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Flax lily – maybe overplanted, but for a good reason

 

Flax lily 'Variegata'

Flax lily ‘Variegata’ as a bedding plant

The flax lily has been around for several years now and is a common component in numerous landscapes.  There are many great characteristics attributed to this Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ approved plant that have made it so popular to a degree that some may find it over-planted.  Lily flax is such a popular plant because it succeeds concerning both  esthetics and sustainability.

Flax lilies hail from Australia and Tasmania where the fibers have reportedly been used as a weaving material.  Beyond the utilitarian aspects of this plant, it has been fully adopted into the landscape as an ornamental.   Beyond the all-green version, the most popular cultivar is ‘Variegata’ sporting variegated leaves with white and green stripes. The two-inch-wide,  strap-like leaves are eighteen to twenty-four inches tall and form a neat expanding clump via creeping underground rhizomes eventually spreading to three-feet wide.  Held well above the foliage on long stalks are panicles of small blue flowers with notable yellow stamens.  These are a initially attractive, but can look weedy over time.  Simply remove the old flower stalks to keep a neat appearance.  These flowers could, but rarely produce, large blue berries.

Flax lilies are adapted to well-drained soils in a wide range of pH conditions, and planting sites can include from full-sun to part-shade light exposure.  While drought-tolerant, flax lilies will benefit from organic matter added to the soil prior to planting to help retain moisture.  Space plants two to two and one-half feet apart as a groundcover in mass plantings.  Water to establishment and use mulch to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.  Lily flax will also do well in  large containers as accent plants on patios and decks.   Large clumps can easily be divided in the spring to create new plants or to give away.

So, while you may find flax lily planted in many, many landscapes and developments, it has earned a spot in our hearts!  For more information on all types of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ plants, or to ask a question, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteMGLifeline/ .   Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov.

Resources:
UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions (2021) Flax Lily.  UF/IFAS Extension Service
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.
Landre, C. (2021) Blueberry Flax Lily.  South Florida Plant Guide.
UNF Landscape – Dianella tasmanica – Blue flax lily.  University of North Florida.
Wegley, J. (2021) Plant of the Month – Dianella tasmanica.  Dallas Arboretum Plant Trials.
Arnold, M. A. (2009) Tasmanian Flax Lily.  Landscape Plants For Texas And Environs.

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