large, sword-shaped leaves of the New Zealand flax plant
Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden, 2001-2010
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New Zealand flax

(Phormium tenax)

Unfussy and dramatic, New Zealand flax is grown mostly for its large, sword-shaped leaves, which are often streaked with cream, bronze, purple or rose against a green background. Stalks with red flowers shoot up to 12 feet high in summer. Container-size plants are smaller and usually don't bloom.

Grows 1-6 feet tall and 1-3 feet wide, depending on variety. Prefers full sun to part shade; little to regular water. Perennial in zones 9-11, but will usually regrow from roots if it dies back in zones 7 and 8.
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