How to Grow and Care for Your Cordyline Plant

Cordyline plants are a family of around 30 common decorative plants. They are beautiful when in flower and make excellent ornamentals and equally good houseplants. Some species produce flowers and inedible berries. The long leathery textured leaves come in a variety of lovely colors which retain their color all year. Shades include white, yellow, green, pinks, red, purplish-red and purple which all make for an excellent selection to choose from for garden design or interior decorating.

When it comes to keeping pre-sprouted indoor cordyline plants happy, they don’t need a whole lot. They like to be warm, and you will need to place them somewhere with a lot of light exposure. Unlike some houseplants, this family will not be happy brightening a darker corner of your home. Be sure to check you sun specifications for the particular variety you choose as they do vary a bit.


  • Scientific Name– Cordyline terminalis sometimes marked as C. terminalis, C. fruticosa or Dracaena terminals. They are also commonly called the cabbage palm or good luck plant.
  • US Growing Zone– They will thrive in USDA hardiness zones 8-12. However, the cordylines in zone 8 are more likely to die back in winter and may be happier indoors.
  • Sun– Depending on which variety you are growing cordylines range from full sun to partial shade preferences. Too much sun for the wrong varieties may cause leaf fading and slow their growth.
  • Soil Type– You will need a deep and well-drained bed or pot for this lovely species. Clay soil is not suitable, nor should you plant cordylines in compact soil.
  • Soil pH– Though cordylines thrive in neutral to alkaline soil from 6.5-8.0, fluoride toxicity is a common problem for this beautiful family of plants. It can cause mottling, burnt leaf tips, and leaf death. To avoid this problem you’ll want to try and keep your soil pH at 6.5.
  • Soil Additives– Compost, sand, and peat can be added to your soil to aid in drainage for your cordylines. You can use a 20-20-20 fertilizer especially indoors. A slow release granular food may be used instead every six months if you prefer.
  • Water– Indoor cordyline plants (or anytime your outdoor plants are not getting rain) need about an inch of water a week. Overwatering is never good for this family and may kill them.
  • Edibility– No. This family is not edible and can in some cases even be quite toxic.
  • Maturity– Cordylines will grow from 2 to 10 feet high when they are fully mature, though most of the commonly sold decorative varieties tend toward the smaller end of that scale.
  • Pruning– Once flowers have died off you can do some pruning. Cut the stems back with a very sharp knife or set of garden scissors. You’ll also want to remove any dead leaves completely for the health and beauty of the plant.
  • Problems and Pests– Fusarium leaf spotting and mites are the biggest problems for this family, though some other pests and problems can occur from time to time. Proper drainage is vital to avoid root rot and stunting the growth, and freezing weather may harm your cordylines.
  • Design– Working the cordyline into your decorations isn’t difficult. You can place them around the house for added visual interest, not to mention oxygen. Outdoors they make excellent additions to porches and greenhouses. Perhaps most importantly, they shine as part of decorative path edging and in conjunction with other plants in your decorative garden beds.

How to Plant

Outdoor planting is not terribly complicated. Cordylines need a hole twice as deep as the root ball. Backfill lightly and do not tamp down soil too much because compact soil is antithetical to this families growth needs. Create a berm around the plant to hold water in when you do water and make sure to check your soil amendments first so you get proper drainage. As evergreen plants, you should not need to worry about any replanting in subsequent years, once you have them where you want them it is done.

*Warning: While any cordyline makes an excellent houseplant, it is not good for homes with cats or dogs. The toxicity is highest from the seeds, but the entire plant can harm your furry friend. Untreated cordyline poisoning can cause kidney failure. It’s best to make sure you keep housepets out of any plant unless you are absolutely certain it is safe

Final Thoughts

Unless you have concerns for your pets’ health, cordylines, in general, make for really stunning additions to any growing scheme. The flamboyant leaf colors bring some really ravishing color into any area. The hardest thing about them once you understand how to care for the family, is just choosing the colors and varieties you most desire to have around and where to put them.

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