Formio - Phormium

Formium in the garden

For many years the Phormium found in New Zealand have been available in nurseries, only recently are they used in gardens; until a few years ago, mainly small varieties were widespread in Europe, which were generally grown in pots, such as houseplants. In reality these are fairly rustic plants, which can easily be grown in the garden.
They belong to the agave family, and produce large tufts of long ribbon-like leaves, dark green, which in some varieties can be variegated, yellow, pink or white; there are also species with purplish red foliage.
In summer they produce thin stems that carry ears of white or cream flowers.

How to grow them

These are rhizomatous plants, which prefer very bright, even sunny positions; they can withstand brief frosts, and therefore find their place in the garden, even if it is good to repair them with the woven fabric during the most rigid winters, when the temperatures are lowered below -10 / -12 ° C; in fact, as is happening for other plants of southern origin, some nurseries are producing cultivars and hybrids that are particularly suitable for living in Italy, so let us inform ourselves of the rusticity of our Formio when buying it in the nursery.
These plants offer the advantage of being very adaptable and undemanding: they love soft, rich and very well drained soils, but they prove to be able to survive even in non-ideal conditions, even in stony or sandy soils; they withstand the marine climate, with strong winds and can also be planted in the city beds, where smog does not ruin them.

As mentioned above these plants develop a stocky rhizome; if we want to propagate our plant we can do it simply by dividing the rhizome into several portions. This operation is generally carried out in autumn, or in late summer: proceed with pruning the foliage to ground level, then the bread of roots is unearthed; with a well sharpened and clean knife you make cuts in the rhizome so as to produce small pieces of it, taking care to leave some roots in every bit. These pieces can be placed in a vase, so that they can be protected during the winter; in spring they will begin to sprout again and can be moved to their homes.
In this way we will be able to obtain formias identical to the mother plant, so as to guarantee us other plants with the same identical foliage.
It often happens that some formio hybrids, with time, tend to regress and produce green foliage or without streaks or zoning; in these cases it is good to remove the uncolored foliage, to prevent it from getting the upper hand over the decorative leaves.