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How to reduce a large Phormium?!


By Melsy

United Kingdom Gb

I have a large Phormium (N.Z Flax) whcih needs reducing. It is against a fence on one side, so not easy to get at and it is 5 ft wide and about 8 ft high. Do I chip away at the circumference or attempt to dig it up? How deep are the roots?? Any ideas as to how to do this without breaking the plant (or my back) would be much appreciated, thanks.

On plant Phormium tenax



Hi Meisy. That is one very big Phormium. I have I think 8 or 10 different ones but nothing approaching that size.

I am therefore guessing (educated guess from experience of smaller plants).

I don't suppose you want to go to the expense of bringing in a mechanical digger but I would certainly bring in a strong guy with a very sharp digging instrument, or even instruments i.e. super quality spade. I wouldn't worry about breaking the crown. it will I am sure, recover. And so will the bits you cut off as long as you take plenty of root with them so go deep. I reckon it will be pretty hard work but I would split it. This is a normal method of propagation anyway. If you get to lift a very large section of root that is very woody, you can even get a hand saw to cut it up. If you do manage to lift it as a whole (and I would doubt it) then simply hack it into several pieces and replant. You can always sell any parts you don't want to transplant.

Somebody with experience of this size of plant (a New Zealander?) may disagree but I am pretty sure you can be brutal without killing it.


14 Nov, 2008


Having dug out a well-established phormium last autumn, I can offer some advice.
While the roots are not excessively deep, they are tenacious. To reduce the circumference, you need to get right in at ground level and look for bunches of leaves forming crowns. These can be seperated off gradually with a sharp spade and replanted.
Digging the whole thing out is a big job and you would still need to seperate some crowns off before replanting.
Good luck

14 Nov, 2008


Thanks Andrew. Glad someone with experience of large plants could put some detail on. I'm just glad I didn't get it too wrong. LOL.


14 Nov, 2008


I agree with John and Andrew, they do grow very large in this area.
Yours must weigh something like half a ton.
We divided some into quarters a few years ago with a chain saw, leaving in 1 quarter.
They are the same size again now.

14 Nov, 2008


I divided one (tiny in comparison to yours) last year - it was one heck of a job and took hours! The only advice I can offer other than the above is that I found a hacksaw very useful for sawing the plant in half! Sounds brutel, but it was out of despiration in the end and the plant has bounced back no problems at all. Good luck...

14 Nov, 2008


Or just cut it back all over to a foot high and it will regrow over several years!

21 Jun, 2010


Yes they get big, and I have about 8 good sized Tenax in a half acre as feature plants ... some this year look untidy due to cold and wet, a couple want reducing, the thought had passed my mind (seriously!) of building a small but well wood fueled bonfire in the centre of ones i can "do without", and seeing the result ... can envisage the straps being severed at the very least.. knowing just how tough they are I reckon parts will survive .. sounds brutal but practical, reducing the severe work load.
Anyone tried fire ?

12 May, 2018

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