Cordylines

Cordylines add a touch of the tropics to a garden, they grow beautifullly in lightly shaded areas of the garden and take up very little room within the garden.   They are perfect for adding layers of foliage to a tropical garden and look good from the moment they are planted, giving an instant look to the garden.   Cordyline fruticosa cultivars add year round colour to the garden and in the cooler months the leaf colour is more intense.  They can be massed planted or grouped together to create a bold combinations of colour or a softer combination. 
The leaves on cordylines vary greatly, they may be long and slender, short and wide or somewhere in between.  They may be held erect or they may flop down at the ends,  Leaf length also varies from a few centimetres to a metre.  The leaves come in many colours, or combinations of colours, including many shades of greens, reds, pinks, purples, white, cream, yellow and orange and up to seven different colours may be found on one leaf.  The native species are msotly green, but occasionally variegated forms are found.  The leaf stalks (petioles) may be coloured or edged in colour.   They can grow 1m-5m depending on the species or cultivar.
Cordylines don't seem to mind what type of soil you have as long as it is well drained,  I grow mine in a clay soil. They prefer regular watering during the warmer months for optimum growth.  In winter I cut the watering back and only water if the soil becomes too dry, although when they are established I have found that they need little water in winter and don't mind dry soils.  The only problems that I come across with my cordylines are snails, slugs, and the occasional caterpillar.   I use an animal safe snailicide to control the snails as I have frogs and lizard.
Cordyline fruitosa has been around for many years, it was first documented some 1000 years ago when it arrived in Hawaii with the Polynesians in their canoes.  They believed that it had divine power and they wore fresh leaves around their necks, waist and ankles.  They also hung leaves around their homes to dispel evil and mass planted them around their homes for protection.   The Pacific Islanders found many used for cordyline, the leaves were used to make raincoats, sandals, hula skirts, and they were used as thatch for houses.  The leaves were also used as plates, and fresh leaves were used to wrap packages in and to wrap food in to cook.  Children even found the cordylines leaves to be great fun, they used them to slide down steep grassy slopes on.  The stalk was also used as a sign of surrender.  The cordyline roots were also verasatile, they could be baked and eaten as a confection, boiled and used as a laxative.  They were also fermented and made into beer, or distilled to make a high gread colourless brandy which was popular in Hawaii when kings ruled the islands, as contraband.
From my own experience, I have found Cordylines easy to grow and need little maintenance.  The majority of cordyline prefer bright light with protection from direct sun, most of mine are growing in light shade that is proveded by the palms.  Some of the Cordyline fruticosa cultivars can take some morning sun and colour best with some sun on them.  They cope with the cooler months here as long as they are grown in sheltered positions where the frost does not settle on them.
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