I planted my first Cordyline australis 14 years ago and since then, I have propagated several new cordyline plants that have thrived.
Cordyline australis is a native plant of New Zealand that is characterized by its stout trunk and meter-long, sword-like leaves. It has become very popular throughout Europe due to its subtropical appearance, yet its hardiness to the cold.
Also known as a cabbage palm or cabbage tree, it can grow as tall as 20 meters in the right environment and likes plenty of water and sunshine to thrive.
The Many Beauties and Uses of Cordylines
In New Zealand, the cordyline trees—and, in particular, its meter-long leaves—were put to many uses, including house construction, rope making, basket weaving, and other textile projects.
Over the last 10–15 years throughout England, cordylines have been planted in thousands of gardens and public parks, partly because they are able to tolerate the English winters.
It can take 6–10 years before the first flower spikes are produced. But if the conditions are right, it could be as early as three years for the cordyline to reveal its spectacular display of flowers. In the spring, it produces one-meter-long flower spikes that are covered in hundreds of tiny white flowers, with the scent of jasmine filling your garden.
The flowerheads attract insects and bees, turning the plant into a hive of activity as they all compete for the tiny white flowers' sweet nectar. The flower spikes last for a month or longer before the flowers die back, leaving purple seeds that the birds love to eat.
In southern Brittany, France, I planted my first cordyline in 2006. They have since transformed my French garden into a subtropical oasis, along with the other plants chosen to create a new garden for us to enjoy.
We have had some winters where the temperatures have plummeted down to -12°F some nights. Yet all our cordyline plants have been unaffected, even with a dusting of snow.
The Plant That Keeps on Giving
Throughout the year, cordylines remain splendid to look at and, even in the depths of winter, give you a glimpse of the summer to come. Yet, although they have a subtropical look to them and are cold tolerant, these plants do not do well in tropical climates.
One of the delights of planting cordylines is how easy it is to generate new plants from your initial purchase.
We paid 300 euros for a pair of cordylines standing at 6 feet tall back in 2006 for instant impact for our garden. These trees are now standing over 20 feet tall and have supplied us with many bonus plants over the years. It's definitely the plant that keeps on giving.
How to Propagate Cordyline Australis
As your cordyline plants gain height and start to thrive in your garden, you will see young, new stems growing from the base of the plant or from existing branches. It's these new stems that I utilize to create new plants.
- With a sharp knife, cut the new stem from the mother plant at the base of the new stem. With the new stems on existing branches, I tend to remove as soon as I see them. But every now and then, a new stem will grow from the base of the mother plant. I would recommend allowing that stem to grow for a year before separating it from the mother plant. The hope is that the new stem will have its own root system in place and will be very easy to transplant once cut from the mother plant.
- Dip the base of the cut stem in rooting powder and plant in either a large container or directly back in your garden. The most important part of planting the new stem is to place it in a location where it will not be knocked by anyone walking by—all the new plants that were lost in the past were the ones that had been knocked over by children playing in the garden. I now plant my new cordyline plants in a quiet corner of the garden and allow them a year or two to grow and develop a strong root system before moving them to my preferred location.
- Water your new cordyline plants regularly, and do not allow them to dry out.
It's as simple as that to get free new cordyline plants. The video above shows you exactly how I go about propagating my cordylines.
I have been successful in propagating Cordyline australis, Cordyline redstar, and other varieties of these plants using this method.
How to Care for Cordyline Plants
Growing and caring for your cordylines is very easy. As long as they have plenty of sunshine and you water them frequently, they will thrive.
We have just two jobs to do each year with our cordylines. The first is to remove the brown leaves from the plant, and that is a simple process of pulling them away from the tree. Don't worry if you cannot reach the highest leaves, because in high winds, all the brown leaves will eventually blow down.
The second job is to remove the dead flower spikes after flowering has finished.
Both the above jobs are simply cosmetic, however, as the plants look after themselves.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.