Common name: Cabbage Palm

Cordyline australis is a tender or half-hardy evergreen palm-like shrub / tree grown for its long-pointed, narrow attractive leaves in shades of green, bronze, purple, sometimes with red or yellow midribs.

Cultivars with coloured leaves are best sited in light semi-shade as the foliage can fade if exposed to strong sunshine.

Cordyline australis
Cordyline in flower

They gradually drop their older bottom leaves which gives the plants their palm-like appearance.

In favourable years it flowers in late June to early July,the flowers are then followed by clusters of round purple berries in autumn.

The flowers can either be removed or retained and cut out later when no longer attractive, or left until seeds are ripe for collection.

Because of its dubious hardiness Cordalynes are generally only grown outdoors in the milder areas of the south and west of the UK, in the northern areas they will require greenhouse or indoor conditions.

If grown in the border they can grow to 7metres (20ft) high.

If grown outdoors they require well-drained garden soil in full sun or partial shade.

Newly planted plants should be supported with stakes to prevent wind rock.

Water freely during summer, but keep the plants just moist during winter.

Liquid feed with a balanced fertiliser every week to ten days from May till September.

Container culture

Growing in containers will restrict the height to around 2metres (6ft).

Ideally, plants should be over-wintered under glass, watered sparingly and returned outdoors when the risk of frost has passed.

Plants should be grown in 200-300mm (8”-12”") pots of Ji3 (or equivalent) potting compost.

Adding some grit to the compost will improve drainage.

Place plants outdoors in a bright, sheltered spot during the summer.

Avoid temperatures in excess of 16°C (60°F)

Water freely during summer, but keep the plants just moist during winter.

Liquid feed with a balanced fertiliser every week to ten days from May till September.

Re-pot every other year in March.

Avoid temperatures in excess of 16°C (60°F)

General culture

Circa Week 13-18:

Sow seeds (see propagation)

Week 13:

Remove any old brown lower leaves.

Remove them by carefully, pulling them gently downwards and away from the main stem.

You will find the leaves bases overlap one another at their base, so remove the leaves from the lowest upwards.

On completion apply a general fertilser around the base of plants, especially those growing in pots.

Propagate suckers (see propagation)

Week 28:

Take stem and or tip cuttings (see propagation)

Pruning / Training

Generally no pruning is required other than removing diseased,damaged or dead leaves, and dead flowers on the occasions it flowers.

Some plants may throw out side growths and or suckers.

If these require removing cut them down to ground level after the last frost has passed.

Root them if more stock is required (see propagation)

If a multi-stemmed appearance is required cut out the growing tip to induce side shoot growth/s.

These tips can be rooted to increasestock (see propagation)

After pruning, encourage new growth with an application of balanced fertiliser on completion of the pruning.


Cordylines can be propagated from cuttings, seed, tip cuttings, stem cuttings or suckers.


Take 100-150mm (4"-6") long tip cuttings from the centre of the plant or branches if multi-stemmed, and remove all the leaves apart from the terminal ones.

Pot these up into pots of a 50-50 (by volume) peat/sand mixture and propagate them in a well lit spot (but not direct sunlight) at a temperature of 21°C (70°F).

Once rooted pot on as required until plants are of a size suited to planting in their final quarters.


Sow seed in pots/trays of seed compost and germinate at 21°-24°C (70°-75°F)

Pot up seedlings into 75mm (3") when large enough to handle, and pot on mature plants as necessary.

Stem cuttings:

Cut stems of old leggy plants into 75mm (3") pieces.

Bury the pieces vertically in pots of a 50-50 (by volume) peat/sand mixture and propagate at a temperature of 21°C (70°F).

As new growth appears pot up singly, into the next size of pot until reaching final pot size.

Adding grit to the potting compost will aid drainage and reduce the risk of a waterlogged root system.


Detach suckers and pot them up into 100mm (4") pots and grow on for a year in a greenhouse or conservatory, maintaining a minimum temperature of 13°C (55°F).

Pot on as necessary until they are in their final 200mm (8") pots.

Adding grit to the potting compost will aid drainage and reduce the risk of a waterlogged root system.

Winter care

Young plants, in particular coloured varieties are prone to cold damage.

The aim is to provide a minimum temperature of 5°-15°C (40°- 60°F) for the more tender species.

australis is slightly hardier and will cope with temperatures around 5°C (40°F).

Outdoor plants:

To prevent winter damage, tie up the foliage to reduce wind damage to the leaves and prevent water collecting around growing points, as this can cause rotting.

Wrapping the trunk with layers of fleece and or straw and spreading a 150mm (6in) layer of mulch over the root area will give added protection in areas that are prone to severe conditions.

Containerised plants:

Move container grown plants into a frost-free location, such as a greenhouse,shed or garage (providing there is a window in it) during periods of cold or wet weather.

Do not store for long periods in total darkness, they will still need all the light that is available during the winter months.

Alternatively, wrap containers in bubble polythene, place them against a sheltered wall.

Wrapping the trunk and tying the leaves as suggested for outdoor plants can be an additional insurance against loss.

Pests and diseases

The are generally trouble free.

They may suffer from winter damage so give them protection as described under winter care and this should minimise such problems.

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