Cordyline australis

Common Name: cabbage tree 
Type: Tree
Family: Asparagaceae
Native Range: New Zealand
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 6.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-11. In its native habitat, it tolerates a wide range of soils from boggy conditions to dry ones. In cultivation, it is best grown in moist, fertile, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. In St. Louis, it must be grown in containers which can be placed outside on patios in summer or grown indoors year-round as houseplants. Keep container soils consistently moist in summer but reduce moisture indoors in winter. Container patio plants should be overwintered in bright sunny spots in the home or in greenhouses. This plant develops a taproot which needs the root space of a large and deep container for best growth.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cordyline australis, commonly called giant dracaena or cabbage palm, is one of the best known and most recognized of the plants indigenous to New Zealand where it typically grows as a single or multiple-trunked tree to 20-30’ tall. It was introduced into the U.S in the early 1800s and now grows in a number of locations in California and the southern U.S. It features sword-shaped gray-green leaves to 3’ long and only 2-3” wide. Impressive panicles of small fragrant white flowers bloom in late spring to early summer, however container-grown plants rarely flower. Young plants feature a fountain of grass-like leaves with no trunk and are often sold in this form as houseplants. Patio container plants will slowly develop a cane-like trunk or trunks over time, eventually growing to as much as 15’ tall. Synonymous with Dracaena australis.

Genus name comes from the Greek word kordyle meaning a club.

Specific epithet means southern.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for mealybugs, scale and spider mites, particularly on indoor plants.

Garden Uses

Grow in containers in the St. Louis area for use as summer patio plants or as year round houseplants. Mature container plants can lend a tropical flavor to patios, decks and other locations around the home.