Cordyline terminalis ‘Tricolor’: Tricolored Dracaena

These are well known and commonly cultivated plants, though most, or rather all species excepting Cordyline terminalis and its cultivars, are plants for growing in cool rooms, requiring a winter temperature of about 2 to 12°C (36 to 54°F).

There are some 15 to 20 described species distributed in the tropics and subtropics of Asia, Australia and Africa. Only one — C. dracaenoides — is found in the tropics of the New World; it grows in Brazil. In the wild cordylines are found either in forest undergrowth (in thin, open forests or more dense, taller thickets), or else growing on steep rock faces, often on cliffs rising from the sea or on rocky ledges by the seaside (C. australis grows thus in New Zealand).

The species is native to the large area extending from India and Pakistan through the Malay Archipelago to north-east Australia and New Zealand. It is one of the smaller members of this genus, for it grows to a maximum height of 2 to 3 m (6 to 10 ft) in the wild. The stem of this subshrub is slender, only about 15 mm (5/8 in) in diameter. The leaves are deep green, lanceolate, up to 50 cm (20 in) long and circa 10 cm (4 in) wide, with prominent midrib. More commonly grown, however, are the cultivated variegated forms, most popular being the cultivar ‘Tricolor’; the small cultivar ‘Red edge’, which has dark green-bronze leaves edged a bright crimson, is also gaining popularity in recent years.

Cordyline can be used to good effect in dish arrangements as a vertical feature and for its strikingly coloured foliage. It is particularly attractive in large arrangements planted in a group of 3 to 5 specimens.

Cultivars may naturally be propagated only by vegetative means, in this case by root cuttings (a rarely used method). They may also be readily multiplied by tip cuttings or by placing pieces of stem flat on the surface of the compost.

The potting compost must be very nourishing; John Innes No. 3 is particularly suitable.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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