Astelias are often confused with Flaxes because of their leaf shape and growth habit. They are in fact a perennial herb and a member of the Lily family that is unique to the Pacific region but predominantly found in New Zealand. It may come as a surprise to know that Astelias are an epiphyte which means that they have a terrestrial habit and aerial roots. They can often be found growing on cliff faces or in the nook of a large tree branch.
I was stunned when visiting a remote beach in Northland to see giant Astelia plants weighing down the branches of large Pohutakawa trees. I guess this reinforced one of the main cultural requirements of Astelias; they will not tolerate continuous cold, wet damp conditions or being planted to deep. Good air circulation around the plants is very important to avoid crown rot which is usually irreversible once it occurs. If using mulch in the garden never put the mulch directly against the base of an Astelia clump for the same reason.
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The most commonly grown Astelia is A. chathamica which you guessed it, is from the Chatham Islands. The broad silvery sword-like leaves have a graceful arching habit and a mature clump is simply stunning, though a stronger statement will be made when planting in drifts or large groups. A. chathamica prefers morning sun only though I must admit I have seen many doing quite well in an open position. This species is often sold under the name Astelia chathamica Silver Spear. Another Astelia to consider is A. banksii. This form is more tolerant of the sun and grows quite hapily in coastal conditions. With a more compact habit is ideal as a container plant.
Also available is Astelia nervosa Westland which has a nice bronzy red tinge on the silver foliage. In summary, Astelias are handsome, relatively easy care plants that will add a unique touch to both modern and traditional planting schemes.
A stunning native cultivar that originates from the Chatham Islands. Strong broad swords of arching foliage toned a sensuous metallic silver. Use in groups for a bold dramatic statement. Tolerant of sun or part shade but hates "wet feet". Looks fabulous in a container. Hardy and evergreen.
Colour: Assorted Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.5m