Cabbage palm: Cordyline australis

These palm-like trees that form one or more trunks grow up to 12 m (40 ft) tall in their native habitat of New Zealand. The large, lanceolate or sword-like leaves are grouped in a bunch at the end of the branches. The leaves may be green with yellow stripes, reddish or purple depending on the variety. The numerous white, sweet-scented flowers are borne in striking plumes that can be up to 100 cm (39 in) long.

Large container plants can easily be kept to the desired height by pruning. The resulting heads of leaves and pieces of trunk can be used as cuttings for propagation. It can also be raised from seed but this takes longer.

The palm prefers a sunny position but will also grow in partial shade. It is important that the soil is kept consistently moist. If the soil is dry for too long the leaf ends will turn brown and if waterlogged, the roots will rot. During the growing season plants should be given weekly applications of fertilizer. Ideally, they should over-winter in a light room at a temperature of 5-10° C (41-50° F) but a light basement or cellar will also do.

19. June 2014 by Dave Pinkney
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