and the plant will grow back.

Potting and Repotting New Zealand Flax

New Zealand flax does well in pots. Use a high-quality organic potting mix and water it regularly during the summer. Bring pots indoors when the weather gets below 50ºF to protect the plants from frost damage. They'll do well inside placed where they stay cool but get plenty of sunlight. Plants may not need much water during the cold months.

Pests and Problems

Outdoor New Zealand flax can become infested by mealybugs, sometimes to the point of being unsalvageable. If one of your plants has this problem, it's best to toss it out and start growing a new one.

Indoor plants may have problems with common houseplant insects. Use horticultural soap to clean the plants of these bugs.

How to Propagate New Zealand Flax

If plants become too large, they can be divided to make more new plants. Simply dig the plants up and cut them into smaller chunks or, if possible, gently separate clumps into pieces with several growths per plant. Then repot and water well.

To grow from seed, germination must occur at around 60ºF. After sowing the seeds in warm soil, they'll produce seedlings ready for planting.

Types of New Zealand Flax

'Dark Delight' New Zealand Flax

new zealand flax
Frances Litman

Phormium 'Dark Delight' has evergreen 1- to 2-inch-wide strap-shaped leaves in dull purple. This hybrid has leaves 4 feet long. Zones 9-11

New Zealand Flax Companion Plants


Jay Wilde

There are several different kinds of phlox. Garden and meadow phlox produce large panicles of fragrant flowers in many colors. They add height, heft, and charm to a border. Low-growing wild Sweet William, moss pinks, and creeping phlox are effective as groundcovers at the front of the border, and as rock and wild garden plants, especially in light shade. Zones 4-8

Perennial Sunflower

perennial sunflower
David Speer

Perennial sunflower is imposingly tall and floppy with large (up to 4 inches) bright yellow flowers forming loose clusters. Excellent for cut flowers. Zones 4-9


Jim Krantz

Dahlia flowers form on branching, fleshy stems or open on the bedding-plant types mid to late summer. All dahlias are fodder for seasonal cut bouquets. The blooming season extends into fall and is only halted by the first frost. Zones 8-10


Pink Flower Hybrid Anemone
Dency Kane

Anemones are delicate flowers atop slender stems, giving them their common name—windflower. Depending on the type, anemones bloom in spring, summer, or fall, with pretty, slightly cupped flowers in rose, pink, or white rising over distinctive, deeply lobed foliage. Zones 4-8

Garden Plans for New Zealand Flax

Classic Container Garden Plan

classic container garden plan
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Classic shapes and lush floriferous plants combine beautifully in this shade-loving garden plan.

Fall Deckside Garden Plan

path illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Light up your deck each fall with this high-color garden plan.

Drought-Tolerant Slope Garden Plan

Drought Slope Garden Plan
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Tame a tough-to-mow slope with this beautiful, easy-care plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does New Zealand flax flower?

    In many cases, the flowers of New Zealand flax are an afterthought. The small yellow or red flowers are not as showy as the foliage and rarely appear on the plants. They're held on thin stems high above the foliage when they do. These flowers are generally heavy nectar producers, making them a favorite for hummingbirds and other pollinators.

  • Is linen made from New Zealand flax?

    The Maoris, New Zealand natives, used flax to make clothing, as well as baskets and other household items. Most linen made today has flax in its fiber.

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