Cordylines are reliable, hard-working plants from the tropics and subtropics and today are grown all round the world in warm-temperate to equatorial climates. In cooler climates they are popular indoor plants and continued breeding now brings us cordylines in bright stripes and splodges of cream, peach, orange, red, burgundy, pink, yellow, cream and many shades of green.
This range of colour, and the leaf shape that varies from strap-thin to broad and fleshy makes them ideal year-round foundation plants.
Only problem is, cordylines get very straggly once the stems start to gain height. Where I live, gardens are full of such sad and ragged-looking specimens, because people don’t know how to manage them.
The secret with keeping your cordylines in good shape – and colour – is to be ruthless and cut off their heads! Yes! Decapitate them with gusto and they’ll serve you well for many years.
Cordylines look at their best when keeping a low profile. So when a cordyline becomes too tall and straggly for its position, take a clean, sharp pair of secateurs, shears or loppers and remove top growth, leaving about 1 foot (40 cms) of bare stem. The amount of stem left standing is not critical and may depend on what height you wish to maintain your plant – taller growth at the back of a bed, shorter growth in front.
This can be done at any time of year though I prefer to do it at the start of the cool season, so the plant can remain dormant for a while and gather its strength for a boost of new growth when the warm weather starts again. Where I live, most rainfall occurs in summer. HOWEVER, do NOT do this where you have a lot of cool season rainfall because the leafless plants will tend to rot if left in cold, wet ground. In such climates, do your cutting back at the end of the cool season.
To encourage new growth when warm weather starts, add some compost or blood and bone around the base of the plant. Water well but don’t over-do it because cordylines will rot if the ground is saturated for long periods. Like most tropical foliage plants, cordylines benefit most from regular misting.
Dracaenas can also be cut back in this way, when they become too tall and straggly.
For more information on managing tropical foliage plants go to www.amazon.de/dp/B006LGGGSW