How to Grow and Care for Ti Plant (Good Luck Plant)

ti plant

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Ti plant (Cordyline fruticosa) is a tropical woody evergreen plant with colorful palm-like leaves. It can be grown as a landscape specimen in tropical climates but is more often grown as a potted plant. Beloved for their colorful, fast-growing, and lasting foliage, there are ti plant cultivars with foliage in shades of pink, green, purple, red, and streaked variegated forms.

The smooth, flexible sword-shaped leaves are 1 to 2 feet long and about 4 inches wide on most varieties. In spring, outdoor plants may produce small six-petaled star-shaped florets on a dropping branched stem or panicle. The blooms can be white, pink, lavender, or yellow, Later in the season, 1 1/2-inch fleshy round berry fruits develop, in green, yellow, or red.

If grown outdoors in the garden, ti plant is best planted in the spring, where it grows slowly to a maximum height of about 10 feet. But as a potted plant, it is even more slow-growing, requiring repotting only every two or three years. Ti plant is moderately toxic, containing saponins that can cause digestive and neurological symptoms in people and pets. Health issues are most common with dogs and cats that habitually chew on plants; human poisoning is rare.

Common Name Ti plant, good luck plant, Hawaiian ti plant
Botanical Name Cordyline fruticosa, Cordyline terminalis
Family Asparagaceae
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 2-10 ft. tall, 3–4 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Well-drained, loamy
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White, pink, yellow, purple
Hardiness Zones 10–12 (USDA)
Native Area Asia, Australia, Pacific Islands
Toxicity Toxic to people, toxic to pets

Ti Plant Care

In tropical climates, such as in Hawaii where it is a popular garden plant, ti plant thrives nicely in a sunny location with well-drained, loamy/sandy soil. To prepare a garden area for this plant, shovel and till to loosen the soil and remove weeds. Dense soils should be amended with organic material and gritty sand to improve drainage. Dig a hole twice as wide as the nursery container and just as deep.

When planting, gently remove the ti plant from its pot—dust off any excess soil from its roots. Cut any damaged or dead roots, so all that is left of the root system is healthy, firm, and white. Place the root ball in the ground at the same depth it was growing in its nursery container, then firmly backfill with soil around the root ball. Water thoroughly immediately after planting.

As a potted specimen, ti plant grows well in standard commercial potting mix, but remember that this plant likes a humid environment. You may need to artificially increase indoor humidity levels, especially in temperate climates during dry winter months.

closeup of ti plant

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

ti plant foliage

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

ti plant

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Tropical foliage with red Ti plant (Cordyline).
Marje / Getty Images

Light

Getting the light exposure right with ti plant is a little tricky, as full sun provides the best leaf color, but too much direct hot sunlight can cause browning of the tips and margins. Ti plant is considered a full-sun specimen (six hour or more per day), but when grown outdoors, it will benefit from being shaded during the hottest hours of the afternoon. It can, however, tolerate a location with bright filtered light for the entire day. But in low-light conditions, these plants may lose some of their bright color and become greener.

When grown indoors, give ti plant a sunny window, if possible, or as much bright indirect light as you can. Here, too, it may be helpful to draw blinds during the hottest hours of the afternoon for plants growing in sunny windows.

In a room that is not bright enough, you may need to supplement with artificial light to get the best possible foliage color for your indoor plants.

Soil

Ti plants prefer slightly acidic soil that is fertile and well-drained. Sandy or loamy soil works well, provided it has plenty of organic matter. Avoid wet or hard clay and sites where there could be salt spray. If planted in an area that is too shady or soggy, roots and stems may rot, snail and slug damage may occur, and the plant will be susceptible to leaf spot.

Water

As a garden plant, ti plant grows best in soil that is kept moist but not constantly saturated. In its native environment, it's not uncommon for these plants to experience daily rainfall, though they will survive nicely if watered a couple of times each week during the growing season. In poorly draining soil, however, root rot can develop if there is too much rainfall.

Where natural rainfall is not enough, water deeply at the soil level to keep the foliage dry. Water regularly during the growing season—the traditional 1 inch per week is usually sufficient, which is best delivered in two equal waterings each week. Use a 2- to 6-inch deep layer of mulch, 4 inches from the trunk's base to keep the water from evaporating. In fall and winter, water more sparingly—once every two weeks may be sufficient.

When growing ti plant indoors, wait for the top inch of soil to dry out, then water deeply until water runs out the drainage holes in the pot. Watering once a week is usually sufficient for potted plants.

These plants are very sensitive to fluoride, so it's best to water them with rain water or bottled distilled water. Fluoridated water may cause the leaf tips and edges to turn brown.

Temperature and Humidity

These plants cannot tolerate prolonged temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so be careful not to place indoor specimens where they may experience drafts from windows or doors during the winter. While they can handle a brief chill of 30 degrees, ti plants grow best where temperatures stay in a steady range between 65 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Like many tropical plants, the ti plant prefers a fairly humid environment. When growing them indoors in climates with dry winter air, it can help to set the pots on a shallow pebble-filled dish of water to increase humidity. Or, you can use a room humidifier to keep air moisture levels optimal.

Fertilizer

When planted outside, feed ti plants once in the spring with a slow-release fertilizer that is well-balanced in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (8-8-8 or 10-10-10). Spread the fertilizer evenly around the soil at least one foot away from the plant's base. Water deeply.

Potted plants should be fed monthly with a water-soluble balanced fertilizer. For the amount to use, follow the product label instructions. During the fall and winter, withhold feeding as the plant slows its growth rate.

Types of Ti Plant

There are many cultivars of ti plant available at garden centers and through online retailers. Some favorites include:

  • 'Hawaiian Boy' is a classic variety with dark purple to red foliage.
  • ‘Florida Red’ has strap-like, dark purple or red leaves variegated with a red-pink hue.
  • ‘Candy Cane’ is a colorful variety that features green foliage adorned in contrasting cream streaks and pink margins.
  • ‘Black Magic’ is a variety with deep purple-black foliage.
  • 'Pink Passion' has bright pink-purple, sword-like arching leaves embellished with bold pink edges.
  • 'Black Mystique' has leaves that are initially green, transforming to a deep purple-black.
  • 'Sherbert' is a cultivar with green leaves striped with pink, cream, and magenta colors.
  • 'Maria' has leaves that initially appear as solid magenta, then develop bright pink tips and streaks.
  • 'Morning Sunshine' has leaves with bright yellow, pink, orange, and green hues.

Pruning

The only essential pruning is to remove yellowed leaves as they appear. It is quite natural for old leaves to die out as the plant matures.

Cut down lanky or unattractive stalks. It's safe to shear the ti plant as low as 6 inches from the top of the soil. The cuts may seem drastic, but healthy new shoots will quickly grow.

To control the height of the plant indoors, ti plants are often cut off on the top, which causes them to branch out and become fuller specimens.

Propagating Ti Plant

Ti plants can be propagated by several methods, including layering, placing cuttings in water, division, or sowing seeds. But one of the easiest methods is rooting short stem (cane) sections. Here's how to do it.

  1. Begin by taking 1-inch cuttings from young, healthy canes, using sharp pruners.
  2. Plant the cane into a pot filled with arid soil, like a combination of sand, peat moss, and perlite or vermiculite. With the cane on its side, bury it to a depth that is equal to one-quarter of its diameter.
  3. Keep the soil moist and put the cutting in a warm, partially sunny spot. Roots should develop from the nodes within two to four weeks. When new green shoots appear, the cutting is ready to transplant into the garden or into a larger permanent pot.

You can also propagate ti plants by placing the cuttings in water:

  1. Begin by cutting a piece of healthy cane that's at least 5 inches long.
  2. Place it in enough water to cover, but not submerge, the cane. Change the water regularly to keep it clean and fresh.
  3. When the cane has developed a robust root system, plant it outdoors or in a container filled with commercial potting soil or sand combined with peat moss, vermiculite, or perlite.

How to Grow Ti Plant From Seed

In the spring, harvest the berries produced by the blooms. Plant the berries 1/4 inch deep in a pot filled with commercial potting soil amended with sand and peat moss. You can plant the berries or mash the berries lightly to get the seeds—they may germinate faster this way.

Place the pot in a warm, sunny location and make sure to keep the soil consistently moist. Transplant seedlings after they've established robust root systems and have grown to be several inches tall.

Potting and Repotting Ti Plant

A well-draining potting soil will work best for potting your ti plant. You can add perlite for improved drainage, but make sure it contains no fluoride. Any material will work for the container, but it must have several drainage holes. Potted plants grow more slowly than garden specimens, so you should be able to get by with repotting only every two or three years—at the point where you see roots beginning to grow out of the drainage holes. When repotting, choose a new container that is only slightly larger than the previous one.

As the plants become more mature, the growth rate slows and they need repotting less often. As these plants get large, they may be top-heavy and prone to tipping if growing on a deck or patio. Opt for a wide, heavy container to provide balance for taller plants.

Overwintering

If temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit in your region during the winter, the plant should be potted and taken indoors or winterized. If cold snaps are possible in your region, protect plants in winter with about 6 inches of mulch covering the plant's root zone. Also, consider a frost cover or binding the leaves together to protect them from harsh wind exposure or freezing water gathering in the recesses of the plant.

Whether growing indoors or outdoors, withhold feeding in the fall and winter, as these plants naturally slow their growth rate during this time.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Common pests to look out for are fungus gnats, mealybugs, mites, scale, and thrips. To prevent infestations, wipe the foliage regularly with a clean damp cloth. Drenching the soil with pesticide will control fungus gnats, mealybugs, and scale, but spraying the foliage work best for mites.

Ti plant can be susceptible to a variety of fungal diseases, especially when growing in moist conditions in the landscape. These can be avoided by soaking at ground level rather than by overhead watering, and by dusting plants with fungicide powder.

How to Get Ti Plant to Bloom

These plants are normally grown for their foliage, but small white or pink flowers that may bloom in summer are a bonus, and are most common with plants growing outdoors in the landscape. (Blooming is rare for indoor potted plants.) Ti plant is most likely to bloom if it gets plenty of light and adequate feeding.

Common Problems With Ti Plant

Ti plant is generally a fairly trouble-free plant, but you may notice these cultural problems:

Browning Leaves

The most common cultural problem with ti plant is browning leaf tips. This usually occurs when conditions are too dry—especially low air humidity that is common during the winter months in temperate climates. Make sure to water regularly, and either rest the pot on a pan filled with pebbles and water, or use a room humidifier.

Browning leaf tips and margins can also be caused by too much fluoride in water—use distilled water where this is a problem.

Poor Leaf Color

If your ti plant loses the foliage color that was present when you purchased your plant, reverting instead to green, it may be due to insufficient sunlight. Move it to a location where it can enjoy at least six hours, and preferably eight hours, of direct sunlight each day. With indoor plants, using artificial grow lights can help restore the leaf color.

FAQ
  • Can you grow ti plant in the garden rather than in pots?

    Yes, In zones 10 to 12, where winters are very mild, ti plant can be grown in moist but well-drained soil in a location that gets plenty of light. Its colorful foliage can be quite attractive in a tropical garden. In gardens, these plants do well as specimens, accent plants, or as shrubs to make up a privacy hedge.

  • Where does the name "good luck plant" come from?

    Native to eastern Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands, this plant was believed by indigenous cultures to have mystical powers. To this day, ti plant is often sold as a "good luck" plant with a reputation for warding off bad spirits and courting good fortune.

  • What is the difference between Dracaena and ti plant?

    Ti plant was once classified within the Dracaena genus, and it is often confused for that plant. They can be hard to distinguish from one another, as both have colorful, sword-shaped leaves and have virtually identical care needs. However, Dracaena plants have orange or yellow roots, while ti plant has white roots. And the berries are Dracaena plants are generally orange, rather than the red or white berries produced by ti plant.

  • How long does ti plant live?

    In perfect landscape conditions, this plant can live in excess of 50 years. Potted plants can be kept alive almost indefinitely if they are cared for properly and repotted regularly. It is common, however, to abandon large potted plants when repotting becomes impractical, starting over with stem cuttings propagated from the parent plant.

Article Sources
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  2. Hawaiian Ti Plant. Houseplant 411.

  3. Hawaiian Ti Plant. House Plant Expert.

  4. Hawaiian Ti Plants. Trees.com

  5. Cordyline (Ti Plant) Diseases. Penn State Extension.

  6. Cordyline—Ti Plant. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.