A Guide to Growing Cordyline Australis
Cordyline Australis is a fast-growing tree that is more popularly known as a cabbage tree. It is native only to New Zealand, but it is often planted along coastal areas of Ireland, the British Isles, and in the northwestern part of the United States. It is used as an ornamental landscape plant because its exotic, palm-like looks make it stand out in any setting.
The cabbage tree grows to be around fifty feet high and on a mature plant, the leaves can be almost three feet long. They look somewhat like a sword. Cordyline Australis has white flowers and produces white berries as fruit. The “Red Sensation” and “Purple Tower” are the most popular cultivars and have reddish or purplish leaves, depending on which species you choose.
The Cordyline Australis can withstand colder temperatures than a normal palm tree so it is used in locations where you would not expect to see such a tree. The tree is not hard to grow. It needs indirect sunlight and a rich soil. If you are planting, it is beneficial to add peat moss and/or perlite. Experts recommend a four-part planting mix that includes one portion of your garden soil, one portion of sand or perlite, one portion of peat, and a light scattering of lime.
The Cordyline Australis can be grown outside if the weather is right or inside in a plant pot. It is good to keep the soil of this plant moist. If you have a cabbage tree growing outside, you will need to water it if weather conditions are dry. Potted cabbage trees should have a hole in the bottom of the pot for drainage. Fertilize, on average, every two weeks. It’s necessary to repot the plant at least once every two years.
The cabbage tree has several interesting characteristics: It was used for food and many other purposes by the Maori, the native people of New Zealand. The tree has a very high content of carbohydrates. Archaeology, which was completed on the Otago Peninsula, uncovered hollows, which were used for cabbage tree ovens. Some of these were almost twenty-three feet across.
Bundles of cabbage trees were cooked in these ovens for two days and then sun-dried. After this drying, the bundles could be kept for many years. As you might expect, these bundles of cabbage tree contained a lot of fiber. In addition, these indigenous people used the trunk and roots to make rope, leaves were used to make clothing and footwear, and juice from the cabbage tree was used medicinally to fight infections. It is believed that beer was also brewed from the tree.
Today, Cordyline Australis is no longer used as a food source or for other products. It is primarily an ornamental tree everywhere it is grown. That’s not to say that at some point, an entrepreneur might discover a byproduct of the tree which could be sold commercially. There has been talk in the past of using the cabbage tree to make an artificial sweetener. The sap from the tree has double the sweetness of sugar. People have also discussed using the plant to make ethanol.
The cabbage tree is given other names in the British Isles. It is sometimes known as a Manx palm, Cornish palm, Torbay palm or Dracaena palm. The tree is considered almost an unofficial symbol of the area known as the English Riviera.
Whether you live in a warm climate and want to grow outside cabbage trees, or you prefer one in a small pot in the living room, you will most likely be pleased with the looks of this palm-like tree that reminds everyone of warm weather and long beaches. It will certainly be a topic of conversation should you be the first person in the neighborhood to have a palm tree.