Growing cordyline australis (New Zealand Cabbage Tree)

Cordyline australis is a hardy evergreen tropical plant commonly known as New Zealand cabbage tree, tī kōuka or cabbage-palm. Cordyline australis is native to New Zealand, however varieties of Cordyline which are native to Australia as well. Over the years there has been much hybridisation so there are many different styles of Cordyline australis now available for gardeners.

Are you thinking of planting Cordyline australis in your garden? Tropical plants are a great option for any garden, creating a touch of paradise in your own backyard.

Cordyline australis are remarkable tropical plants, suitable for both indoor and outdoor growth. They’re easy to establish, easy to propagate and fairly easy to grow.

If you have ever wondered how to grow Cordyline australis, here is absolutely everything you need to know about planting and growing Cordyline australis plants in Australia.

When to plant cordyline australis

The best time of year for planting cordyline australis is in the spring, after the risk of frosty morning temperatures has past. Cordyline australis falls under the category of warm and cool temperate cordyline.

Warm and cool temperate cordylines prefer full-sun to part shade. They are adaptable to most soil types, but good drainage is essential, and will be relatively tolerant of dry and hot conditions once established. Some forms can tolerate frost and temperatures down to -15°C.

Tropical and sub-tropical cordylines will tolerate sun through shade, but can become leggy in too much shade. They like a rich, well-drained soil and reliable moisture, but can tolerate dry periods. However, one thing it is important to note is that cordylines will need wind protection.

Cordyline australis varieties

Cultivars of Cordyline australis have been produced in a variety of colours and styles including the below commonly available types of Cordyline australis:

  • Cordyline australis ‘Green Star’ – This beautiful dwarf Cordyline displays glossy green, strap-like foliage that weeps slightly as it matures. It can produce scented cream blooms above the foliage at times. Cordyline ‘Green Star’ is popularly used as an architectural plant.
  • Cordyline australis ‘Red Sensation’ – Perhaps the most popular of the Cordyline. Cordyline ‘Red Sensation’ features bold earthy red shades and a formal upright growth habit. Robust and hardy. Wonderful in pots or for accent planting.
  • Cordyline ‘Kaspar Green’ – Known for its broad lance shade green leaves and fragrant flower spikes. Cordyline ‘Kaspar Green’ is a stunning choice for Mediterranean and tropical gardens. Cordyline ‘Kaspar Green’ is equipped with a round branching habit forming more compact and dense foliage.
  • Cordyline australis ‘Red Star’ – Cordyline ‘Red Star’ is an attractive species of Cordyline that forms a single trunk and long broad foliage coloured red to burgundy. It is not noted for its flowers but creamy white panicles form on older trees that later produce berries.
  • Cordyline australis ‘Albertii’ – Cordyline ‘Albertii’ is remarkable with a head of sword shaped green leaves that have a cream variegation with pale red toward the trunk, it isn’t a new plant but has been quite rare to find. This plant will add the wow factor to your garden, it’s classy and stylish!
  • Cordyline australis ‘Sundance’ – Cordyline ‘Sundance’ provides an excellent green and red accent colour in your garden all year long. Sundance has an upright habit, strappy foliage and develops a trunk over time. It produces large panicles of small, sweet-scented flowers in late spring to summer.
  • Cordyline australis ‘Sunrise’ – Cordyline ‘Sunrise’ is a stand out plant in any landscape. It has vivid pink and maroon foliage and is far more heat tolerant than other pink Cordylines. It takes some time to form a small tree, and if you desire a plant without a trunk you can be cut back and it will re-shoot well from a lower point.
  • Cordyline australis ‘Sunset’ – Cordyline ‘Sunset’ is an attractive strappy leaved perennial, with red and green variegated foliage on an upright slender central stem. A very hardy, it is popular choice for coastal locations. Its broad upright leaves contrast magnificently with the horizontal lines of hedges, and against light coloured rendered surfaces.
  • Cordyline australis ‘Cabernet’ – Cordyline ‘Cabernett’ is a stunning new architectural plant. It is mainly multi stemmed. It features wonderful foliage coloured just like a Cabernet red wine. This foliage is sword shaped and can reach lengths of 1.5 metres. After time, in summer, Cabernett blooms with white to cream flowers.
  • Cordyline australis ‘Peko’ – Cordyline ‘Peko’ is an elegant plant that produces year round displays of striking lime green strappy leaves creating a stunning feature and contrast to any garden. It produces a bright pink strip on the foliage which runs on the underside of the leaf, further adding to the plants beautiful display. Cordyline australis ‘Peko’ is ideal for planting near pools, in pots or garden beds and also perfect for a feature plant.
  • Cordyline australis ‘Purpurea’ – Cordyline ‘Purpurea’is a single trunk, slender, evergreen tree with a palm-like appearance. Native to New Zealand, this Cordyline will slowly grow to a height of 10m. Each branch has a cluster of purple brown sword-like leaves that do not have sharp terminal spines. In spring, panicles of small creamy-white flowers are produced followed by small purple berries. Very hardy, which makes it a popular choice in coastal zones.
  • Cordyline australis ‘Black Knight’ – Cordyline ‘Black Knight is a deep purple cordyline with strappy leaves make for a dramatic accent plant. It’s tough and hardy despite its good looks. Striking against silver leafed foliage or as an eye-catching mass planting.
  • Cordyline australis ‘Torbay Dazzler’ – Cordyline ‘Torbay Dazzler’ has striking green and cream striped pointed leaves and an upright habit. Compared to other Cordyline australis varieties it is one of the lightest and brightest in colour. It is therefore well-suited to situations that require a light contrast against darker garden backgrounds or dark building colours.
  • Cordyline australis ‘Kirkii’ – Cordyline ‘Kirkii’ is a medium strappy leafed plant with green leaves. Suitable modern themed gardens. Plant in a full sun well drained position. It will tolerate some dryness.
  • Cordyline australis ‘Paradise dream’ – Cordyline ‘Paradise Dream’ has an upright growth habit. The strappy leaves are dull green and pink. In late spring and summer it displays panicles of starry, white flowers. It prefers moist, well drained soil in a sunny to partly shaded position. It is tolerant of drought, strong winds and coastal conditions.

How to plant cordyline australis

Growing cordyline australis at home in the garden is pretty straightforward.

  1. Dig the planting in a full-sun to part shade location with well draining soil.
  2. The hole should be twice as wide and to the same depth as the root-ball. Remove the plant from the container, gently tease the roots and cut away any circled or tangled roots.
  3. Position in hole and back-fill with soil, gently firming down. Form a raised or doughnut shaped ring of soil around the outer edge of the plant’s root zone. This helps keep water at the base of the plant. Always water in well after planting to settle the soil around the roots and keep the soil moist for several weeks while the new plant establishes.
  4. Mulch around the base with organic mulch like wood chips, keeping it from touching the trunk.
  5. Water deeply, once or twice a week, depending on weather conditions.
  6. Feed in Autumn and Spring with a controlled-release fertiliser to promote strong root development, healthy colourful foliage and flowers.

How to grow cordyline australis in pots

You don’t need a large space to have your very own cordyline australis plant. Growing cordyline australis in pots is easy, fun and rewarding! In general growing cordyline australis in pots is a great idea. Below are the steps on how to how to grow cordyline australis in a pot;

  1. Pick a variety that can be grown in a pot. Choose a pot at least 50 cm wide and deep. Position your pot in full sun to part shade location.
  2. Fill chosen pot with premium potting mix. Remove the shrub from the container, gently tease the roots and cut away any circled or tangled roots.
  3. Position in hole in centre of pot and back-fill with potting mix, gently firming down. Water in well.
  4. Water deeply, once or twice a week, depending on weather conditions.
  5. Feed in Autumn and Spring with controlled-release fertilise to promote strong root development, healthy colourful foliage and flowers.

How to propagate cordyline australis plants

You can propagate bird of cordyline australis from cuttings, simply follow these easy steps:

Ideally spring is the best time to prune and take cuttings from your cordyline australis . You will need clean, sharp shears or secateurs to prune your plant.

Cuttings are best taken from mature wood. After you take the cutting, remove the lower leaves leaving a few leaves at the top. This will reduce moisture loss from the plant while it is growing new roots. Allow the cutting to dry out for a couple of days in a dry shady spot before potting up. Use a high quality potting mix with dynamic lifter.

This will allow the roots to establish easily. In spring the cuttings will develop roots in about 4-5 weeks. You will need to stake the cuttings to prevent them from falling over as cordyline australis need protection from the wind. Once the cuttings have established a sufficient root ball, you can then plant them out in the spot where you choose.

How big do cordyline australis get?

A lot of people ask how tall do cordyline australis grow? The truth is the size of cordyline australis varies greatly but they can be known to to grow as tall as 20 metres high.

How much sunlight do cordyline australis need?

Cordyline australis fall into the category of warm and cool temperate cordylines. These are generally hybrids or varieties of Cordyline australis, the New Zealand cabbage palm, so are better suited to less tropical conditions. The general rule for Cordyline australis varieties is that they prefer full-sun to part shade.

Best fertiliser for cordyline australis

Cordyline australis are not a fussy plants Any fertiliser formulated for non-flowering plants will work. Organic fertilisers offer a gentler approach, while Inorganic provide high amounts of nitrogen, potassium and potash. A fertiliser with potash and iron will enhance the colours of the plant. You should fertilise every 6 months. To increase resistance to pests and disease, feeding with a good complete organic fertiliser in spring and autumn is a must.

When do cordyline australis bloom?

Cordyline australis flowers can be stunning. When they bloom depends a little on the hybrid however in majority of cases fragrant flowers may be seen in late spring to early summer..

Cordyline australis problems

Cordylines are a hardy plant in most cases but do get the odd problem, these include:

  • Leaf spot – Leaf spot is a fungal disease. To treat, remove affected leaves and spray new leaves with copper fungicide.
  • Aphids – A pyrethrum or a soap spray will kill these pests.
  • Mealy bugs and scale – You can treat these with an oil-based spray.

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