Cordyline

Cordyline flowers

Tender to half-hardy evergreen shrubs and trees with distinctive long sword-shaped leaves. Often grown as a specimen plant or a focal point in a bedding scheme. Needs winter protection in the UK.

Family: Asparagaceae
Botanical Name: Cordyline (kor-dih-lye-nee)
Common Names: Cabbage palm

Foliage: Evergreen tufts of linear, narrow, lance-shaped, leathery leaves. Bronze and copper leaf forms are particularly attractive. Variegated forms are also available.

Flowers: Clusters of fragrant, cup-shaped flowers, followed by small round berries.

Flowering Period:

Soil: Moist but well-drained or well drained soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.

Conditions: Full sun or partial shade. Plant in a west or south facing aspect, in a sheltered position.

Habit: Tufted.

Type: Shrub.

Origin: South America, India, Australasia and Far East.

Hardiness: Hardy only in mild and coastal regions of the UK (down to about -5°C).

Planting and Growing Cordyline

Grow in a sheltered, sunny frost-free site. Plant in a very well-drained soil, with plenty of organic matter added. Drought resistant once established.

Most species need to be grown under glass in northern Britain, although several cultivars are hardy enough to survive in milder coastal and south-west regions. For this reason they are usually grown outside in containers during the summer and moved under cover in winter.

The fleshy roots can rot easily in wet conditions so don't over-water when the plants are establishing and protect from winter wet.

Taking Care of Cordyline

Pruning Cordyline

Not necessary. Remove any dead and damaged leaves.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to scale insects and red spider mite if grown under glass. Can be affected by Cordyline slime flux.

Propagating Cordyline

Sow seed under glass in March. Alternatively, pot up rooted suckers in spring.

Popular Varieties of Cordyline

Cordyline australis is a slow-growing tree, with 3ft long word-shaped leaves. Creamy white, fragrant flowers appear in loose panicles around June-July. Height to 10ft (3m) or more. For sale at You Garden. Cultivars include:


  • 'Atropurpurea' a shorter form with attractive purple leaves.
  • 'Charlie Boy' (PBR) is a bright pink and maroon cordyline. For sale at Crocus.
  • 'Pink Passion' arching, grey-purple leaves that are striped with bright fuchsia pink. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
  • 'Pink Star' fuchsia pink leaves with darker burgundy variegation. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
  • 'Red Sensation' has bronze foliage and white flowers that make a lovely display in summer. Height to 19ft (6m). For sale at Suttons.
  • 'Southern Splendour' has variegated leaves coloured olive green and bright pink. For sale at Suttons.
  • 'Sundance' is a compact upright cordyline offering rich green foliage with a defining pink midrib running down to a pink base. For sale at Suttons.
  • 'Superstar' has broad, glossy, strap-like foliage in a deep mahogany red colour. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
  • 'Torbay Dazzler' has brightly striped leaves. For sale at Crocus.

Cordyline fruticosa (good luck plant) is a compact tropical houseplant with wider lance-shaped leaves. Good variegated forms include:

  • 'Conga' lustrous green and cream leaves. For sale at Crocus.
  • 'Kiwi' colourful foliage in a mix of green, cream, yellow and pink. For sale at Crocus.