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How to Grow Cordyline

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Cordylines are dramatic, supersize houseplants with sword-like leaves and woody trunks. In mild-winter regions, cordylines can grow outdoors year-round as ornamental trees or shrubs.

Cordylines grow stiffly erect becoming branched in age. Their long drooping leathery leaves are crowded at the top of the stem, giving a palm-like effect. Small cordylines are easily grown indoors. Cordylines are closely related to dracaenas as well as agaves and yuccas.

Cordyline and dracaena are often mistaken for one another. The way to differentiate a dracaena: cordyline has white roots while dracaena has yellow roots,

Get to know Cordyline

  • Plant type: Tropical evergreen perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: 10-11
  • Optimal growing temperature: day 65° to 72°F (18°-22°C); night 62° to 68°F (17°-20°C)
  • Height and width: Varies by cultivar from 1 to 4 feet tall and nearly as wide
  • Foliage: Leathery, sword-like leaves dark green to bronze-green depending on cultivar
  • Flowers: Mature plants have white flowers
  • Bloom time: Blooming rarely occurs
  • Uses: Houseplant, outdoors in mild winter regions
  • Common name: Cordyline
  • Botanical name: Cordyline
  • Family: Agavaceae
  • Origin: Open forests in Southeast Asia
Cordyline 'Red Sensation'
Cordyline ‘Red Sensation’

Where to plant Cordyline

  • Cordyline grows best in bright indirect light from an eastern or western exposure. Grow well under artificial light needing 14 to 16 hours of light each day.
  • Grow cordyline in an all-purpose potting soil with good drainage.
  • Cordyline is sensitive to drafts; grow cordyline where it is protected.

How to water and feed Cordyline

  • Let the soil surface dry out between thorough waterings.
  • Mist daily; prefers 45 to 55 percent humidity.
  • Fertilize cordyline every 2 weeks during the growing season with an all-purpose fertilizer. Topdress with compost each spring.
Blooming Cordyline australis
Blooming Cordyline australis; Cordyline grows tree-like in subtropical regions

Cordyline care

  • Cordyline prefers to be potbound; repot only when roots occupy ¾ of post space.
  • Remove withered leaves immediately.
  • Wash foliage frequently to remove dust and prevent pest problems.
  • Plant rests in winter; reduce water, never allowing the soil to dry out completely; withhold fertilizer.

Growing Cordyline as a houseplant

  • Cordyline terminalis is often grown as a houseplant.
  • Give Cordyline direct light, average to warm temperature, and high humidity to maintain best leaf coloring.
  • The soil should be allowed to dry slightly between thorough waterings.
  • Fertilizer should be applied in spring and summer.

Cordyline pests and diseases

Cordyline is susceptible to attack by aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites.

Cordyline propagation

  • Propagate by air layering or cane cuttings. If you push canes into the soil after cutting, they will root quickly.

Cordyline varieties to grow

  • Cordyline stricta has sword-like leave to about 2 feet long, dark green, and faintly etched with purple.
  • Cordyline terminalis, known as ti plant, some have solid green leaves, others display a variegated pattern or edging of pink with red or yellow with green.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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