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Bring the tropics indoors: How to care for your cordyline plants

Cordyline plants are tropical plants native to the Pacific Islands and portions of Southeast Asia. Choosing a cordyline plant that’s right for your home is easy, but you have to make sure you can create the conditions that are conducive to its needs. In the warmest regions, cordyline can be both an indoor and an outdoor plant; however, if you live anywhere that isn’t a warm, tropical place, your cordyline should strictly be an indoor houseplant. These plants are fairly easy to grow indoors and will add both color and interest to your houseplant collection!

Green and white cordyline plant

How to care for a cordyline plant

Soil and watering requirements

To thrive in an indoor environment, cordyline plants need high-quality soil with good drainage. It would be ideal to have your cordyline in a pot that drains well, too, so that you don’t run the risk of excess water sitting around and potentially rotting the roots. The soil should remain continuously moist (i.e., you don’t want it to completely dry out between watering).

If the surface of the soil is dry, that means it’s time to water! Be aware that during the colder months your cordyline plant will need much less water than it does during its growing season.

If the cordyline’s plant leaves are turning brown, that could be because you’re under-watering your plant. On the other hand, if the leaves are turning darker brown and their texture has become much softer, it may be because you’re overwatering it. Be sure to only watering when the top inch or more of the soil is dry.

Lighting needs

Cordyline plants can handle a small bit of shade, but they prefer to live in a lot of light. If you have a greenhouse that gets a lot of sun, the cordyline will do wonderfully in there! Inside your home or apartment, it would be best to put the plant near a window that gets a lot of indirect sunlight.

Cordyline’s love of sunlight ends when it becomes too direct, as that can result in fading leaves, and your plant will lose its vibrancy; however, you may find that your green-leafed cordyline prefers more direct sunlight than your cordyline of a different color.

Light needs can vary from plant to plant, so you may need to adjust your care accordingly.

Are there varieties of cordyline plants?

There are 15 different cordyline plant varieties. As noted above, some of them prefer slightly different conditions than their counterparts. There may often be several different varieties of cordyline at your local nursery that have varying patterns and colors. Their core care remains the same, though, so you should feel free to select your cordyline based on which one you like best.

The spear-shaped, leathery leaves are consistent from variety to variety. What changes are the colors and patterns. Cordylines can be red, yellow, green, white, purple, and reddish-purple. Some varieties can produce flowers (and occasionally berries) at the beginning of the summer that ranges from white to lavender in color.

Some varieties you can look into include:

  • Hawaiian Boy
  • Candy Cane
  • Red Sister
  • Rainbow
  • Black Mystique
  • Tricolor
  • Firebrand
A close-up of cordyline leaves
David Clode/Unsplash

Can you propagate cordyline plants?

Cordyline plants can be propagated with 3- to 5-inch cuttings from a mature plant. The new stems can grow either from the base of the plant or off of the existing stems. For propagating, you’ll want to remove them with a sterilized tool (like pruners or a sharp knife). To ensure the best survival, it would be best to allow the stems that grow from the base of the plant to mature for up to a year before you remove it to make a new plant; however, with ones growing off the existing cordyline’s stems, you will want to remove them a bit sooner.

There are a couple different ways you can pot your new cordylines. Both have been successful, so it will be trial and error for you until you figure out which one is best for you. The first way is to lay your cuttings out and wait until shoots start to grow from the eyes of the stem. At that point, you can attempt to pot it, care for it, and repot it as needed.

The other way is to utilize rooting powder. You can dip the ends of the cuttings in the rooting powder, which will help encourage the plant to grow roots and take hold in the soil/container you’ve potted it in. Whichever method you choose, you’ll want to make sure that your new cordyline plant is in an area where it won’t get accidentally bumped or knocked around to avoid any damage to it and/or the rooting process.

Once you have successful cuttings and have repotted them, you’ll want to make sure you water them regularly to encourage growth (without creating soggy soil). All in all, cordyline plants are relatively easy to maintain as houseplants as long as you provide the proper care for them to thrive.

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