Phormium is a genus of evergreen perennial plants in family Hemerocallidaceae, comprising two species, Phormium cookianum and Phormium tenax. It is also known as Flax Lily.
Phormium has stiff, sword-shaped leaves up to three meters long and 12.5 cm wide. The leaves are usually darkish green but sometimes have colored edges and central ribs. The cultivated varieties has leaves that range from light green through pink to deep russet bronze. There are variegated cultivars with leaves marked by contrasting stripes in shades of green, red, bronze, pink and yellow.
The flowers stalks can be up to five metres long, projecting high above the foliage. Clumps of curving tube-like flowers, which turn bright red when mature, produce large quantities of nectar to attract all nectar feeding birds including the tui and insects. The seedpods are developed after pollination, each contain hundreds of seeds which are later dispersed by the wind.
Many of the most popular plants have been derived from Phormium tenax (New Zealand Flax). Phormium tenax is an evergreen, clump-forming perennial plant, native to New Zealand and Norfolk Island. It is an important fibre plant and a popular ornamental plant. The leaves are strap-like of up to two meters long, from which a much taller flowering shoot, with dramatic yellow or red flowers are borne. Phormium tenax is a coastal cover plant and also as the breeding habitat for the endangered Yellow-eyed Penguin. The Jumping spider (Trite planiceps) lives predominantly in the rolled-up leaves of this species. P. 'Bronze Baby', 80 cm high and across, has bronze-purple, arching leaves. P. 'Dazzler', 1 meter high and across, has bronze-maroon with red and pink stripes, arching leaves. P.'Sundrowner' has leaves that are striped with bronze, green and rose-pink.
Phormium cookianum (Mountain flax) is a perennial plant that is native to New Zealand. It is less common than Phormium tenax. It has greenish, yellow or orange flowers that are followed by twisted seed pods. Phormium cookianum is parent plant of 'Maori Sunrise', which has yellow and pink striped leaves with bronze edges.
Plant Phormium in full sun, in moisture-retentive but well-drained soil. Take care when gardening around Phormium plants as the leaves are sharply pointed. The plant is also good in containers. Propagation is by seed or division in spring. Mealybugs is pest that affect the growth of Phormium.