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Cordyline australis, a palm-like plant that does great in cold weather

Cordyline australis - Cabbage tree

Cordyline australis is a beautiful exotic plant that’s worthy of appearing on the most far-flung travel postcards!

Key facts to remember

Name – Cordyline australis
Family – Agavaceae
Type – exotic plant

– 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters)
Exposure – very well-lit
Soil – light, well-drained

Hardiness : average (20°F or -7°C) – Foliage : evergreen

Here is all our advice on the proper care to grow a beautiful cordyline:

Planting cordyline

Cordyline growing in a potFirst and foremost, cordyline won’t grow in just any climate. It essentially hates it when the weather gets too cold (colder than 14° or -10°C), and at the same when the soil is wet and moist. Such conditions lead to a hard freeze that the plant cannot survive.

You might say that the hardiness of cordyline is average, and it’ll best be suited to gardens that don’t have too harsh a winter.

Note: if you plant it in a pot, you have the option of bringing it indoors on the coldest days.

Planting cabbage tree :

As a general rule, cordyline is best planted in fall or spring, spring being better if you’re in an area that gets colder winters.

Choose a sun-bathed area that’s, if possible, sheltered from strong winds.

Preparing for the planting is important because it determines the proper growth of your cordyline.

  • Australis cordyline saplings ready for plantingDig out a hole at least 1.5 to 2 times as big as the container which holds the plant upon purchasing.
  • Add river sand at the bottom of the hole to ensure proper drainage.
  • Backfill with a mix of garden soil and soil mix.
  • Position your cordyline so that the lowest part of the root crown is slightly elevated compared to the ground around it (this keeps water from accumulating around the foot of your cordyline).

Regular but reasonable watering is nearly mandatory during the first year after planting when the first heat waves hit.

Caring for cordyline

Spring and summer watering:

Caring for cordyline australis isn't difficultThis is most often the time of the year when cordyline grows most.

In case of drought or of intense heat waves, water regularly but without ever drenching the base: cordyline really hates having too much water.

Watering must be regular but limited, in order to not suffocate the plant’s roots.
You might say that watering every 2 or 3 days is often enough.

Come spring, you can give your plant granulated fertilizer, simply line the base of your cordyline with a few pellets and repeat, if needed, during the summertime.

Pruning cordyline:

You can let it grow on its own, without doing anything: it should naturally drop its lower leaves and also send new shoots out from the base.

However, if you prefer to do away with dried-out leaves, remove them once the dry portion reaches the clump.

It’s also possible to keep only 2, 3 or even 4 main stems and remove any new ones that appear from the the base.

Good to know: Avoid, at all costs, beheading your cordyline.

Cordyline flower:

Surprising cordyline flowerCordyline generally produces a flower in spring. It’s a phase that tends to exhaust the plant.

On indoor plants, this is such a drain on the plant’s resources that it’s preferable to actually cut the floral scape: indoor blooming is nothing like the natural bloom and it won’t add much appeal to your cordyline plant.

However, if you let it bloom and go to seed, you’ll be able to propagate your cordyline from the seeds that form on in the seed pods once the flower is gone.

Yellowing cordyline leaves

What to do if Cordyline leaves turn yellow?

Yellow leaves on a cordyline plantIf the cordyline continues to produce new leaves, this is part of its natural cycle. Such plants, even evergreens, lose their leaves to renew them.

  • So you can simply let them dry out on your cordyline, they’ll drop off in time, or cut them off as they turn brown.
  • If no new shoots appear, however, and that your cordyline looks pitiful, check on your watering and water drainage, and eventually support the plant with liquid fertilizer every fortnight.

What if leaves turn brown?

This phenomenon usually happens in summer, when the plant lacks water.

The tip of each leaf starts drying out: this is the sign that cordyline needs watering.

All there is to know about cabbage trees

Cordyline grows tallCordyline is a very beautiful plant that will usher a touch of exotic appeal into your garden. Near a deck, at the poolside, or even in a pot: cordyline will turn your garden into a true postcard-worthy destination!

All in one aesthetic, resilient and relatively easy to grow, cordyline is one of the most appreciated and often-purchased exotic plants.

Of course, its ornamental foliage is its prime appeal, but many also mention the superb stem that appears as leaves drop when the plant grows taller.

To learn more, read:

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois): NelidaZubia/AdobeStock
CC BY-SA 2.0: Torquay Palms, Leonora Enking
CC BY 4.0: Kim & Forest Starr
CC BY 2.0: Herry Lawford
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