Cordyline is a unique plant that belongs to its very own genus. Native to the Pacific Islands and some parts of Southeast Asia, there are about 15 species of this evergreen perennial.
Given the fact that they are a tropical plant, they should only be grown outdoors in the warmest climates (in the United States, they’re only hardy outdoors through zone 9); otherwise, they should be grown indoors as houseplants.
If you are interested in adding some color to your tropical outdoor garden or you’d like to bring some interest to your indoor garden, you might want to consider cordyline.
When grown in the right conditions, these plants are very easy to care for and would make a wonderful addition to an indoor or outdoor garden.
To find out how to plant and care for this woody tropical evergreen plant, keep on reading for some handy tips.
Caring for Cordyline
As mention, as long as the right conditions are met, cordyline is pretty easy to grow and requires very little maintenance and care. Once it’s established, simple upkeep is all that is ensure this tropical plant will thrive.
- Cordyline likes a lot of light. While it can deal with small amounts of shade, the ideal setting is a location that gets plenty of sunlight.
- If you’re growing it outdoors, choose a spot that gets a minimal amount of shade. If you plan on growing it indoors, a spot near a window or a greenhouse that gets plenty of sun would be ideal.
It’s important to note, however, that while Cordyline does like plenty of light, you should avoid setting it an area that gets direct sunlight; otherwise, the vibrant coloring of the leaves will fade.
- The majority of cordyline varieties grow best when they are planted in alkaline or neutral soil; the ideal would pH would be between 6.6 and 8.0.
- If you aren’t sure about the pH of the soil, testing the pH level of the planting area is a good idea. You can purchase a pH tester probe – which is pretty easy to use – from a garden supply center or an online retailer for relatively cheap.
- If the pH level is too high, you can make it more acidic by adding aluminum sulfate, soil sulfur, or chelated iron to the soil; organic compost can also increase the acidity level. If the pH level is too low, to increase it or make it more alkaline, just add some pelletized limestone to the soil.
Cordyline can crow in various types of soil, including clay, sand, loam, and chalk; it just needs to be well drained, yet moist, and relatively fertile.
If the soil is sandy, mix in some compost, peat, or top soil to retain the moisture the plant likes. Amend heavy clay soil with a 50/50 ratio with sand, compost, a fertile planting mix, or top soil.
While coryline don’t specifically require a highly nutritious soil to thrive, to ensure the plant is as healthy as possible when planted in the ground, apply an evenly balanced slow release fertilizer during the start of the spring season.
If you’d like, you can also supplement with extra liquid fertilizer during the summer months; they height of the cordyline growing season.
Container-grown plants should be fed with liquid fertilizer on a monthly basis during the growing season, which usually begins in late spring and ends in late summer.
If you intend on growing cordyline outdoors, the best time to plant this hardy evergreen tropical plant is in the spring, but after the risk of any potential frost has ended. Doing so will ensure that the plant establishes itself before the cold weather returns. If the plant is exposed to cold temperatures before it is established, it likely will not survive.
If you plan on planting cordyline indoors, placing it in a container filled with loam-based soil would be ideal. To improve drainage of loam soil, mix in some horticultural grit; remember that cordyline likes most, but well-drained soil; if it sits in soil that is too wet, root rot can occur and the plant will likely die.
When planting, place it in a hole that is two times the size of the width of the root ball. When you set it in the hole, make sure to position it so that it is sitting at the same height that it was sitting in the pot it came in.
If you are planting it outside, adding a layer of mulch around the base of your cordyline plant; doing so will help to retain moisture and will also prevent weeds that could potentially drain the moisture the plant needs from growing.
Once planted, cordyline doesn’t really require a lot of maintenance. Removing any dead leaves, spent flowers, and damaged stems are really the only things that you will need to attend to.
However, it should be noted that if you are planting cordyline outdoors, you will need to take some measures to protect it before the cold winter weather arrives.
If you live in a location where the temperatures remain mild during the winter and the plant is set in a sheltered location, laying a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plant will protect the roots and the base of the stem from any chilly temperatures that may arrive.
To protect the plant from chilly winter winds, to prevent wind damage and water from settling on its crown, consider tying up the foliage. Be sure to use a soft material to avoid damaging the leaves (a pair of tights or stockings would be ideal).
Prior to tying it up, make sure that the plant is fully dried; if any moisture is on the leaves before you tie it up, there’s a good chance that they will rot.
If you are growing your cordyline in a container and intend on placing it outside during the summer months, be sure to move it inside before the cold weather arrives. It should be placed in a warm location that receives plenty of sunlight; a greenhouse would be the most suitable location.
Cordyline Pruning Tips
As previously mentioned, cordyline does not need a lot of pruning. Just remove any spent blooms and dead leaves from the plant as you see them.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to remove any leaves or stems that have sustained damage; if it’s an outdoor plant, wait until the most severe part of the winter weather has passed.
If your cordyline starts to get a little unkempt, you can prune it to enhance its shape and improve its growth. For outdoor plants, wait until the middle of spring to do this. If there are any shoots growing off the side of the plant, cut them back. To ensure the plant recovers from pruning, apply a balanced fertilizer to the soil to promote new growth.
Cordyline can be propagated from terminal cuttings, seeds, or suckers. Here’s how to grow new cordyline from your existing plants.
To propagate cordyline from terminal cuttings, remove a stem from the plant that contains a terminal bud or that features a growing point on its tip and a collection of buds on the stem. Cut just underneath the leaf node and make the cutting approximately 4 to 6 inches long.
Remove the lower leaves from the cutting and place hormone rooting compost on the base of the stem. Fill a container with a mixture of potting compost and horticultural grit. Set the base of the stem into the soil and generously mist it. Place a plastic bag over the pot to retain the moisture and set it in a warm, sheltered location.
Once planted, remove the bag, water, and inspect the cutting on a weekly basis. Remove any dead plant matter from the cutting and allow it to air out before recovering.
Cordyline grows very well from a seed. It’s best to begin the seeds in a propagator. When the seedlings have grown large enough to safely handle, remove them from the propagator and set them in individual pots.
If you intend on planting them outdoors, wait until they have reached a suitable size and the weather has become warm enough (there should no longer be a risk of frost.)
During the spring, the beginning of the cordyline growing season, rooted suckers may appear along the base of the plant. The suckers can be removed from and potted.
Like terminal cuttings, set the suckers into containers filled with a mixture of potting soil and horticultural grit to establish well-drained soil. Water the suckers as needed; they like moist, but not completely wet, soil.
If you’re looking for a fairly easy to care for, colorful, and interesting evergreen plant to add to your indoor or outdoor garden, consider cordyline.
Once established, these tropical plants are relatively easy to care for and do not require a lot of maintenance. Follow the tips discussed above and you should be able to successfully grow and maintain your cordyline.