Cabbage Palm, etc.
Cordyline australis (G.Forst.) Endl. is the correct and accepted name for this species of Cordyline. It was first described as such by Stephan Friedrich Ladislaus Endlicher in Prodromus Florae Norfolkicae in 1833. It was FIRST described as Dracaena australis by Johann Georg Adam Forster in Florulae Insularum Australium Prodromus in 1786.
The genus, Cordyline Comm. ex R.Br., was described by Robert Brown in Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae in 1810. It was previously named and described by Philibert Commerson but Mr. Brown described it later using Mr. Commerson’s description. Plants of The World Online by Kew lists 24 accepted species in the Cordyline genus (as of 11-4-18).
Tropicos (from the Missouri Botanical Garden) still lists Cordyline australis Hook. f. as the legitimate name which was documented by Joseph Dalton Hooker in The Gardeners’ Chronicle & Agricultural Gazette in 1860. They don’t even list the species as named and documented by Mr. Endlicher in 1833. Nor do they mention it being a synonym of Dracaena australis. This is one of the few times I have noticed Tropicos and the Missouri Botanical Garden not being in agreement with Kew or the rest of the world… Including The Plant Lish which they contributed to (which is no longer maintained).
I am not sure where I bought this plant in 2014, could have been Lowe’s or Wagler’s Greenhouse. No matter, it made a great centerpiece for the planter I put it in.
There are MANY cultivars of this species and may include the name Dracaena in the name. The one I bought was called Dracaena ‘Sundance’. I could have put it in a pot and brought it inside for the winter as they do make good houseplants as well, but I didn’t have adequate conditions inside.
Currently, the Cordyline genus is in the Asparagaceae family. It has been formally placed in the Agavaceae, Asteliaceae, Dracaenaceae, Laxmaniaceae, and Lomamdraceae families. Some family names get replaced by other names while some genera are moved from one to another… It makes it hard for people to keep up sometimes. Some websites still list former family names.
Cordyline species and cultivars always make a good accent plant. When they are young, the leaves seem to grow similar to an Agave, but that is just the beginning. It is hard to imagine that the small plant you buy is actually an evergreen tree that can grow 10-30’ tall. If you keep your plant and bring it inside for the winter, or you grow them as a houseplant, they develop a palm tree-like trunk. They may grow multiple branches especially if you cut the stem so it will.
Origin: New Zealand
Zones: 10a-11 (30-40° F)
Size: Ummm… Depends on where and how you grow it
Light: Sun to part shade
Soil: Average, well-drained soil
Water: Average water needs. Drought tolerant
Uses: Beds, houseplants
Concerns: Can become large and strange.
I buy one of the Cordyline cultivars from time to time if they are available. Next time I may try to overwinter inside. Local greenhouses and garden centers don’t always have them though. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you.