A very high quality pliable fibre is obtained from the leaves. It is used in the manufacture of ropes (they are not very strong), twine, fine cloth etc. The fibre can also be used for making paper The leaves are harvested in summer, they are scraped to remove the outer skin and are then soaked in water for 2 hours prior to cooking. The fibres are cooked for 24 hours with lye and then beaten in a ball mill for 4 hours. They make a cream paper.
The split leaves can be used to make nets, cloaks, sandals, straps etc. They are also used in making paper and basket making. A strip of a leaf is an excellent emergency string substitute for tying up plants in the garden, it can be tied into a knot without breaking. The leaf pulp, after the fibre has been removed, can be fermented to make alcohol. A gum found in the leaves is used as a paper glue. A brown dye is obtained from the flowers, it does not require a mordant. A terra-cotta dye is obtained from the seedpods. A mauve can also be obtained.
Prefers a rich loamy soil but is not too fussy, succeeding in peaty soils and in boggy moorland. Tolerates light shade but prefers full sun. Plants can be grown in quite coarse grass, which can be cut annually in the autumn. Prefers a sheltered position but tolerates maritime exposure. Plants tolerate occasional flooding with saline water.
Plants can withstand temperatures down to about -11°c, but they can be killed in very severe winters in Britain. A polymorphic species, there are many named varieties grown in Britain. This species hybridizes readily with P. colensoi and there are many named forms that may be hybrids with that species. This plant has been considered for commercial cultivation for its fibre, though there is some difficulty in mechanically extracting the fibres due to the presence of a gum in the leaves. An alkali has been successfully used to break down the gum but this weakens the fibre. The Maoris had selected many different cultivars for different uses.
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits.