Every Blooming Thing: Cordyline

Even though it is native to Australia and New Zealand, Cordyline is comfortable in an Asian setting.


I first became aware of Cordyline (Asparagaceae) about eight years ago. I was planting a container garden for my niece and was carefully following the practice of “thrill, fill, and spill”.

I wandered through the nursery hunting for the “thrill” element for my container garden – and there it was, the perfect plant, I had stumbled across a Cordyline. It was planted in a 4 inch pot – a real pretty little green plant with sword-like leaves. This was just perfect for the center of my pot. Over the years since then, I have purchased many Cordyline plants, sometimes green, sometimes maroon and sometimes variegated – always with a container garden in mind.  

What I failed to do was research the development of these cute little plants. I knew that Cordyline was an evergreen plant which I like, but soon discovered that they were outgrowing their pots. When I started trimming off the lower leaves, which had become damaged, I found that there were woody stems which just kept right on growing.  Well, I finally wised up, got out my garden book and discovered that these cute little plants can grow to be 30 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Wow, that was certainly a surprise. I also found that some varieties grow to be only three feet tall. One can only hope and be selective. 

This experience highlighted the necessity of using a whole different approach in deciding where to plant these “little cuties”.   Cordyline form palm-like trees or bushes and I soon discovered that they add a whole new texture to the garden. The upright sword-like foliage and differing colors add interest and contrast to my other plants. 

I also discovered that Cordyline are native to Australia and New Zealand and are sometimes sold by the name Dracaena.  This knowledge caused me to check out my Dracaena australis which were planted in my garden about 10 years ago by my grandchildren, Jase and Emily. These plants, which are maroon and are planted next to the bamboo, are nearing six feet in height. I suspect that they are going to keep right on growing.

When purchasing Cordyline, be sure to check that they do well in zones 8 and 9. I learned that Cordyline are related to both yuccas and agaves and thrive in full sun. I also read that Cordyline produce flowers, but so far I haven’t noticed any on my plants. Cordyline require regular watering. Mine are on a drip system and are doing well.

I am now busy transplanting more Cordyline into my landscape. Yes, they just keep outgrowing their pots. I have now discovered a whole new look in my garden. It will be interesting to find out how it looks in a few years.

My advice: Read before purchasing a plant. You my bite off more than you can chew. On the other hand you might find a wonderful, intriguing surprise.

For more surprises, attend a meeting of the Red Bluff Garden Club which meets at 1 a.m. the last Tuesday of the month at the United Methodist Church at 525 David Ave., Red Bluff. The program for this month will be “Time for Bare Roots”  by Peter Statton from The Rock Garden.

The Red Bluff Garden Club is affiliated with the Cascade District Garden Club; California Garden Clubs, Inc; Pacific Region Garden Clubs and Natural Garden Clubs Inc. 

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