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Perennials: Phormium tenax 'Atropurpureum'

Botanical name: Phormium tenax 'Atropurpureum'

Common name: New Zealand Flax, Purple

also known as (Flax Lily)

Average rating: 5.0

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created by:
chief cultivator

Mercer island, Wa

at a glance

Soil: damp, neutral, sand
Zones: 7a thru 11b

bird attracting, drought tolerant

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description for "Perennials: Phormium tenax 'Atropurpureum'"

New Zealand Flax is also known as Flax Lily. The botanical name derives from the Greek phormion (a mat), referring to the fiber that is produced from the leaves of some varieties. This is a remarkable family of herbaceous swordlike plants from New Zealand. Extremely versatile, they will tolerate wet or dry conditions and almost any soil type. Tolerant of heat, coastal wind, salt spray and desert heat. Half hardy to nearly hardy in most Northern Hemisphere regions. A marvelous plant for garden planing, as a windbreak in coastal regions and exciting in a tub or pot. Valued for the dramatic effect of their stiff, vertical leaves and reddish-purple foliage color. In summer, they produce panicles of flowers that attract nectar-feeding birds. The fiber of these flaxes has been used commercially but is now largely confined to traditional Maori crafts. Grow in fertile, moist but well drained soil in full sun. Where marginally hardy, provide a deep, dry mulch in winter or overwinter indoors in a cold greenhouse. Red panicles can be removed if unwanted to promote continual production of the more ornamental leaves. Clumping growth habit with foliage fanning out. Sun or light shade.

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We love, love, love this plant in our yard. There are perhaps one dozen of these plants in our yard, and their deep burgundy color provides a rich earthiness that is easily complimented by the addition of just about any color of flower next it it. Performs well with more water than suggested at the nursery.