New Zealand Flax Phormium 'Sundowner' (v)

👤 Non-toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
flax lily 'Sundowner'


Phormium 'Sundowner', commonly known as New Zealand Flax, is a striking ornamental plant recognized for its broad, sword-like leaves. The foliage of 'Sundowner' displays a rich tapestry of colors, with leaves typically featuring shades of green tinged with bronze and edged in hues of pink, red, or burgundy. The rich coloration can create a dramatic appearance, especially when sunlight filters through the leaves accentuating their colors and patterns. The leaves grow in a clumping manner, emerging from the base of the plant and arching gracefully outward, which gives New Zealand Flax a full, robust appearance. This form also allows the plant to create a dense and textured visual impact in any landscape. The leaves are long and strap-like with a leathery texture that adds to their bold character. The edges of the leaves can be quite sharp, so care should be taken when handling them. During the flowering season, New Zealand Flax may produce tall spikes that stand out above the foliage. These flower spikes bear clusters of tubular flowers that are appealing to birds and beneficial insects. The creamy yellow or red hues of the flowers provide a lovely contrast to the vibrant leaf colors, enhancing the overall appeal of the plant. New Zealand Flax is not only admired for its ornamental qualities but also for its resilience and ability to adapt to various conditions. The variation 'Sundowner' is a choice cultivar for those looking to add both color interest and architectural form to their gardens without focusing on the plant's specific dimensions.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      New Zealand Flax, Flax Lily, Phormium

    • Common names

      Phormium 'Sundowner'

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      The New Zealand Flax is not considered highly toxic to humans. That being said, if ingested in large quantities, it may cause irritation of the digestive tract. Minor symptoms could include nausea or diarrhea, but significant or life-threatening toxic effects are rare from ingestion of New Zealand Flax.

    • To pets

      The New Zealand Flax is also not highly toxic to pets, but it can cause mild gastrointestinal upset if ingested. Symptoms of poisoning in pets may include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. While it is not generally considered to be a seriously poisonous plant, pet owners should prevent pets from ingesting this plant to avoid potential discomfort or illness.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Height

      4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 meters)

    • Spread

      2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area

      New Zealand


  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental Appeal: Adds visual interest to gardens with its striking bronze-green leaves edged with pink and red.
    • Low Maintenance: Requires minimal care once established, making it suitable for busy gardeners.
    • Drought Tolerance: Capable of surviving in dry conditions once mature, making it ideal for water-conservation landscapes.
    • Pest Resistance: Generally resistant to common garden pests, reducing the need for chemical treatments.
    • Versatility: Can be used in a variety of landscape settings, including borders, containers, and as a focal point.
    • Year-Round Interest: Evergreen foliage provides year-round beauty and structure to the garden.
    • Wildlife Attraction: Can attract birds with its nectar-rich flowers.
    • Erosion Control: Can be used to stabilize slopes and prevent soil erosion.
    • Cultural Significance: Sometimes used in traditional Maori weaving practices.
    • Architectural Plant: Its form and color can provide architectural interest in garden design.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    This plant is not used for medical purposes.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • New Zealand flax fibers extracted from Phormium 'Sundowner' can be used in weaving and traditional Maori crafts such as baskets, mats, and fishing nets due to their strength and flexibility.
    • Its dramatic foliage serves as a sanctuary for small wildlife, offering shelter and potentially a habitat to various insects and small birds.
    • As a coastal plant, New Zealand flax is often planted to help in erosion control because it has a robust root system that stabilizes the soil.
    • Dried leaves of the New Zealand flax can be used in floral arrangements and crafts for their unique texture and form.
    • The rigid, sword-shaped leaves are sometimes used in outdoor survival situations to create makeshift containers or as binding material.
    • Due to its dense clump-forming habit, the New Zealand flax can also serve as a natural windbreak in gardens exposed to strong winds.
    • The plant sometimes functions as a living fence or privacy screen due to its tall and dense growth.
    • In garden design, Phormium 'Sundowner' is used as an accent plant because of its colorful leaves that add contrast to green landscapes.
    • Gardeners may use cut leaves as a natural mulch to conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds.
    • As part of cultural practices, the New Zealand flax may be incorporated into educational programs to teach about the importance of native plants in traditional and modern applications.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    New Zealand Flax is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    New Zealand Flax is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Resilience: The Phormium plant, also known as New Zealand Flax, is known for its toughness and ability to withstand harsh conditions, making it a symbol of resilience and endurance.
    • Versatility: With its varied uses in traditional Maori culture, from weaving to medicinal purposes, New Zealand Flax represents adaptability and resourcefulness.
    • Beauty in Function: New Zealand Flax's striking appearance and useful nature signify the harmony of beauty and practicality.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring-Early Summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    New Zealand Flax should be watered thoroughly, allowing the top inch of soil to dry out before the next watering. Generally, during active growth in the spring and summer, you might find yourself watering approximately once a week, providing about 1 gallon of water per plant each time, depending on the climate and weather conditions. In the cooler months of fall and winter, reduce watering frequency to every other week or less, as the plant's water needs decrease. It's crucial not to overwater, to prevent root rot, so always check the soil moisture level before watering.

  • sunLight

    New Zealand Flax does best in full sun to partial shade. It requires at least 6 hours of sunlight daily to maintain its vibrant leaf coloring, but it can also tolerate light shade, especially in regions with very hot summers. The ideal spot for this plant would be an area that receives bright, indirect light or morning sun with some protection from the intense afternoon rays.

  • thermometerTemperature

    New Zealand Flax thrives in temperatures ranging from 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit but can survive in temperatures down to 20 degrees. It's best to protect the plant from frost, so in areas where temperatures consistently fall below 25 degrees, it's advisable to grow it in pots that can be moved indoors or provide some form of frost protection. The ideal temperature for promoting active growth is between 60 and 70 degrees.

  • scissorsPruning

    New Zealand Flax should be pruned to remove old or damaged leaves and to maintain its shape. Pruning can be done at any time of the year, but it is best carried out in the spring or early summer. An annual tidy-up to remove dead foliage and spent flower stalks encourages new growth and keeps the plant looking its best. There is no set frequency for pruning; instead, it should be done as needed.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    New Zealand Flax prefers well-draining soil rich in organic matter with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. A mix of garden soil, compost, and river sand or perlite can provide good drainage and nutrient content suitable for this plant.

  • plantRepotting

    New Zealand Flax should be repotted every 2 to 3 years to refresh the soil and accommodate the growth of its roots. It's best to repot in the spring before the growth season begins.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    New Zealand Flax is adaptable and does well in average humidity conditions. It does not require any special humidity levels, making it suitable for typical outdoor environments.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place New Zealand Flax in bright light and use well-draining soil.

    • Outdoor

      Ensure full sun to partial shade and protect from harsh winds.

    • Hardiness zone

      8-11 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Phormium 'Sundowner', also known as New Zealand Flax, begins its life as a seed, which germinates in warm, moist soil conditions, typically in spring. The young plant, or seedling, emerges and grows into a clump of rigid, sword-shaped leaves, with the plant focusing on leaf development and root establishment during its juvenile phase. As the plant matures, which can take several years, it develops a strong root system and increases in size, forming a dense clump with leaves that can reach up to several feet in length. During the mature phase, which occurs in early summer, Phormium 'Sundowner' may produce tall, dramatic flower spikes with tubular flowers that are appealing to birds and insects, although flowering can be infrequent. After pollination, seed capsules develop, which eventually dry and release seeds to start the next generation. The life span of New Zealand Flax is generally long, but individual clumps may eventually start to die back in the center, at which point division or propagation may be necessary to rejuvenate and continue the growth cycle.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring-Early Summer

    • The New Zealand Flax 'Sundowner' is best propagated through division, which is typically done in the spring or early summer. Division involves separating the plant's clumps into smaller sections, ensuring that each section has roots and at least one growing point or fan of leaves. The sections should be carefully excavated from the ground, then the root ball can be cut or pulled apart into divisions, each with a good amount of roots attached. The divisions are then replanted at a similar depth to which they were growing previously, ideally spaced about 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) apart to allow room for growth. It's important to water the new plants thoroughly after planting to help establish them in their new location.