Cordyline, or ti, are common decorative plants that thrive outdoors in hardiness zones 9-12 but also make excellent houseplants. The name Cordyline originates from Greek; the word kordyle, meaning "club," is a reference to the plant's enlarged underground stems. Cordyline typically has leathery leaves shaped like a spear or lance with a variety of colors, including green, red, yellow, white, purple, and purplish-red. Caring for these plants indoors is simple and straightforward, but they must be kept warm, and they need a lot of light. If you plant them outside, do so in the spring.
Some species in this group have fragrant flowers followed by berries. The moderate-growing plant will produce white, pink, or pale lavender flowers that are cup-shaped and sweet-smelling. They bloom in early summer and then small berries will appear after the flowers. It's more typical for flowering to occur in outdoor varieties, but flowers can appear on houseplants.
|Botanical Name||Cordyline terminalis|
|Common Name||Cordyline, Hawaiian ti plant|
|Plant Type||Evergreen shrub|
|Mature Size||2-4 ft. tall and wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full-sun, partial sun|
|Soil pH||Neutral to Acidic, 6-6.5|
|Flower Color||White, pink, lavender|
|Hardiness Zones||9-12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia|
|Toxicity||Highly toxic to dogs and cats|
Tropical cordyline is a hardy plant if you grow it in the right climate. Its many varieties are colorful and cheery, and it's a pretty low-maintenance evergreen shrub. Ti will bring color to both your indoor or outdoor garden, and it's super easy to maintain.
Cordyline is sensitive to fluoride, which is found in many a homeowner's water supply. If the tips of the leaves of your ti plant are brown, this might be the culprit. Switching to bottled water might be the answer.
Ti needs bright light, but avoid direct sunlight in unhabituated plants. Also, green-leaved cordyline tends to do best with direct light, while those with other colored leaves may prefer bright indirect or filtered sunlight.
Cordyline needs a rich, well-drained high-quality potting mix with a pH of 6-6.5.
It is important to keep the soil your ti is planted in continuously moist. Reduce watering during the winter and water your plant whenever the soil surface starts to feel dry.
These plants can be fed in the spring with slow-release pellets. You can feed the plant weekly during the growing season with a liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer at half-strength. Do not fertilize during the winter.
Temperature and Humidity
Ti thrives in temperatures above 62 degrees Fahrenheit and prefers a high humidity environment. Avoid putting the plant near a cold draft like a window. These are jungle plants, so if you're experiencing leaf drop, try raising both the temperature and humidity.
- 'C. australis': resembles the yucca plant with narrow, long, and grayish to dark leaves
- 'Calypso Queen': boasts ruby-maroon leaves
- 'Oahu Rainbow': shows off dark-green leaves streaked with cream and white
- 'Firebrand': offers beautiful pink leaves that darken to maroon
- 'Hilo Rainbow': displays deep-green foliage with pops of burgundy
A mature, well-trimmed plant should have stems of various heights, up to 3-4 feet, and be clothed in leaves to the soil level. Over time, cordylines tend toward legginess so you will want to trim back individual stems in a staggered pattern.
Propagating ti is typically done with cuttings. Cut 3- to 5-inch pieces from mature stems and remove all of the leaves. Lay the pieces in a damp mixture of sand and perlite, and keep in a room that's at least 62 degrees Fahrenheit. Shoots will grow from the eyes of the stems and can be planted in potting soil when they have about four to six leaves each. You can repot in spring or every other spring, as needed.
How to Grow Cordyline From Seed
Ti can be grown with seeds that are stratified for several months. Then, sow seeds in well-draining, sandy compost. Germination should happen in four to six weeks, but possibly longer.
Potting and Repotting Cordyline
Cordyline does well in pots, especially if you don't live in a tropical climate: You can just bring them indoors for the winter.
Once you move the plant outdoors during warmer months, make sure the outdoor soil drains well and any threat of frost has passed. Outdoor plants also need to be well secured; with its large leaves, they can catch in the wind and topple over.
If you're at the cooler end of cordyline's hardiness zones (9-12), you can tie up your plant's leaves with natural twine to keep them safe in cooler months; just be sure they're dry before you do so to avoid rot.
Cordyline is prone to some pests and problems: The most common are scale insects, spider mites, and mealybugs. All of these can be fixed with either neem oil or insecticidal soap. Ti also attracts bacterial leaf spot and root rot. You can try to beat both with fungicide, and making sure the plants aren't sitting in soil that's too wet.