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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Flax Lily :: How-to Maintenance

Flax Lily (Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata') has been utilized to the fullest at Hoe and Shovel and several posts have been previously written about my admiration for it. By some standards it is probably over-used. When I first fell in love with it I implemented it mostly as an edging plant for curvaceous borders. Once established I began dividing it and placing it in container plants as vertical interest and sometimes clumping it in groups within a planting bed.

It IS a versatile Florida-Friendly plant with that much-loved upright habit that tends to draw my attention in many plant varieties.

I almost always recommend flax lily to my clients as it is a low maintenance, highly drought tolerant, cold hardy in winter plant that remarkably adapts well to either the sun or shade.

What's NOT to love, right?

Over time I've discovered that it has some attributes that aren't particularly exciting.

The most noticeable being the older, outer leaves on each fan blade eventually die and turn brown. We've all heard about flax lily rust, too. I can live with them showing a little bit of rust but along with the aging leaves the overall plant can eventually become unsightly.

With hundreds (mostly from divisions) of flax lily planted throughout the garden it was time to find a solution.

If you've been wondering what to do to help your flax lily come alive and return to that beautiful vigor you first loved about these great plants follow along for a simple how-to pictorial on cleaning them out.

One by one it was my aim to clean out every 'blade' that displayed any sign of death. It was a scary thought at first. What in the world would be left of each plant? Rather than pulling out just the brown leaves I decided to boldly cut back the entire blade. Each one displaying any sign of age. Plant by plant.

Using a sharp pair of hand pruners remove the entire blade by cutting it at the base. This is a good time to pull back some of the leaves (or mulch) that have piled up around the bottom. No mulch at the base is good for the plant in any instance as it helps air circulation and allows for better drainage to the roots.

While it seemed like a severe move at first to remove so much foliage from each plant (debris from two pruned plants above) I have a good feeling that with Florida's heat and humidity they will return quickly. And be healthier going into the summer.

It was encouraging to see all the new growth/blades revealed once the old ones were thinned out.

And the final results were refreshing ... much thinner and smaller in size but so healthy in appearance. Completing this task actually gave the whole garden a bit of a face lift.

How does your flax lily grow? I see these issues all around town so I'm wondering if gardeners have had the same experience as I have here and what did you do about it???

Happy gardening!!!


  1. I didn't think to trim all the way down to the crown! I'm gonna give it a go! I love these plants too. So much drama for so little care! Thanks, Meems!

  2. Meems: Thank you for another very informative post! I also have flax lilies in the containers, grond, around the tree base. I was wondering recently why my flax lilies look a little tired. I thought I need to give them more water. Now I know what to do, I am going to give them some haircut now :) Thanks!

  3. Great advice thanks. We grow them here in Oz as well.

  4. Thanks, Meems. Mine is new this winter, but I'll definitely keep your tip at the ready.

  5. I recently purchased some to start an edge in a shady bed - I thought the light color would brighten it up a bit. Yours look lovely, and I am sure they will feel better after their trim.

  6. Thank you,thank you for this post.I've had the same thing going on with mine.I was cutting the bad parts out just 'cause they bothered me.Good thing I have sharp pruners...

  7. In Jacksonville, they die back to the ground every winter. So each Jan-Feb, I easily remove all of the dead stuff. They come up nice and clean a few weeks later. So in essence, Mother Nature does the same thing here that you are doing there!

    I do the same thing with many of my ferns. Rather than hand clean around them each spring, I just cut them back completely to the ground in late winter and easily remove everything - dead stuff and a scraggly fronds. A few weeks later, looks like I bought new plants! (Except they fill in much more quickly than new plants, due to established roots.)

    Jacksonville, FL

  8. Hey Meems...In my garden the flax lilys planted in the sun take a hit each winter, so I've stopped using them as border plants since they were becoming high maintenance for me to cut them back each spring. I now plant them in a nice-sized clump in places that need brightening. I'm pleased with the effect and it's a lot less work. I also noticed that after being cold-damaged quite a few would come back in a solid green form. They were okay looking but not as nice as the variegated.

  9. Oh my, looks like you have added another project to my list. I think it is a good idea.


  10. What a useful post! Even if they are overused, obviously they do well enough to warrant their use... especially if you treat them in the same way you showed us. The resulting plants really do look a lot healthier... I wonder if they naturally get cut back by fire or other forces in their natural habitat.

  11. I bought one several years ago as an experiment planting. At the time they were very new down here in South Florida. I have been meaning to divide it and use it elsewhere. In my last blog post @ newspaper and mulch, I have a photo of me with my bromeliads with the flax there also. You cant see in the photo how huge it really is. Thank you for the post.

  12. My goodness, Meems! With all the flax lilies you have that is a big job. I'm hoping my little ones will need pruning back next year. Mine haven't grown to the size that yours have. I think cleaning them up made a huge difference in their look.

    On a side note, where do you get your pine straw? I would like to use some for a path like you did in your new front area.

  13. I live in VillaRosa in Lutz and we have used Flax lily in a number of our common property beds. This past spring our landscaping company recommended we clean out and cut back the whole bed to about 4 inches from the ground. In no time at all the leaves were growing back and the lilies looked refreshed and new!

  14. This posting came at the perfect time, Meems. I too have been wondering what to do about the rust on many of my flax lilies. I have quite a large bed of them mixed with bulbine). I had pulled out all the dead leaves but didn't think to cut back the entire plant. Aha! I will do this too, and just try to overlook the "stubs" till they regrow. Thanks for a very useful post!

  15. Daisy,
    I agree... a great plant on so many levels.

    Once established they don't require much water at all. After pruning I think they will look lots better.

    They are great plants aren't they!

  16. Sherry,
    It's taken 1.5yr for mine to look haggard.

    I think you will be very happy with them in your shady garden. They do brighten up any area.

    Cleaning them out completely really gave them a nice lift.

    I had no idea they died back all together up there... but I suppose it is the same concept...they come back looking great. Sounds like you've got it figured out for them and the ferns.

    Using them as accents is a great idea, too.

    I feel like mine sail through winter but over time they get a little large and need thinning. Still, the little bit of maintenance they require is well worth the trouble once a year. I see them remaining a favorite for borders. I can't say I've noticed any of mine trying to revert back to green. I would be disappointed if they did. :-)

  17. Siesta Sister,
    I hate to add to any to-do list but I think you will be very pleased with the results. :-)

    Overused is okay with me when a plant is a workhorse like flax lily.

    I bought a few when they were first introduced and immediately started dividing them.

    It took me about 8 hours all together. Not bad for the good results. I'm sure yours will take off this year. I buy my pine straw by the bale at Cypress Creek on Florida Ave.

    I can see how that would work as well. I bet they look fabulous now!

    I don't think it won't take very long for them to fill back in. The lilies will appreciate the refresher.

  18. Just stopping by to say HI.. Haven't heard from you in awhile--so wanted to see how your garden is doing.. Looks like you are doing GREAT...


  19. How do I deal with rust on my Flax Lilies? When I purchased them there was a small bit of rust on the leaves. Someone told Copper Sulfate might work. I hesitate to use it because I'm not sure it's the best thing.

  20. Rust on flax lilies is common. I cut mine out but here is a document to read that might help you...

  21. I'm in Texas and my front beds are lined with Dianellas. They are getting out of control. I need to stop them from spreading. I've thinned them out several times. a ton of work when you have about 40 of them. Any suggestions out there would be appreciated.


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