Dictionary of Flowers: Cordyline (False Dracena, Spikes)

Cordyline (Spikes, False Dracena): used as dramatic accent plants in container garden arrangements. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Leonora Enking and Flickr
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Cordyline (Spikes, False Dracena): used as dramatic accent plants in container garden arrangements. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Leonora Enking and Flickr

  • Cordyline
  • Common name: cordyline, false dracena, spikes
  • Family: Avagaceae
  • Category: annual, perennial in USDA zones 8 and warmer
  • Height: 12" to 36”
  • Width: 10" to 36”
  • Sun/shade
  • Blooms: grown for foliage
  • Growth habit: erect. Used as a thriller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: average, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers
  • Garden uses: containers, specimen plants
  • Diseases: generally disease free
  • Pests: spider mites, mealybugs

Cordyline is native to the western Pacific Ocean area. It is perennial in frost free zones, and it should be treated as an annual in colder zones.

If planted on the ground, most cordyline varieties are only hardy to 15F.

Cordyline looks like a grass, with wide blades in colors ranging from green to bronze, burgundy and pinks and variegated forms.

The blades grow from a central point. Cordyline's erect growth habit makes it a good plant to use as a thriller in container combinations.

It can lend a tropical look to a container combination.

They are easily available in nurseries during late spring and summer. Most of the plants available as ornamentals belong to the species cordyline australis and cordyline fruticosa hybrids.

Cordyline prefers full sun, though it can grow in part shade conditions.

Some of the colored varieties do better in partial shade, as sunshine tends to fade the color of the leaves.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

They can be planted outdoors once the danger of frost has passed and the soil is somewhat warm. Fertilize cordyline during spring and summer with a balanced fertilizer formula.

It grows well in average soil with good drainage. In containers, use standard potting mix. Little pruning is needed when grown as an annual, just remove damaged foliage if any.

Although they are somewhat drought tolerant when established, it is best to water them regularly to prevent plant stress.

Though they can be divided, it is easier to propagate cordyline by root cuttings. They can also be grown from seed, though germination takes a month or more and it is erratic.

The seed needs to be pressed on moist starting mix. Do not cover, as seeds need light to germinate. Temperature to germinate must alternate between 68 and 86 during night and day.

When seedlings are two inches tall, transplant to individual containers. Wait till they are six inches to plant in their permanent outdoor positions, after hardening off. 




IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Cordyline are disease resistant when grown as annuals, but spider mites and mealybugs can become a problem. Treat as needed with insecticidal soap.

Popular varieties:

  • Cordyline 'Red Sensation' - dark purple leaves, narrow.
  • Cordyline 'Southern Splendor' - dark bronze leaves with pink edges and a pink central stripe
  • Cordyline 'Torbay Dazzler'- cream and green variegated
  • Cordyline 'Cha Cha' - clumping, light foliage, mix of yellow and green
  • Cordyline 'Pink Stripe' - dark green leaves with a pink center
  • Cordyline 'Albertii' - green leaves with red centers surrounded by cream stripes and pink edges

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

Go from Cordyline (False Dracena, Spikes) to the Dictionary of Flowers

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