Native to eastern Asia, Australia, and the Pacific islands, the folklore of the ti plant is as lush as its evergreen foliage. This "good luck plant" was believed by early Polynesians to have mystical powers. Legend has it that the more stalks on your ti plant, the greater fortune you will have in matters of the heart, mind, and more. Beloved for its colorful, fast-growing, and lasting foliage, the ti plant comes in dark glossy green, deep glossy red, other shades of green, red, maroon, rose, pink, orange, yellow, and white. Foliage comes in an array of vibrant colors though most commonly in plum purple and hot magenta.
Ti plant is best planted in the spring. Seedlings show their true color as the leaves mature; older leaves turn yellow. Leaf clusters make up spirals at the tips of branches. Smooth and flexible leaves are large, narrow-oblong, each 1 to 2 feet long and about 4 inches wide on most varieties. In spring, small six-petaled star-shaped florets may appear on a dropping branched stem or panicle. Blooms come in white, pink, lavender, or yellow, revealing six yellow stamens and a single white pistil. Later in the season, 1 1/2-inch fleshy round berry fruits are born in green, yellow, or red.
|Botanical Name||Cordyline fruticosa (formerly Cordyline terminalis)|
|Common Names||Ti plant; ti; green ti; Hawaiian good-luck plant; ti tree; good-luck plant; tree of kings; common dracaena; dracaena; dracaena palm; lily palm; miracle plant; kï, lau kï, lä‘ï (Hawaiian)|
|Mature Size||10 ft. tall, 3-4 ft. wide|
|Soil Type||Loamy or sandy|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic|
|Flower Color||White, pink, yellow, lavender|
|Hardiness Zones||10-12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Eastern Asia, Australia, Pacific islands|
|Toxicity||Toxic to cats and dogs|
Ti Plant Care
Popular in Hawaii, this upright evergreen shrub is at home in a tropical landscape. It has single or branched stems that will reach 10 feet high, and the entire plant will spread three to four feet wide moderately fast. These plants do well as specimens, accent plants, and shrubs to make up a privacy hedge. To prepare an area for this plant outdoors, shovel and till to loosen the soil and remove weeds.
Select a location that gets a whole day of full to partially filtered sunlight. While ti can tolerate lots of heat, the good luck plant doesn't have quite enough fortune to handle drought. Ensure that the roots stay moist in light-filtered shade. Too much direct light and heat may cause the foliage to burn.
Ti plants prefer slightly acidic soil that is fertile and well-drained. Maintain moisture in sandy or loamy soil (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.
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. Establish in the ground. Firmly cover with soil around the root ball.
Water deeply at the soil level to keep the foliage dry. Continue to water regularly during the growing season. Tepid, not cold water will encourage the soil to dry out somewhat, but not completely, between irrigation cycles. 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 sparingly.
Temperature and Humidity
These plants cannot tolerate temperatures below 50 F, so be careful not to place them where they may experience drafts from windows or doors. While they can handle a brief chill of 30 F, they grow best where temperatures stay in a steady range between 65 and 95 F. They like moist climates and consistently moist soil.
Whether potted or planted outside, feed ti plants 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.
Ti Plant Varieties
- 'Hawaiian Boy': Classic variety with dark purple to red foliage
- ‘Florida Red’: Strap-like, dark purple or red leaves variegated with a red-pink hue
- ‘Candy Cane’: Colorful variety features green foliage adorned in contrasting cream streaks and pink margins
- ‘Black Magic’: Black foliage plant
- 'Pink Passion': Brilliant pink-purple, sword-like arching leaves embellished with bold pink edges
It's safe to shear the ti plant as low as 6 inches from the top of the soil. Cut down lanky or unattractive stalks. The cuts may seem drastic, but healthy new shoots will grow from the remaining shoot.
Propagate by simple layering, cuttings in water, division, or sowing seeds. Take 1-inch cuttings from young, healthy canes, plant the cane into a pot filled with a combination of half sand and half perlite, peat moss, or vermiculite. Lay the cane on its side, buried to a depth of 1/4 its diameter. The cane develops roots at nodes—small protrusions where new buds, stems, or leaves grow above and below the soil. Keep the soil moist and put it in a warm, partially sunny spot. Roots should develop within two to four weeks.
You can propagate ti plants in a glass or jar of clean water. Cut a piece of cane about 5 to 7 inches long and place the cane in 1 inch in water. Change the water regularly to keep it clean and fresh. 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 from the blooms. Plant the berries 1/4 deep in a pot with sand, peat moss, or potting soil. You can plant the berries or mash the berries lightly to get the seeds. Plant only the seed and it may germinate faster. Put the pot in a warm location and keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Transplant seedlings after they grow to be several inches tall.
Potting and Repotting Ti Plant
When potting your ti plants, you can use perlite, but make sure that it does not have fluoride. A well-draining potting soil will work best for potting or repotting your ti plant.
If the temperatures remain lower than 50 degees Fahrenheit, the plant should be potted and taken indoors or winterized. To protect an outdoor plant in zone 8 or higher from unexpected cold snaps, use about 6 inches of mulch covering the plant's root zone. Also, consider a frost cover or binding the leaves together to protect the leaves from harsh wind exposure or freezing water gathering in the recesses of the plant.
Common pests to look out for are are scale, aphids, mealybugs, nematodes, and thrips. To prevent infestations and fungal diseases, wipe the foliage with a clean, damp cloth. Continuously rinse the foliage of any insects or pests that may be living on the plant. Be sure to do such rinsing in the morning so that there is time for the water to evaporate. Sitting water makes the plant susceptible to fungal diseases. Signs of pests or disease include nibble marks and spotted, wilting, or yellowed foliage. If needed, cut the plant back or treat it with fungicidal spray.