Great Plants – Flax

Native to New Zealand, there are two flax species in the Phormium family. The larger of the two, Phormium tenax (common flax), is predominantly a coastal flax, but will grow all over the country. It produces upright seedpods growing from its stems. Phormium cookianum (mountain flax) is smaller and is found at higher altitudes and along exposed coastlines. The seedpods of the cookianum species hang down.

There are many hybrids and cultivars available in a variety of colours. The structure of these flaxes can vary from dropping to upright sword-like leaves.


Max-height: 1.5 – 3m depending on the species

Where to plant: With a clumping habit, flaxes are a great addition to any garden – big or small. Hardy plants, they prefer full sun to part shade and make superb garden features.

Why to plant: Unique to New Zealand, harakeke is one of our oldest plant species. It is found throughout the country, is easy to grow and extremely frost and drought hardy. Flaxes bear colourful flowers in spring and summer, which attract native birds such as tui, as well as many exotic species.

Flax brings texture and colour into the garden all year round – a sometimes welcome reprieve in winter. It also fares well alongside deciduous plants.

How to plant: When planted in groups, flaxes can create dramatic patches of colour and texture in your landscape. Harakeke looks excellent planted alongside both native and exotic species. It can surround grasses and sedges, water features and pool areas and works great as a pot plant. Hardy and tolerant of our sometimes harsh coastal environment, phormium makes an excellent windbreak solution.