New Zealand Flax

New Zealand Flax
Plant Type
Sunlight Amount
flax in a container
Credit: Jeff McNamara 
flax in a container
New Zealand Flax

New Zealand flax is a wonderful plant to use in place of an 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 it works well in containers. With many color options to choose from, you'll have a hard time finding a New Zealand flax you don’t like!

genus name
  • Phormium
  • Part Sun
  • Sun
plant type
  • 3 to 8 feet
  • 1 to 3 feet
flower color
foliage color
season features
problem solvers
special features
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11

Colorful Combinations

New Zealand flax is grown primarily for its colorful, architectural foliage. The striking lance-shaped leaves can come in several bold colors. This plant's large selection originates, surprisingly, from only two species. All of these plants came in foliage shades of green and 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 Care Must-Knows

New Zealand flax grows easily in any average, well-drained soil. These plants like to remain evenly moist if possible, but once they are established, they have no problem with drought every now and then. Depending on the parentage of a specific cultivar, however, some may require a little more water than others.

Generally, New Zealand flax prefer full sun. Lots of light ensures plants have the most intense coloration, as well as the best, most dense habits. Some varieties, especially ones with large amounts of white foliage, will do better in part shade, especially when protected from the hot afternoon sun, because they are more susceptible to leaf burn.

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 itself and rarely appear on the plants. When they do, they are held on thin stems high above the foliage. These flowers are generally heavy producers of nectar, making them a favorite for hummingbirds and other nectar feeders.

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 are 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 the pots. If plants do become too large, they can easily 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.

New Innovations

New Zealand flax is highly sought after as a tough and rugged accent plant for many different uses, especially thanks to its drought resistance. With that in mind, breeders are constantly coming out with improvements on old varieties. Factors like better disease resistance, brighter colors, and more drought tolerance are common things researchers are working toward. Because there are only two species in this plant family to work with, there are no groundbreaking new innovations happening with New Zealand flax.

More Varieties of New Zealand Flax

new zealand flax
Credit: Frances Litman

'Dark Delight' New Zealand flax

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

Credit: Jay Wilde


Phlox are one of those bounteous summer flowers that any large sunny flowerbed or border shouldn't be without. There are several different kinds of phlox. Garden and meadow phlox produce large panicles of fragrant flowers in a wide assortment of 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. These native gems have been hybridized extensively to toughen the foliage against mildew problems; many recent selections are mildew-resistant. Phlox need amply moist soil for best overall health.

perennial sunflower
Credit: David Speer

Perennial Sunflower

A big, bodacious, beautiful plant, perennial sunflower is imposingly tall and floppy with large (up to 4 inch), bright yellow flowers that form in loose clusters. Most of these natives thrive in full sun and are not fussy about soil. The taller ones may need support. Excellent for cut flowers.

Credit: Jim Krantz


Nothing beats a dahlia for summer color. Growing these varied, spiky flowers is like having a box of garden crayons at your disposal. The flowers form on branching, fleshy stems or open in solitary splendor on the bedding-plant types in mid to late summer. Several different flower categories, from the petite mignonettes to the gigantic dinner-plate dahlias, offer possibilities for any space. Expert dahlia growers recommend pinching off the first crop of side flower buds to encourage vigorous plant branching and larger flowers in peak season. All dahlias are fodder for brilliant seasonal cut bouquets and are always one of the most popular cut flowers at local farmers markets. The blooming season extends into fall and is only halted by the first frost. Gardeners in climates colder than Zone 8 should cut back the withered foliage after the first frost and dig up tubers to store over winter. For a fast start with dahlia plants before it's safe to plant outdoors, pot the tubers up, water sparingly, and grow in a sunny location until sprouts appear, and then transplant outdoors after the last frost.

Pink Flower Hybrid Anemone
Credit: Dency Kane


Anemones are lovely, delicate flowers that dance atop slender stems, giving them their poetic common name—windflower. Depending on the type, anemones bloom in spring, summer, or through fall with pretty, slightly cupped flowers in rose, pink, or white rising over distinctive, deeply lobed foliage. Plants grow best in partial shade but tolerate full sun in Northern regions. In some cases, you may need to divide plants frequently to prevent them from overtaking neighboring perennials.

Garden Plans for New Zealand Flax

classic container garden plan
Credit: Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Classic Container Garden Plan

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

Click here to get this garden plan!

path illustration
Credit: Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Fall Deckside Garden Plan

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

Download this free plan now.

Drought Slope Garden Plan
Credit: Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Drought-Tolerant Slope Garden Plan

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

Get this garden plan!


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