Strappy-leafed plants beat the heat


Plants with strappy leaves are some of the most useful in the garden. They’ve evolved to handle difficult conditions – such as drought, root competition, shade or hot sun – and they’re amazingly versatile in the landscape. Their upright growth, for example, will make vertical statements. They can be clumped together to form ground- covering layers, they can fill containers or they can be planted as defining borders.

In recent years plant breeders and growers have come up with a far greater selection of strappy-leafed plants for our gardens. Here are some of the most popular:

Renga renga

Renga renga or New Zealand rock lily (pictured) is a coastal native that has grey-green strappy leaves and bunches of starry white flowers in spring and summer. The leaves of the improved Arthropodium bifurcatum ‘Matapouri Bay’ are slightly wider and the flower heads are larger. Renga renga lilies will flourish in sun or semi shade and are quite drought tolerant once established. They don’t like frost, however, so can only be grown in substantially frost-free areas.


Lomandras are incredibly tough Australian natives that will grow in sun or shade in a wide range of climates. Much recent breeding work has selected improved lomandra cultivars. These are reproduced with virtually identical characteristics. Lomandra ‘Tanika’, with fine leaves that form a compact clump, is one of the most popular, both in Australia and New Zealand and in many other parts of the world.

Ornamental grasses

Ornamental grasses, such as the purple fountain grass (Pennisteum setaceum ‘Rubrum’), form soft clumps of fine, arching foliage that is regularly decorated with fluffy flower plumes. The old leaves eventually start to look a bit tired, so it’s best to cut the plants back hard in late winter and feed with Dynamic Lifter pellets to encourage new growth from the base.


Flax is an iconic New Zealand native plant that is most at home in a swamp but will grow in a wide variety of garden situations. Flax’s sword-shaped leaves can reach up to three metres long, but there are many dwarf varieties. The coloured and variegated leaf cultivars are useful for adding year round interest to the garden.

Society garlic

Society garlic (Tulbaghia spp) has edible flowers and leaves that are said to leave no tell tale odours on the breath, which is why tulbaghia is considered to be more appropriate for polite ‘society’. Most society garlic plants have pretty, mauve-pink flowers and grey-green leaves but there’s a variety with variegated leaves (Tulbaghia violacea ‘Silver Lace’) that adds a light touch to the garden, especially in semi shade. It makes a beautiful, delicate-looking – but very hardy – border.

While most strappy-leafed plants require minimal watering once established, they must be kept moist through the first few weeks. An occasional feed with slow release Dynamic Lifter pellets, Acticote or Nutricote will help keep plants in good health.

Watch for mealybugs and other sap-sucking pests. Rose Gun will help. And look out for snails, too. They love cool, vertical leaves. Sprinkle some Blitzem or Baysol pellets, or the rain resistant Blitzem Granules which are much less attractive to pets.


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Annual Garden Calender