Cordyline is a genus of around 15 different species of woody flowering plants from the Asparagaceae family.
Their name is Greek in origin, having its etymology in the word kordyle. This translates as club – and the plant is named in reference to the enlarged rhizomes that it grows underground. They are native to the western Pacific Ocean region, which covers everywhere from New Zealand and east Australia to south-east Asia, Polynesia and Hawaii.
However, they have since gone on to become popular in many other parts of the world as ornamental plants. Some species have been used in food and medicine. In Vanuatu, they are even worn tucked into belts in traditional dances – with different types of the plant holding different symbolic meanings.
It is particularly popular along coastal areas and in cities – and this is due in no small part to its exotic, palm-like appearance. Being common in bedding and container displays, the more tender varieties of the genus make great plants to have indoors or in conservatories.
Indeed, this makes them ideal for growing in greenhouses – and these controlled gardening spaces are virtually essential for helping the plants to cope with the harsh conditions that can characterise the colder winter months.
Professional gardener and writer Helen Yemm described cordylines as being very fussy as it is not always very easy to protect them. Writing in an article for the UK national newspaper the Daily Telegraph, she underlined her belief that they are best grown in large pots that can be manoeuvred without too much difficulty.
She explained that this is because if the container is chosen with care, they can act as invisible layers for more visually appealing outer containers – adding a touch of aesthetic beauty to a garden.
This will also make it much easier to transfer them indoors to a greenhouse or a frost-free porch when a cold snap hits. The fact that they will be easily moveable means that it will not be an issue to put them back outside in mild rain – therefore keeping any watering required to a minimum.
Ms Yemm also had some advice for people who may not be able to take this course of action.
"You could either transfer your cordyline to a plastic pot (it may not like the root disturbance much) to overwinter it under cover, or I suggest you could take pot luck and simply protect it in situ as best you can," she commented.
"Draw up the sword-like leaves into a loose bundle, tying it up to protect its tender growing point, from which all its new leaves are produced," the expert continued, adding: "There are fleece bags (such as Plant Cosies, from Agralan) that you can pop over the top and … you can tie hessian or bubble wrap around the pot to prevent the soil from freezing."
A preventative approach to winter damage can be taken by tying up the foliage. This will help to reduce the impact of wind damage to the leaves – and this move will also stop water from collecting around the growing points. While this may not sound like too much of an issue, it can easily lead to rotting in colder climate conditions.
Gardeners who intend to grow cordyline in areas that are particularly prone to severe winters should also take further measures. These can include wrapping the trunk of the plant with layers of fleece, as well as placing a 15 cm layer of mulch – which can even be made from something as simple as bark – over the root area.