phormium death? not so fast

Megan did a post about coastal gardens and how well Phormiums do there…blooming, even. I didn’t even know they did that until I saw a hothouse specimen in full bloom at Cistus. While there, R looked at my plant selections and asked why I didn’t go for one of those big, dramatic plants with the strappy leaves. I explained about recent flax deaths in Portland gardens.


But what have we here? Weeding in the east berm uncovered the remnants of Phormium tenax astropurpurea given up for lost. I took a division to move to the dry berm (foolish, probably, but at this point I figured what have I got to lose?), filled in with amended soil and mulched with gravel. It had been in the ground for about 3 years before we started having nordic winters, so maybe the root system was strong enough to see it through.


There is the transplant, way in the back, to the left of the yucca bloom. We shall see.


Then our good friends moved from their big old Victorian house into a condo and gave us their collection of potted plants. Among them was this colorful flax. I plan to move it to the covered deck for the winter.

Never say “never” is, I guess, the moral to this story. I would not have laid out cash to add more of these plants, but I do love them, and under these circumstances I am sure willing to give them another chance (and even provide a little extra tlc to help them along).

26 Responses to “phormium death? not so fast”

  1. Loree/ danger garden Says:

    YAY! That is great news. I’ve discovered a few of mine attempting to stage a come-back. They’ll probably never be as grand as they once were but it’s nice that they are trying.

  2. ricki Says:

    Loree~You took such good care of yours…you deserve to reap rewards.

  3. Megan Says:

    I like a plant with a good will to survive, it looks like you have one on your hands there. Lucky you, to get your hands on a potted specimen that looks pretty happy.
    I’ve seen other phormiums make surprising comebacks too. I wonder sometimes how many plants are lost because we give up on them too soon. This year I’m leaving my lost plants in place. I see signs of life on one of my phormiums too. It doesn’t look very pretty, but if it makes it through the next winter intact, I hope it’ll put on a better show next year.

  4. Karen Says:

    It’s nice to see something come back from presumed death. I had the same experience with my (seemingly foolish) first time flax purchase last year. Thought it croaked but left it in the ground and now there are tentative signs of life. But, as Megan says, if I’d yanked it in May or June, I wouldn’t have seen them, so I’m glad I waited. Maybe it will make it if we have a “normal” winter (what even is that anymore?). Free potted plants, what a score! Nice of your friend to think of you. That pot is gorgeous!

  5. ricki Says:

    Megan~Lax garden clean-up habits sometimes pay off.

    Karen~Wish I knew what the new normal might turn out to be.

  6. Linda Says:

    I just bought a cheap Fred meyer Phormium and a Cordyline- who knows we could have a mild winter?
    I found a lost Podophyllum peltatum the other day…

  7. ricki Says:

    Linda~Acts of faith are always inspiring.

  8. lostlandscape (James) Says:

    Congratulations on your rediscovery! I hope it makes it. These are tough plants for sure. I have one that never got enough attention, and then it was overgrown by a monster aloe that I’d planted too close to it. I was surprised not long ago to see it still alive. You’ve inspired me to give it a better home.

  9. ricki Says:

    James~I should think you would be able to keep these babies happy with one hand tied behind your back. Please be kind, if only for those of us who struggle to have them in our gardens.

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