The graphic silhouette, the varied colors and the exoticism of the cordyline make it an ally of choice to personalize the decor of a flowerbed, a terrace, or a house. On the maintenance side, it is not very demanding, as long as it is in the light and protected from the cold.
It is a cousin of agave, as they belong to the same family, Agavaceae. The genus Cordyline includes less than twenty shrubby and perennial species mainly originating from Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Polynesia…
Their original climate explains their reluctance which means that the majority of species should be reserved inside the house, on the veranda, or in a hot greenhouse. It lends itself well to pot culture, as its growth is rather slow, it can spend the whole beautiful season outside and return indoors in autumn. It has a woody stem, which becomes a trunk when the subject is old and grown in the ground.
This stem is terminated by a tuft of evergreen leaves of linear or lanceolate shape. In our latitudes, flowering, in the form of terminal bouquets of fragrant flowers followed by white, pink, or bluish berries, is rare or present in older subjects. In the ground or a pot, amplify the exotic style by combining cordyline with phormiums, grasses, agapanthus, and large alliums.
Species and varieties
The species grown outdoors in our latitudes are generally derived from Cordyline australis or Cordyline banksii, both of New Zealand origin, because they are not frost-resistant like Cordyline fruticosa (syn. terminalis) which fears high temperatures. below 10°C.
Cordyline australis ‘Peko’
Size and habit: 1.50 m high and 1 m wide. Upright and branched habit with age.
Foliage: linear, green-tinged with pink at the base and streaked with creamy yellow bands.
Qualities: decorative flowering and fruiting if grown in the ground. Low hardiness: -5 to -10°C.
Cordyline banksii ‘Electric Pink’
Height and width in meters: 1.50 m high and 1 m wide. Bushy rosette habit sparsely branched.
Foliage: long, ribbon-like leaves, purple-red edged with pink.
Qualities: decorative flowering and fruiting in open ground cultivation. Low hardiness: -5 to -10°C.
Cordyline australis ‘Albertii’
Height and width: 1.50 m high and 1 m wide.
Flowering: linear, green ribbed with red and striped with cream and pink.
Qualities: decorative flowering and fruiting in the ground. Low hardiness: -5 to -10°C.
Cordyline australis ‘Pink Champagne’
Size and habit: up to 4 m high for 2 m spread. Upright habit.
Foliage: arched leaves, lanceolate to a linear, pure green edged with white, pink at the base.
Qualities: spectacular effect, decorative flowering and fruiting if grown in the ground. Low hardiness: -5 to -10°C.
Cordyline baueri ‘Albatross’
Size and habit: up to 4 m high for 2 m spread. Upright habit.
Foliage: arching leaves, rather wide, crimson red.
Qualities: very spectacular novelty which flowers and bears fruit in open ground. Low hardiness: -5 to -10°C.
Cordyline terminalis (syn. Cordyline fruticosa)
Size and port: 2.50 m for 2 m wide. Upright and bushy habit, suckers, unbranched stems.
Foliage: long, narrow, dark green leaves.
Qualities: ideal for an exotic touch to the house and the veranda. Frost-living species do not tolerate temperatures below 10°C.
Be sure to plant your cordyline in a location where the plant can avoid periods of frost.
Where to plant cordyline?
Soil: Planting in the ground should be reserved for Mediterranean (orange tree zone) or oceanic regions where the risk of frost is rare and of very short duration. Elsewhere, grow cordyline in pots. It appreciates a rather acidic, humus-rich, fresh, but perfectly drained substrate.
Exposure: Offer it a light situation without direct rays for colored (other than green) or variegated varieties.
When to plant cordylines?
Planting cordylines in the ground or in pots is preferable in the spring.
How to plant cordyline?
In the ground: Choose a location rather sheltered from drafts. Prepare the soil by lightening it with potting soil and gravel. Moisturize the root ball of cordyline in a bucket of water and plant it in the planting hole, making sure the top of the root ball does not rise above ground level. Water copiously and mulch with a mineral mulch preferably like crushed slate or pebbles.
Potted: Choose a container with drainage holes, chosen in a naturally draining material such as terracotta. Place a layer of clay balls at the bottom of the pot and use special potting soil for green plants or special Mediterranean plants for its draining side. Tamp the soil with your hand after installing the cordyline and water copiously.
Cordyline needs specific maintenance for each temperature.
Watering the cordyline
Whether in the ground or in a pot, the substrate must remain cool, without excess, throughout the growing season, from May to September. Then reduce the water supply as the temperature drops.
In heated interiors, continue to water regularly to prevent the soil from drying out (one watering every week compared to two to three in summer).
In pots, fertilize your cordyline with a special fertilizer for green plants, once or twice a month from April to the end of August. Repot every 3 to 4 years depending on the size of the pot. Surface years without repotting.
Cordylines do not require pruning. Simply remove the dry leaves.
Mulch young cordylines in the ground in early autumn. Cover them with a winter veil if a sudden frost is announced. Bring frost-resistant (hardy) cordylines grown in pots into a bright, frost-free room as soon as temperatures drop below 5°C.
In mild climates, where frosts are rare, you can leave the hotpot outside, under cover. Bring the frost-living cordylines grown in pots into a living room of the house as soon as the temperatures drop below 10°C.
Take advantage of the releases that certain species make. Separate them at the beginning of spring and replant them immediately in a cuttings compost. Make it easier for them to take root by keeping them warm and steamy. You can also take stem cuttings or sow seeds at the end of winter after soaking them overnight to facilitate germination.
Parasites and diseases of cordyline
It grows in the ground which is little parasitized or diseased. In an atmosphere that is too humid, however, it may show leaf spots. If it is too cold, its leaves fall off.
A cordyline that lacks water, both in the ground and in a pot, has dry leaves around the edges. A confined and dry atmosphere can weaken the cordyline grown indoors and promote the appearance of parasites: mealybugs, red spiders, etc.