The Cordyline is very distinctive with its palm like appearance and adds that element of the tropics, sandy beaches and holidays. There are numerous mature Cabbage palms (also called Torbay or Torquay palm as many grow there) in Cornwall as they seem to enjoy the mild wet climate.
Cordyline australis is not really a tropical or jungle plant and in fact it does not like that type of climate. They are hardy in the UK in all but the harshest of winters such as the winter of 2010 to 2011 where it reached -20°c in some parts. Due to the unusually low temperastures many were cut down to the ground but many regrew. In the milder regions of the UK they remained unaffected.
The Cordyline tree can take temperatures down to -9°c so it does stay evergreen all year round and are frost hardy. Some cultivars however are not as hardy as the plain green variety you see growing most commonly. The pink varieties are reported to be more tender with the exception of Cordyline australis 'Charlie Boy' which is just as hardy as the green ones.
Cordyline Plant Care
Cordylines do not require pruning as such, they are pretty much maintenance free and can be left alone which makes it great for a low maintenance garden. The only Cordyline care I have ever needed to do is to remove the lower leaves as they dieback to keep it looking tidy.
They can produce flower stems not unlike the Yucca and these can also be removed when the flowers die to keep the plant looking tidy.
Snails can be a problem as they can hide in the crown and come out to munch on the leaves which makes the plant look untidy. The snails are pretty easy to spot and remove and it really only seems to be a problem with younger less mature plants.
You wouldn't expect Cordyline to flower but they do. Cordyline australis flower in summer, the picture above is from a young Cordyline australis and this is the first time it has flowered. Flowering takes place on these palms after about 15 years at which point the growing tip splits to form two stems.
The flower spike covered in a spray of tiny white flowers is quite large and does look quite impressive attracting insects including bees. Mine did not produce any seed that year but they can produce a profusion of small berries.
I removed the flower spike in March only because I was tidying up after winter and it didn't look like I was going to get any viable seed from it.
Cordyline Plant Varieties
Here is a list of Cordyline varieties with hardiness temperatures. I have taken the temperatures from past experience and sources online so take as a guideline.
The new coloured varieties can add a real eye catching feature to your garden and add that exotic appeal. As they are evergreen they remain in leaf all year round and do not die back unless we get a really harsh winter as in 2010/11.
‣ Cordyline australis, green -9°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Cardinal', red, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Pink Passion', purple centre stripe with pink edges, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Claret', purple, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Purple Sensation', reddish purple with cream stripes and central pink stripe, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Red Star', lighter red bronze, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Southern Splendour', greeny grey with pink margin, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Sundance', green with central pink stripe, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Torbay Dazzler', green with cream margin, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Charlie Boy', red purple with pink margin, -9°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Pink Sensation', red purple with pink margin, -6°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Red Sensation', darker red purple, -1°c
to -9°c(needs verifying)
‣ Cordyline australis 'Torbay Red', burgundy red, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Sparkler', green pale red stripe and cream margin, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Sunrise', dark pink with bright pink margin, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Verde', green, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Purpurea', purple, 0°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Pink champagne', pink flush near base to green with white cream margins, -5°c
‣ Cordyline australis 'Choc Mint', chocolate brown with mint green margins, -8°c(needs verifying)
‣ Cordyline australis 'Eurostripe', wide reddish stripe with green margin, -5°c(possibly same plant as Choc Mint)
Cordyline australis For Sale
You can find quite a diverse range of Cordylines for sale online covering the green, reds and pink colour ranges. We really are spoilt for choice and the range is growing to rival that of Phormiums.
We should mention that there are other Cordylines such as Cordyline banksii, Cordyline stricta, Cordyline obtecta and Cordyline fruticosa but are not commonly available. They have not been widely grown and tested in our British climate as well as australis.
The standard green Cordyline is the hardiest and the most established in the UK. The purple and reds vary in hardiness but are the next most established.
The most colourful and interesting are the pink varieties with each cultivar varying slightly in appearance but seemingly varying greatly in hardiness and reliability.
I stumbled across the pink striped 'Charlie Boy' some time ago and managed to get hold of one after much trying. Then in 2017 at a plant fair I spoke to someone who had one for sale who was a friend of the person who originally grew it from a seedling which was supposed to be the standard green variety.
He had been growing it in a relatively exposed position for several years and hadn't suffered any damage at sub zero temperatures. The plant has been exposed to periods at -9°c suffering only slight frost damage.
Varieties such as Charlie Boy are more widely available and are well worth buying as an addition to the green Cordyline.
Most Popular Cordylines
The Cabbage palm or Torbay palm as I prefer is an iconic plant that adds a touch of the exotic to a garden. Whilst there a number of more colourful varieties the most popular and most readily available Cordyline plants are the green C. australis and C. australis 'Red Star'.
This sub tropical Cabbage tree is fast growing and once the roots are established can put on a foot a year. In favourable conditions this palm has been known to grow 10 feet in 3 years.
I have found they seem to grow faster when given sun, space and well drained soil. I have some growing on raised ground (pictured above) where it stays very dry.
On the opposite side of the garden I have one that looks great and is growing rapidly in a dry shaded location facing west and sheltered on the east side by a fence.
I have only ever seen mature green plants and semi mature red and purple leaved sports. The pinks are relatively new in their widespread availability and so are still few and far between in our British gardens.
It would however be an amazing site to see a fully mature multi headed 'Charlie Boy' as large as the palms you see in Cornwall.
Cordyline australis Eurostripe
An unusual variegation of red and green with a wide red central stripe and green outer edges. I've grown one since 2017 so it has survived a few winters with the lowest being down to -5c.
It seems to be the same plant as Cordyline Chocolate Mint or Choc Mint and does not seem to be widely available in the UK.
Cordyline australis 'Red Star'
A popular and widely available variety of Torbay Palm is Cordyline Red Star. Similar to the standard green leaved form but with a more red than burgundy colouring and similar to Red Sensation in looks.
It should grow to a similar height to the other cultivars although I have never seen a fully mature Cordyline other than the standard Cordyline australis and possibly Cordyline Verde. It also produces multiple heads that branch out from the central stem to eventually form a canopy as it reaches a mature height about the height of the guttering on a typical UK house.
Cordyline australis 'Charlie Boy' vs Cordyline 'Pink Passion'
The two most popular pink Cordyline are very similar in appearance but Cordyline Charlie Boy has a better cold tolerance and seems to fair better in our damp and cold climate. I've written more in depth about Cordyline Charlie Boy and there are lots more pictures so you can see how it compares to Pink Passion.
There are not many varieties of big leaved plants that are not green but when it comes to Cordyline australis we have quite a few colourful varieties to choose from. I have seen quite a few mature standard green cordylines growing in the UK, mostly along the coast due to the milder climate allowing them to survive rare deep freezes that may cut down palms growing inland.
The red coloured Cordylines (although they tend to be closer to burgundy) can stand out amongst the green foliage. Variegated and unusual colour foliage plants are a great way to add colour to complement bright coloured flowers. Being evergreen the long strappy tropical like leaves stand out all year round.
The red varieties tend to be as hardy as the green and are mostly safe to grow unprotected in the UK bar regions that experience persistent sub zero temperatures or exposed cold winds.
The likes of Cordyline Red Star and Cordyline Red sensation are probably the most commonly available in the UK although Torbay Red, Red Sunset and Purpurea are also available.
More Evergreen Plants...
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