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How to Plant, Grow and Care for Cordyline Plant


Two cordyline plants against treesTwo cordyline plants against trees

Cordyline, also known as Ti, has tough, spiky leaves in colors like green, red, yellow, white, purple, and purplish-red.

They’re not only popular for their vibrant foliage but also have a rich cultural significance.

In places like Hawaii, for instance, they are believed to possess protective qualities and are often cultivated around homes and in gardens as symbols of good luck.

As a master gardener, I’ve written this guide to teach you the best practices for caring for your Cordyline plant. Keep reading!

Cordylines at a Glance

Cordylines are part of the Asparagaceae family and are popular as ornamental plants. These plants feature long, sword-shaped leaves and woody stems that can grow into tree-like forms as they age.

Cordyline” comes from the Greek word kordyle, which means “club”. This refers to the plant’s enlarged underground stems or rhizomes.

They are native to Southeast Asia, Eastern Australia, and some Pacific islands. However, Cordyline grows in many tropical and subtropical regions, too.

Different Sizes

Cordylines vary widely in height depending on the species and its growing conditions:

  • Compact VarietiesCordyline indivisa, with purple-tinged foliage, typically reaches 3-6 feet.

Cordyline indivisa with blooming white flowers in the gardenCordyline indivisa with blooming white flowers in the garden

  • Medium VarietiesCordyline fruticosa, known as the Ti or Hawaiian Ti plant, grows to 10-15 feet.

Cordyline fruticose in a parkCordyline fruticose in a park

  • Tall VarietiesCordyline australis, commonly called the Cabbage Tree, can grow over 40 feet tall.

Cordyline australis against the blue skyCordyline australis against the blue sky

Other Common Names

Known globally by names such as Hawaiian ti plant, cabbage palm, and good luck plant.


It’s important to note that Cordyline is toxic to pets. They contain saponins, which can cause stomach problems if ingested by animals. The sap and leaves of this plant can also cause skin irritation if touched by sensitive individuals.

  • Most Well-Known Varieties
  • Here are six popular varieties and their typical colors if you want to buy Cordylines:
    1. Cordyline fruticosa ‘Red Star’: Burgundy foliage.

Cordyline fruticosa 'Red Star' leaves in white backgroundCordyline fruticosa 'Red Star' leaves in white background

    1. Cordyline’ Electric Pink’: Pink and burgundy striped leaves.

Cordyline 'Electric Pink' in the gardenCordyline 'Electric Pink' in the garden

    1. Cordyline australis’ Xanthosperma’: Golden-yellow young leaves.

Closeup view on the leaves of Cordyline australis 'Xanthosperma'Closeup view on the leaves of Cordyline australis 'Xanthosperma'

    1. Cordyline fruticosa’ Oahu Rainbow’: Green leaves with pink and white streaks.
    2. Cordyline fruticosa’ Hilo Rainbow’: Green leaves with burgundy accents.
    3. Cordyline australis’ Cabbage Tree’: Also called as Cordyline red sensation, it features stunning red foliage.

Closeup of red foliage of cordyline red sensationCloseup of red foliage of cordyline red sensation

How to Grow Cordyline and Help It Thrive

Once established, Cordylines growing in the ground are drought-tolerant, though new plants will require consistent hydration during dry spells in their initial growth phase.

To support their development, apply a general slow-release fertilizer each spring or during early summer.

Whether you’ve planted Cordyline outdoors or inside your home, here are ways to keep this shrub growing!

Preferred Climate and Temperature

Since it’s native to warmer climates, the Cordyline plant prefers warm, humid environments. While they can tolerate minor frosts, I’ve learned that prolonged exposure to high temperatures and humidity will damage them.

Most Cordyline varieties prefer temperatures between 65°F and 85°F (18°C to 29°C) and struggle below 50°F (10°C). In colder climates, they are best grown as houseplants or in a greenhouse.

If you notice that your plant’s leaves are falling off, try increasing the temperature and humidity.

It’s best to grow this shrub in pots that can be moved indoors during winter.

Sunlight Needs

Leaves of cordyline in sunlightLeaves of cordyline in sunlight

The amount of bright light or sun needed varies with the variety.

Green-leaved Cordylines can tolerate and even thrive under full sun or direct sunlight.

In contrast, varieties with colored foliage, such as the Red Star or Electric Pink, prefer partial sunlight or a light shade only to prevent leaf burn and fading of vibrant colors.

Although rarely seen flowering, fully-grown Cordylines will delight with spikes of small, charming flowers in the warm summer months.

Watering Schedule

Cordyline needs regular watering, and I recommend moistening it once a week but adjust according to climate and soil.

Avoid leaving water pooling in the saucer — this can lead to rotten roots. This plant appreciates soil that’s consistently moist but not soggy. I water mine only when the soil feels dry to the touch.

Proud Cordyline plant owners may encounter a common issue called “tipping,” where the plant’s leaf tips dry out and turn brown. This can be caused by a surprising culprit: tap water.

While tap water is convenient, it often contains high salts, chlorine, and fluoride levels that can build up and dry soil over time. This can be toxic to the plant. To prevent this, you can use bottled water or rainwater.

Cordyline plants watered by a water sprinklerCordyline plants watered by a water sprinkler

Ideal Soil Types

A Cordyline plant requires well-draining, fertile soil. The pot should also not hold excess water.

Whether you plant Cordyline shrubs in containers or garden beds, I recommend mixing potting soil, perlite, and sand to ensure proper drainage.

To help these tropical plants bloom, enrich this mixture with organic matter and aim for a pH between 6.0 and 6.5.

You can also apply a liquid fertilizer with a 20-20-20 NPK ratio at half-strength weekly during the growing season, which is around early summer to mid-spring.

Pruning and Ideal Cordyline Plant Height

A healthy Cordyline plant should have stems of different heights, up to 3-4 ft.

The right Cordyline height depends on the variety and your preference. Some Cordyline varieties, like C. fruticosa, can be pruned to maintain a smaller shrub.

Just remember that if the plant looks leggy or loses its lower leaves, prune it. Remove dead leaves and trim the top to encourage bushier growth.

Cordyline plants in the yardCordyline plants in the yard

Overwintering Tips

If you live in colder areas, you’ll need these tips to protect your plants from the winter frost.

  1. Move Potted Plants Indoors: Bring potted Cordyline plants to mild indoor areas as temperatures drop.
  2. Choose a Bright Location: Position them in indoor areas with enough bright light, away from drafts and heaters.
  3. Reduce Watering: Cut back on water since cooler weather and less light slows the growth of this tropical plant.
  4. Protect Outdoor Varieties: If you’re planting Cordylines outdoors, mulch the base and use frost cloths to shield them from the cold. Remember to wrap their growing point well.

Is Cordyline Difficult to Grow?

Planting and growing Cordyline is easy. They’ll bloom as long as you provide them with enough light, water, and well-draining soil.

Cordyline Pests and Diseases

A Cordyline plant is relatively resistant to pests and diseases, but issues like root rot from overwatering and mealybugs can arise.

Root Rot

Root rot is a common issue when you grow Cordyline plants, and it is often caused by overwatering and inadequate drainage.

Some signs include:

  • Leaves that are turning brown or yellow
  • Drooping

To prevent this issue, plant your Cordyline in pots with good drainage and don’t overwater. If you see any root deterioration, remove the plant from its pot, cut off the rotten roots, and replant in fresh soil.

For gardeners who grow Cordyline in pots, apply a balanced liquid fertilizer from spring to late summer.

Remember, too much water is often the problem, so water less, especially when it’s cooler.


Macro of a mealybug on a leafMacro of a mealybug on a leaf

Mealybugs are pests that attack Cordyline and other plants, causing yellow, distorted leaves. They suck up the sap and secrete a substance which leads to sooty mold.

Regularly check your Cordyline, especially under leaves and near stems. Treat the affected area of the plant with soapy water, insecticidal soap, or neem oil.

NOTE: Scale insects and spider mites can also be problems. If you encounter them, I suggest using horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, or increasing humidity around your plant to control them.


Native to tropical Southeast Asia, Eastern Australia, and some Pacific islands, Cordyline plants add vibrant color and a touch of the tropics to any garden.

To ensure your Cordylines flourish, give them enough light, high humidity, regular hydration, and well-draining soil.

If you wish to propagate Cordyline, spring is the best time. You can take stem cuttings or use seeds from a mature plant.

I’ve found that this method is an excellent way to expand your garden or share these beautiful houseplants with friends.


Other Guides from Planet Natural:

How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Cenizo

How to Grow & Care for Zamioculcas Zamiifolia

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