Indoor Cordyline


Cordyline fruticosa 'Rubra'. Copyright: Wikimedia Commons



Contents

  1. Top Tips
  2. Location, Water, Humidity & Fertilisation
  3. Common Issues
  4. Origins, Temperature, Propagation, Repotting & Toxicity.


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Top Tips & Info

  • Care Difficulty - Easy to Moderate
  • Indoor Cordylines are best suited in bright, indirect locations. Although they can grow in shaded areas, we'd recommend exposing the specimen to an hour of morning or evening sunlight to maintain good health.  
  • Allow the soil's top third to dry out in between irrigations, reducing this slightly further in the autumn and winter. 
  • Fertilise using a 'Houseplant' labelled feed every four waters in the spring and summer, reducing this to every six in the colder months.
  • Repot every three years with a 'Houseplant' labelled compost & the next sized pot.
  • Mealybugs & Spider Mites are common pests will all types of Cordylines; check in the cubbyholes of the stems & beneath the leaf arches for possible outbreaks.




Location & Light - 🔸🔸

During the spring and summer, be sure to provide a brightly lit spot away from any direct light. Excessive exposure during this time will negatively affect the plant in the likes of sun-scorch and dehydration. Once the autumn kicks in, be sure to include an hour or two of direct light per day to get it through the dormancy period, lasting until the following spring.

If you wish to keep yours in a shaded spot, be sure to decrease the number of waters somewhat and dust the foliage, too. This will not only increase photosynthetic rates with cleaner leaves, but it'll also reduce the risk of over-watering, which is common in dark settings.


Water - 🔸

Moist compost is vital for a long-lasting Cordyline. Allow the top third of the soil to dry out in between waters, reducing this further in the autumn and winter. Those situated in darker locations must be watered far less than with those grown in brighter areas to counteract the high risk of soil mould and root rot. Under-watering symptoms include dry leaf-edges and slowed growth, which is usually the product of too much sunlight/heat or forgetfulness. Over-watering symptoms include root/stem rot and rapidly declining health. Remove the plant's pot and inspect the lower portion of root rot; if the disease is present, head over to this article to learn more.


Humidity - 🔸🔸

Average room humidity is enough to satisfy this plant, as long as you don't live in an overly-dry climate. Never situate it within a few metres of an operating radiator due to the enriched chance of browning leaf-tips. If you are indeed worried about dry air, create a humidity tray to provide a moist and stable environment for your plant, which will also have the added benefit of slowing the rates of drying soil!


Fertilisation - 🔸

Fertilise every four waters during the growing period before reducing this to every six in the autumn & winter. Although an 'All-Purpose' fertiliser will still do the job, we'd recommend using a specific 'Houseplant' labelled fertiliser as it'll support the vital thirteen nutrients that this species will need to grow.




Common Issues with Indoor Cordylines 

Yellowing lower leaves (closest to soil) could be a sign of over-watering, but equally is a byproduct of maturity. If the older leaves rapidly become yellow in quick succession, over-watering could be to blame. People don't realise that a plant's root system needs access to oxygen too; when soil is watered, the air will travel upwards and out of the potting mix. A lack of accessible oxygen for the roots will cause them to subsequently breakdown over the oncoming days. Click on this link to learn more about root rot and how to address it.

A loss of variegations is caused by too little light. Although a Cordyline is an excellent choice for shady locations, it'll come at the cost of its variegations. Move the plant into a brighter area with bright, indirect light to allow the variegations to appear on the new growth. If you aren't entirely displeased about the loss, simply skip this step. Alternatively, extreme variegations that hinder the plant from developing chlorophyll (green pigmentation) is typically caused by too much sunlight.

Spider Mites are small, near-transparent critters, that'll slowly extract the chlorophyll from of its leaves. Have a check under the leaves, most notably along the midrib, for small webs and gritty yellow bumps. Click here to read our article about the eradicating Spider Mites, along with some extra tips that you may not find elsewhere!

An array of simultaneous cultivation issues will increase the chance of developing yellowed leaf-sections with browned halos - see image below for visual reference. Firstly, the location may be too dark, with its compost staying too saturated in-between waters; if mould is growing across the soil, this is usually a bad sign. Further, you're potentially using too cold water or tap water that hasn't been allowed to sit for 24hrs. This period of rest will not only bunk-up its temperature, but the harsh chemicals used to preserve water hygiene (fluoride & chloride) will begin to settle after a few hours. If possible, use fresh bottled water from a shop or supermarket to prevent further chemical burns. The final culprit might be lack of fertilisation, with regular feeds being paramount for long-lasting, healthy leaves. If the specimen hasn't been nourished in over two months, it'll begin to show signs of nutrient deficiencies seen in this article.
If this common problem has occurred with your specimen, remove the affected leaves (not areas) and improve the growing conditions considerably. Fertilise regularly with lukewarm water and be sure to allow the top third to dry out in between hydrations. Its new growth should be problem-free, but if you'd like to speak to ukhouseplants regarding this issue, don't be afraid to book a 1-to-1 call with Joe Bagley to help guide you through the step-by-step process!

Yellowing leaf-tips are the product of cold water or too much fluoride in the soil. This issue is caused by using tap water which hasn't sat for 24hrs to alleviate the chemicals via evaporation. We'd recommend switching it for collected rainwater or fresh bottled water to improve its health, along with the reduction of its fluoride-count. The older leaves will always bear the scars of the past, but the new foliage should be as good as new within the next month.

Mould developing on the soil means two things - too little light and over-watering. Despite the harmlessness, it'll prove unsightly to most gardeners and is therefore removed once known. To remove, replace the top two inches of the soil for a fresh batch of 'Houseplant' compost. Either increase the amount of light received (no direct sunlight for the first few weeks to prevent environmental shock) or decrease the frequency of waters slightly. If the mould is accompanied by yellowing lower leaves, you may also have a case of root rot.




Origins

Cordyline was first penned by Philibert Commerson in 1763, who used the Greek word, kordyle, that translates to 'club' in English, referring to its enlarged underground rhizomes. The popular indoor species, C. fruticosa, was described by Auguste Jean Baptiste Chevalier in 1919, describing its fruticose branches that hang and house its flowers. 


The Distribution of Cordyline in Green & Cordyline fruticosa in Blue


Temperature

10° - 32°C   (50° - 90°F)
H1b  (Hardiness Zone 12)  - Can be grown outdoors during the summer in a sheltered location with temperatures above 12℃  (54℉),  but is fine to remain indoors, too. If you decide to bring this plant outdoors, don't allow it to endure any direct sunlight as it may result in sun-scorch and dehydration. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing it back indoors.


Spread

Over 3m in height and 0.7m in width once they reach maturity. The ultimate height will take between 8 - 10 years to achieve, with around 12cm of new growth per season.


Pruning & Maintenance

Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.


Propagation

Via Seed & Stem Cuttings. 

Stem Cuttings (Easy)

  1. Hygiene is the most crucial element of successful propagation. The secateurs must be dirt-free with a fresh (or well stored) batch of compost. As you'll be cutting through vulnerable tissue, using uncleanly equipment will introduce harmful pathogens to the cutting and its mother plant.
  2. For stem cuttings, the best specimens are those located at the leading growths. You should aim for a semi-wooded base that's pencil-thick and still juvenile to slightly bend. Never use diseased or weakened growth, as this will likely fail to root. If, however, the cutting is littered in Pests - fear not. Remove all of the affected areas using your fingers, including the eggs, 'HQ' and any webs. Wholly submerge the cutting for at least two days to drown and kill the pests. Check the cubbyholes before placing it in soil; it's far easier to address a pest attack while the plant is mobile (i.e. without soil) than it would be in the soil. If the pests don't die after five days of full submersion, use an organic pesticide to help the eradication process, maintaining full water-submersion until the infestation is deemed destroyed. For more information about an outbreak and how it can be addressed, click here
  3. Make the best incision possible to prevent the development of disease and remove the bottom half of the leaves.
  4. Decide on rooting the cutting via water or soil. The first option tends to have better success, especially if you're a new-time propagator. For the prior method, remove any rotten debris and replace the water every week with lukewarm tap water to prevent shocking the plant. Although collected rainwater is acceptable, the risk of harboured diseases is too high, especially with an open wound. Once the roots surpass 3cm, you can safely pot it up.
  5. For both options, (water & soil) use an aerated soil that has a fluffy texture with some perlite, too. Never use a poorly stored bag of compost as it'll promote larvae or perennial seeds to arise. We would recommend using 'Houseplant Compost' as it has a great balance between being water-retentive, but still 'airy' enough to promote root growth. Use a 7cm pot that has adequate drainage holes.
  6. Place a 2cm layer of soil at the bottom of the pot, and then rest the cutting vertically in the middle. You may have the cutting for support.
  7. Fill the soil around its base, making sure that its bottom half is submerged and NOT the leaves.
  8. Never press or compact the soil; condensing it to support the cutting will push the oxygen above the soil line, suffocating the roots until they rot. If it needs support, introduce a cane or something that won't condense the soil when inserted!
  9. Place the potted cutting in a transparent bag or box. Because of the lack of roots, it'll start to lose stored water very quickly. A confided environment will lock-in the humidity and reduce the rate of respiration and transpiration considerably.
  10. You'll rarely have to water the soil due to the high humidity. If the soil compacts itself after the first irrigation, level it out by adding more compost. 
  11. Open the bag every few days for fresh air. Be sure to keep the soil evenly moist, but NOT soggy - if it looks saturated, leaves it. The surrounding humidity in the container will do its job by hydrating the leaves.
  12. Situate in a bright, indirect location away from any heat sources (i.e. radiators). Keep the temperature around 18℃ (64℉) as this is the optimum temperature for root development - you can even use a bottom-heat pad to speed-up the process. The roots will develop BEFORE the foliage, so bear that in mind if you're an impatient gardener. Safely remove the bag or box once new leaves emerge, as, at this point, there'll be a sufficient root system. Introduce a Pebble Tray to maintain a good level of atmospheric saturation and to reduce the severity of environmental shock 
  13. Keep the soil moist and maintain a bright, indirect location away from direct sunlight and other heat sources. After around four months, transplant into a slightly bigger pot, keeping in mind transplant shock (where the root hairs are damaged or over-touched) and follow the care-tips provided above.


Flowers

Small pink flowers are arranged along a thick flower shaft that'll droop towards the top half of the stem, lasting several weeks. It's highly unlikely that a domestically grown specimen will bloom indoors due to the unfavored growing conditions of too low humidity and consistent temperature levels throughout the year.


Repotting

Repot every two years in the spring, using a 'Houseplant' labelled compost and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. Hydrate the plant 24hrs before tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. Add a thin layer of small grit in the pot's base and the lower portion of the new compost to improve drainage & downplay over-watering. Click here for a detailed step-by-step guide on transplantation, or via this link to learn about repotting with root rot.

Book a 1-to-1 video call with Joe Bagley if you'd like a personal guide to repotting your houseplant. This will include recommending the right branded-compost and pot size, followed by a live video call whilst you transplant the specimen for step-by-step guidance and answer any further questions!


Pests & Diseases

Keep an eye out for mealybugs, spider mites, scale, thrips & whitefly that'll locate themselves in the cubbyholes and undersides of the leaves. Common diseases are root rot, leaf-spot disease, botrytis, powdery mildew & southern blight - click here to learn more about these issues.


Toxicity

This plant is classified as poisonous. If parts of the plants are eaten, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite could occur. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with quickly - acquire medical assistance for further information.


Retail Locations

Online Stores.



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