Return to the California Gardening Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

Posted by linelle 9 (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 7, 14 at 12:51

Hi, first time posting on this forum. I'm in the North Bay Area.

I had my small yard redone completely in Spring 2011, all drought-tolerant plants on a new drip system. I have four phormiums (phormia?) Amazing Red. Love them. First picture is of the one in question the day it went in.

phormium 2011

Today, 3 years later, this plant is big and beautiful. But, I don't want it to get any bigger, being right by the entrance to my house. If it gets any larger, do I have any other options besides removing it?

phormium 2014


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

This plant was growing in my front yard when I bought my house, and we have cut it back several times, and it still makes flowers. It doesn't look as good cut, but if you are careful, you can prune/thin it into a nice shape. To me, they look very corporate, and we got rid of most of them but kept one.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

  • Posted by nil13 z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Wa (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 7, 14 at 21:40

That looks awfully big for amazing red. If it is amazing ref, I doubt it will get any bigger. If it does get bigger, it's not Amazing red.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

publickman, "corporate"? LOL. I guess they do use them in front of business parks, but I never thought mine looked corporate. They add some nice height and texture to my yard.

nil13, I'm pretty sure it's Amazing Red. It was recommended and purchased by my landscape designer and I trust she got what's on the plans. I've got another one near the sidewalk that's just as big. Last year it send out some flowers. If it gets no bigger, I will be happy. If it does, I'll probably call in an expert and decide what to do.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

Get that phormium away from your house or you will be moving. Flax need to be out in the open because they do nothing more than continue to expand in diameter to infinity. I just dug up a green one I could not lift and a smaller one that smashed my garden cart to pieces when I used it to move it. I liked that cart. They are gorgeous, but pure evil. Big yards are best for them. Like an arboretum or botanical garden maybe? You can maintain the size of what you have by using a serrated bread knife (best garden tool ever), to trim the blades back at the base around the perimeter. Though, that's what I was doing prior to digging those two up...


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

  • Posted by hoovb z9 Southern CA (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 8, 14 at 0:25

My 'Amazing Red' has been in the same spot about 10 years, it hasn't grown much past a certain point. What you can do is carefully pull/dig some of the outer "fans" off of the perimeter of the plant, (give it a good soaking a few days previous) or you can dig it up, split it, and replant half of it a little farther away from the porch. It is not as vigorous as the species P. tenax--it's pretty well-behaved as Phormiums go.

Pretty yard, by the way.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

This is the other one I dug up which is a reddish brown color, but also was getting huge. I moved it to the front above the road to block a corner of the yard where the deer come in. It appears green here but its brown with red tinges. I think whatever I have might be returning to the base breed. This is the one that wrecked my cart. I left one in the back that is this color and I have a cream and green variety that stays more compact and is more of a drooping habit than upright. I have a friend that refers to my garden as Jurassic Park.

This post was edited by elysianfields on Sat, Apr 12, 14 at 1:18


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

hoovb, thanks for the compliment! My street has small lots with puny front yards and mostly lawns. My nextdoor neighbors and I have taken our lawns out, bermed a bit, put in dry creek beds and drought-tolerant plants. It's kinda carefree, but a few surprises too. Like discovering that Calif. poppies will come back, and back, and back...

Off to the right in my second photo is an oakleaf hydrangea that bloomed its first year but not the following two. My bad (pruned and didn't know what I was doing). I left it totally alone this past year and I have abundant blooms ready to bust forth. So exciting!!


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

  • Posted by hoovb z9 Southern CA (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 8, 14 at 15:34

There is nothing like the painful task of having to dig out a big plant to teach a gardener to determine mature size and site plants carefully.

It's how I learned.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

I didn't choose any of my plants. That's why my landscape designer got the big bucks. :) I did get to approve before work began. I was pretty much unfamiliar with everything.

Speaking of size, my miscanthus gets enormous! Another big (!) surprise. At least I can whack it back in the fall.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

  • Posted by nil13 z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Wa (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 8, 14 at 20:57

Oh I'm sure the designer spec'd out amazing red, but that doesn't mean that is what it is. I have spec'd out a lot of plants in my day and every now and then the growers send me the wrong plant. Sometimes it is obvious and I catch it. Other times it isn't and the client and I don't catch it for a few years when a plant gets ginormous. It is sometimes very difficult to tell the difference between different cultivars when the plants are small. But when it happens and you accidentally get a big cultivar instead of a small one, it is best to just rip out the errant plant and put the right one in.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

  • Posted by nil13 z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Wa (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 8, 14 at 21:00

Elysianfields, not all phormiums are 8 foot tall monsters. Some cultivars only get a foot tall and wide.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 8, 14 at 21:21

Maybe what's "Amazing" is how much bigger it gets than what you expected.

Plant vendors understate growth potential of plants all the time - shoppers were scared of big plants even before so many ended up with the tiny outdoor spaces that are common now.

The fact is that truly dwarf landscape plants cost a lot more to produce than those that size up quickly - and keep on getting bigger. Meanwhile much of the market continues to be in a victory garden/bad economy mindset, with many garden center visitors going out the door primarily, if not exclusively with small, cheap plants like flowering annuals and vegetable starts. Forces continue to be in place that run counter to a galaxy of small-growing, yet gently priced decorative plants being presented to those trying to landscape modern small yards. It will still be easy for the unwary to go home with something that explodes out of the desired character, after becoming well established and having some years behind it.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

Phormium aside, your yard is quite pretty. We're thinking about pulling our grass up too, and our front yard looks to be about your size. Not to hijack or anything, but any chance you could post a few more pics of your landscaping? Thanks!


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

Well, I do believe that my landscaper purchased my plants from a reputable nursery fully believing they were what they were purported to be. She designed for my smaller space. I don't blame anyone for Darth Phormium, nor am I overly alarmed at its current size. It will stay put this year, although I may trim some of the outlying fans. If it gets any larger, I can have it removed (by others) and put something else in its place. Life will go on.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

nika, happy to tell you a bit about my yard. Small house on small lot. The front yard is approx. 28x40, a little larger than my neighbors since my house is smaller and set back a bit further. Originally every house on the street had a lawn and two flowering pears. Flowering pears are way too big for these little front yards and the roots wreaked havoc. Many of the trees came down in heavy winds. Mine stood firm but they needed regular pruning. I was sad to remove them, but they had to go. During the summer they provided great shade on the west side, but I craved more sun-loving plants.

Original yard (early spring)
old yard

My nextdoor neighbors have always had drought-tolerant plants instead of a lawn. My city has a cash incentive to take out front lawns. So I had mine done in 2011, pretty much exactly this date.

2011
Plants going in:
yard during

Drip:
I took 70-80 photos of every inch of drip line so I'd know where things were once they were covered. Hah! Once everything grows, it's hard to get your bearings. I just have to gently dig with my hands in the general vicinity until I find the lines.

drip

2011 - after the mulch
before2

before3

At that time, the front walk seemed huge and the dry creek bed looked ridiculous. Not anymore. I love the dry creek bed.

2014 - April 9
front yd right

front yd side

front yd porch

It's overcast this morning, so the colors are a little dull. Stuff is nowhere in full bloom. In the photo directly above, there's a bare spot in about the center. I trimmed a cotoneaster way way back and it ain't looking so hot. If it doesn't come back, I'll just do something else there, not another one.

Two yards - I couldn't get a real wide angle shot, but you can see how my neighbor's yard on the left basically blends with mine.

two yards

Oh yeah, Poppy Town! Two years ago I decided I wanted a pop of color in the bare spots of my yard and tossed some California poppy seeds about. :) The gift that keeps on giving.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 9, 14 at 13:17

Here the size depiction has crept up out of the usual "18-24 inches tall" and the photo used shows a bigger, broader leaved, less purple plant than on commercial sites presenting it as a dwarf, fine-leaved deeply colored type - including one that specifically states it is "stable".

Bing has pictures showing stock in the process of growing out of the "true" condition, as well as a wiki picture of a bigger etc. example dating from 2005.

On another subject your purple Japanese maple is going to be growing across your drive within a few years, and is planning to grow much taller and wider than it is now. If it were mine I would dig it up next winter and move it to an appropriate spot for an accent point - where it is now it throws the bed out of balance, competes for visual dominance with the one other tree in view, back by the house.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plants Express


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

bboy, hmmm, interesting take on my Japanese maple (Bloodgood). Where would you move it? My front yard is the extent of my space.

I like it where it is right now. I hadn't really planned to rearrange things, but I do appreciate your input, which I will tuck away and ask my "people" about it one day.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

elysianfields said:
serrated bread knife (best garden tool ever)

Whoa! I have a drawerful of Victorinox serrated knives, the size of a butter knife but serrated. Like a steak knife, but not pointy. I use them for all my cooking prep and even as a dinner knife. My sister-in-law lives in Zurich and brings a bunch of them whenever she visits. So, I can sacrifice one for the cause.

Just trimmed Darth Phorium a bit. The knife cut like buttah, esp. when you hit the edge just right. No sore hand from shears. Awesome tool!!! BTW, cleaned out the dry leaves and a few of the excessively long ones and told Darth to behave himself and he could stay where he is.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

I use that best garden tool ever on ivy too, as my back garden is walled with it coming in from the woods. I do love how your garden turned out and the Japanese maple is a great anchor. Not too heavy, not too light, just high enough. Though I think that one phormium is enough for the size of your garden, keep the one in the middle across from the garage and remove the one by the house and the sidewalk. You could replace them with something more see through like thatching reed, euphorbia cyparissius or euphorbia amygdaloides purpurea for a mounding plant in a darker color vein. Offer the phormiums to another gardener if you are comfortable they come dig and doo the move. Just my opinion though. I'm trying one more phormium in front to see if stays on the more compact side.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

elysianfields, thanks for the tips. I have 4 Amazing Reds, two opposite the garage, on either side of the creek bed. They are smaller than the ones next to my front door and the sidewalk. I actually like the visual barrier the one on the sidewalk presents, giving a little more privacy than these small yards normally afford. But I will be open and consider my options. I'll need to look up the plants you've suggested. What is the one in your photo? It's lovely.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

Wow your yard is beautiful! Thanks for the photos and all of the info -- it's most helpful! It's funny you're talking about a bloodgood maple... I just posted on the container forum a question about a bloodgood that I inherited from the previous owner of our house, but ours is in a container.

Cracking up at Darth Phormium btw... :)


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

Thanks nika! The bloodgood is actually a much brighter red when the sun is out. It's a sweet tree, very light and graceful in the breeze, a nice shape. I hope yours is happy and healthy. Mine gets full sun all day, soil and drainage are good. The only feeding my yard gets is arbor mulch applied every other year. Clearly the phormiums are getting enough to eat. ;-)


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

The euphorbia in the pic is the amygdaloides purpurea, they have some darker markings from burgundy to smokey violet and rusty brown. They seem to keep gophers away too. I have not had any in the garden since adding euphorbias to mine. I used to think one of the dogs would disappear from the trenches that got dug by whatever was out there.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

I really enjoyed seeing the transformation of your front yard via photos, linelle. Thank you for sharing them!


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

One thing not mentioned here and sadly enough, not at the nursery either, though it's a pretty well known phenomenon, is the tendency of phormium cultivars to "Revert".

Many named varieties of phormium will "revert". As they mature some will abandon the cute size and pretty colors of their youth and start to grow much larger than promised, and the colors tend to revert to the olive green/bronze tone of elyisanfield's dug up plants.

The landscaper may have indeed bought the right cultivar, but it just reverted when it got older.

Some cultivars don't revert very often, some are notorious for it, but all can be susceptible to reverting.

Bboy mentions a cultivar being "stable", that's what they're referring to, the tendency to not revert is stable. But even stable phormiums can revert occasionally.

Btw, Linelle, lovely job on the landscape renovations.


 o
RE: Controlling size of Phormium Amazing Red

Gyr_Falcon and BarbJP, thank you both for your kind words.

This will be the year my Oakleaf Hydrangea makes its comeback. After blooming the year it was planted, nothing. I blame myself for two years of improper pruning (too much, too late). Last year I left it alone and it grew and grew, like many other plants in my yard. :) It has repaid me by producing lots and lots of blooms! The first one has opened, but I think it will be another month until they are photo-worthy. I'll be sure to share pics with y'all.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the California Gardening Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here