Cordylines and their Dracaena cousins are very easy to grow when planted right and in the right spot. Cordylines are reliable, hard-working tropical or sub-tropical plants that are grown all round the world in warm-temperate to equatorial climates. In cooler climates, where temperatures drop below 50 degrees F, they are popular indoor and outdoor container plants that can be brought indoors for the winter.

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know regarding planting and caring for Cordyline plants...


Soil

In the ground, Cordyline grows best in a deep, well-drained but moist soil. Heavy clay soils should be amended at a 50/50 ratio with compost, sand, bagged top soil, and/or a good planting mix. In heavy clay it's best to plant Cordyline in a raised bed or mound. In sandy soils, it's a good idea to add some compost, peat or peat humus, or top soil to help retain some moisture.


Soil pH

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil, which is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline.

Most Cordyline plant varieties grow best in a neutral to alkaline soil ranging from 6.5 to 8.0 on the pH scale. 6.0 - 6.5 is recommended to reduce flouride absorption where flouride is a problem. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. 

If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, or whether or not it's suitable for growing Cordyline, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil SulfurAluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.

NOTE: Under the description tab on every plant page in Wilson Bros Gardens you'll find the soil pH range the plant will perform best in. 



Light Needs

Cordyline fruticosa:  Part shade to full shade. Morning sun with afternoon shade is fine. 

Cordyline australis: Full sun to part shade.

Dracaena:  Part Shade. Morning sun with afternoon shade.




Planting Cordyline In Garden Beds

(Scroll down for advice on planting Cordyline in containers and pots)


Step 1

Cordyline like a deep soil to grow in. If you are not tilling the soil in the entire planting area, start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and two times deeper than the rootball of your plant. The deeper the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp. When planting in tilled soil just dig the planting hole the same size or a little larger than the rootball of the plant.


Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil, you might need to amend the native soil. When planting in dense clay or poor soil it is often beneficial to thoroughly mix in some good organic matter, such as composted manure, homemade compost, sand, bagged top soil, and/or a good planting mix at a 50/50 ratio with the clay soil. Doing so usually forms a raised bed or mound that ensures proper soil drainage. When planting in very sandy, quick-draining soil you might need to mix in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost to help retain some moisture. When planting in fertile, loamy, well-drained soil there might not be a need for adding a soil amendment, though some composted organic matter might be beneficial in depleted loams.


Step 3

To remove your Cordyline plant from the container it was growing in, squeeze the container with your hands to loosen the rootball and then try to very gently lift and remove it from its container. Be careful not to damage your plant when removing it from its container. If the rootball is stuck in the container use some snips to cut the container away. After having removed the plant from the container, use your finger tips to gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the rootball. 


Step 4

Set your plant in the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at or slightly above ground level. Because you dug a deep hole for your Cordyline, you'll need to add some soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve the right planting depth. 






Step 5

After setting your Cordyline in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the rootball.


Step 6 

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. 


Step 7

Spread a 1-inch layer of shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area to conserve moisture and to suppress weed growth. As the mulch decomposes it will add vital nutrients to the soil that your Cordyline will appreciate. Avoid using freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Also avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your fern as this could cause the stems to rot.




Planting Cordyline in a Container


Cordyline are plants that appear under a few names online and at plant nurseries, so it can be quite confusing. All species and varieties can be grown as houseplants or brought indoors for the winter in colder climates where temperatures drop below 50 degrees F. 

Cordyline terminalis, which is often sold as Cordyline fruticosa or Dracaena terminalis are the most popular for use as year round indoor houseplants. By common name, these plants are also referred to as "Ti plants" or "Hawaiian Ti plants or trees."  Cordyline australis, which have a more upright growth habit similar to Agave, are popular for growing in garden beds and containers year round outdoors in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9-11. In zones north of 9 they can be used as an annual or grown in containers that can be overwintered in an indoor space that remains 55 degrees F or higher. 

When growing in pots, Cordyline appreciate a rich,  moist but well-drained premium quality potting mix. Constantly soggy or wet soil can be problematic so make sure the container has a drainage hole(s). 

Since Cordyline like a deep soil, choose a tall pot. Make sure to choose a container that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 6 inches or more in width than the root ball of your plant. If you will be planting other plants in the same container with your Cordyline up the size of the container.

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the foliage color of your Coredyline, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.


Container Planting Instructions


Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, we recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil. Using gravel in the bottom of the container doesn't work well as roots will grow through the gravel and clog the drainage holes. 


Step 2

To remove your Cordyline plant from the container it was growing in, squeeze the container with your hands to loosen the rootball and then try to very gently lift and remove it from its container. Be careful not to damage your plant when removing it from its container. If the rootball is stuck in the container use some snips to cut the container away. After having removed the plant from the container, use your finger tips to gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the rootball. 


Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set the rootball of your plant in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit 1/2" to 1" below the rim of the container.




Step 4

Backfill with your potting soil around root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.


Step 5

Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more potting mix if settling occurs during watering.


Step 6 (Optional)

Apply a 1/2" layer of bark chips or sphagnum moss to soil surface to help conserve moisture. 




Feeding Cordyline


Cordyline is not a heavy feeder. To encourage new growth when warm weather arrives in late winter or early spring, add some aged compost or blood and bone meal around the base of the plant.



Watering Cordyline


At planting time, deep soak the soil around the rootball, including the rootball, to a depth equal to the height of the rootball. Water Cordyline plants growing in garden beds or containers as needed based on weather conditions to maintain a moist but not wet soil. Constantly soggy soil can cause root rot, so avoid overwatering plants. Keep in mind that the soil in containers and pots will dry out quicker than ground soil. Check soil moisture frequently by touching the soil with your finger tips. When the top 2 inches of soil has dried it's time to provide some water. Eventually you'll come to know when your plants could use some water.  

NOTE:  Cordyline are sensitive to fluoride. Yellow leaf tips can indicate excess fluoride in the water. If your tap water contains a high level of fluoride, provide your Cordyline with rain water. Maintaining a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5 can help prevent problems caused by fluoride.



Pruning Cordyline Plants


While some of the newer Cordyline cultivars grow fuller and closer to the ground, some Cordylines and their Dracaena cousins can become leggy and straggly once the stems start to gain height. 

Heavy pruning to rejuvenate old and leggy Cordyline plants can be performed by using a sharp pair of pruners or loppers to completely remove tops. Dracaenas can also be cut back in this way, when they become too leggy and straggly. This rejuvenation pruning can be done at any time of year in warmer climates, where temperatures remain above 50 degrees F year round. It might be more beneficial to do this heavy pruning in warmer climates before the "winter" sets in. Reason being, it allows the plant to rejuvenate before new growth begins to emerge in spring, when warmer temps arrive again. That said, to avoid causing leafless plants to rot in the event there is excessive rainfall during winter, it's best to do your cutting back in late winter. 

If your Cordyline has formed a leggy looking tree and it's "tops" have become unsightly, simply use a sharp pair of pruners or loppers to remove the tops. Make you're cut so that you'll leave about 1 foot of bare stem. That said, it doesn't really matter what amount of bare stem you leave because new growth will emerge from wherever you make your cut.




Happy Planting!

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