When I wrote the Friday Foliage post about plants with rainbow foliage, I couldn’t choose a cordyline to include – there are just too many in such a stunning array of colors! So many, in fact, that I decided to give them their own spotlight. Cordyline is a genus comprised of various species native to the western Pacific Ocean region, including Hawaii, Polynesia, parts of Asia, Australia and, of course, New Zealand. Why is it that New Zealand and Australia have all the best plants? I can’t wait until I can start taking botanical fieldtrips overseas!
There are two species that make up the majority of commercially grown cordylines: C. australis – despite its name – is native to New Zealand and has long, strap-like leaves emerging from a central point. Cultivars range from compact, 2′ tall varieties to the 30′ tall ‘Purple Tower.’ This is the species most California gardeners will be familiar with, as it is more hardy and tolerates full sun, low water and coastal conditions. As with many cordylines, cultivars of C. australis come in tons of different colors, showing striped leaf variations in shades of red, pink, burgundy, chartreuse, yellow, cream, purple and near-black. Common cultivars include ‘Pink Stripe,’ ‘Red Sensation,’ ‘Southern Splendor,’ ‘Electric Pink,’ ‘Sundance’ and ‘Torbay Dazzler.’
C. fruticosa, on the other hand, puts its hardier cousin to shame in the color department. With big, broad leaves that are almost kaleidoscopic in nature, these plants are coveted by collectors who live in the correct climate. The “ti” plant, as it is also known, requires true tropical conditions, including bright indirect light, consistently moist soil and high humidity. In the United States, it can only be grown outside in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Elsewhere, certain varieties can be tried as houseplants but require a dedicated caretaker. There are many, many cultivars, ranging in color from bright fuschias, oranges, greens and purples to chocolate, magenta and soft pastels. Some common varieties are ‘Hawaiian Flag,’ ‘ Kiwi,’ ‘Red Sister’ and ‘Mocha Latte.’
And there you have it! One of the most exotic-looking foliage plants out there, in hundreds of colors and two species to suit your gardening preferences. Can’t wait to get some of your own? All pictures seen here are from RealFlora, a grower who specializes in tropical plants and ships rooted, ready-to-plant specimens from Florida around the nation! Their selection includes all the varieties of cordyline seen here, and more! Head on over to RealFlora for more gorgeous plants that will make you long for warmer climes.