Phormium tenax: a favourite plant

Photo of Phormium tenax

Phormium Tenax originate from New Zealand and have long strappy leaves which are quite sharp and pointed - make sure not to plant them where people may brush past! The leaf colour varies from green to variaged to deep purple and when they flower the flower is a tall spike.

Writing this in the middle of winter I am really appreciating the view of my Phormium Tenax which are maintaining interest in beds where many of the other plants have died back or are looking pretty bare without their leaves. I have a green Phormium Tenax next to my patio as I ultimately want a lush almost tropical feel here, with Phormium, Cannas, a hardy palm and bamboo.

I also have a purple variety of Phormium Tenax in three of my pots which tend to give a bit of background structure in the summer but in the winter keep my patio looking good as most other pots are withdrawn.

People usually think of phormiums as tall dramatic plants such as those in the Phormium tenax 'Purpureum group' but there are smaller more delicate varieties available such as 'Back in Black' which only grows to about 70cm rather than up to 2m.

Phormium tenax Growing Guide

Phormiums like full sun or partial shade. They will grow in most soils. Whilst not fully hardy they have so far survived the severe winters we have here in the SW France with no apparent problems. If a particularly severe frost is forecast then protect them with flece. They grow quite quickly and can be divided in the spring or summer to increase stocks. They grow well in the garden and in pots.

With their upright spiky habit and purple, red, green or variagated varieties these are a must to give structure and winter interest to your garden. They will achieve more than 2metres in height. Mine have not flowered yet but when they do the flowers are magnificent, standing up above the plant on a tall spike, with clumps of red flowers.

Planting Combinations

Phormium Tenax look very good in both tropical gardens and mediterranean gardens. Their strappy leaves look particularly striking when planted near vibrantyl coloured cannas or dahlias adding to the tropical feel. In mediterranean gardens perhaps grow in gravel or with stones around the base to emphasise their foliage.

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