BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Related BBC Sites


Contact Us

Features

You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: cordylines

cordyline

Ask the gardener: cordylines

Top gardening advice about your cordylines...

Warton's Bill Blackledge is one of the county's most popular and sought after gardeners.  If it's green and needs watering, Bill can tell you about it.  He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter!

His knowledge is encyclopedic. After training at the under the then Ministry of Agriculture, Bill spent over twenty years at the Department of Biological and Environmental Services at Lancaster University.  Now, he's a regular course tutor at Alston Hall, Longridge and Lancaster Adult College.

For three decades, Bill has travelled the county with fellow judges as a regional judge for North West in Bloom.

So, whatever the problem, we like to think Bill can sort it out... at least that's the theory!

------

Stephen Staff asks...

Hope you can advise me we are a small group who live in Barmouth North Wales. We have just managed to raise 40k all by donations to try and improve our promenade, we have brought 60 green leaf cordylines. We purchased these from Northern Italy they are approx 10ft tall some are multi stemmed we have potted them in large wooden planters with a sand compost mix. Can you please advise on how to maintain the up keep of the trees as they have only been on the prom for less than a week and we have had very poor information on the care of these trees. You can view the trees on www.barmouth-brig.co.uk

Bill replies...

Your sixty multi stemmed Cordylines will certainly make a vast difference to the Promenade at Barmouth Stephen and raising £40,000 is a tremendous achievement.  Planting these Cordylines in containers at this time of year (early May) will give the plants time to acclimatise over the summer period.  A well drained compost is the ideal mix and you will occasionally over the summer period need to feed with a general base fertiliser along with keeping an eye on the watering.  Another hat which I wear is Chairman for North West in Bloom and I do feel that it would be worthwhile for your group to contact Wales in Bloom to obtain on the spot advice and information about the competition.  Wales in Bloom web site www.walesinbloom.org.uk

------

Micheal Lyons asks...

I have a 25ft cordyline which is encased in a 2f high wall.  I'm looking to remove the wall to update it. If I could cut off the roots within the wall would it damage the cordyline?  

Bill replies...

I am afraid Micheal that if you do start to cut off the roots of your Cordyline within the wall this could quite easily damage the plant and it would be far better to try and remove your wall and update it without cutting any of the roots.  I realise the difficult situation you are in but cutting some of the Cordylines main roots system will obviously affect your plant.

------

Leonia Knight asks...

I have a green cordyline in my garden which seemed to be dead 2 years ago and then produced 2 new heads and beautiful fowers.  I have recently checked the plant (in free draining soil in a south facing garden) and the bark seems to be very damaged and indeed the truck is half of what it should be in width about half way up!  I have had a look inside and it is very dry and powdery.  Any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated.  Thank you.

Bill replies...

When you cut off older leaves from a Cordyline Leonia you are left with a small part of the leaf close to the trunk and in time this part of the leaf will go very dry and powdery and diminish.  What you are then left with is a corky trunk and, it could quite well be the dry powdery substance you have been asking about is the remains of the dead leaves.  I am sorry that I cannot be of more assistance but if this is not the problem it would be appreciated if you could email me a photograph of your Cordyline to BBC Radio Lancashire.

------

Colin Murray asks...

I have a cordyline about 3ft to 4ft tall that used to be in a pot but is now planted in a raised bed topped with blue slate chippings. There is frequent new growth on the plant but all the leaves are a light green to yellow colour. They are also very thin, about 20cm wide and very taught whereas we have 3 planted at my workplace and they are a dark green colour virtually down to the ground and blow freely in the wind. Is there a problem with my soil or could it be the slate chippings? I also had stone chippings round the base when it was in a pot, is there anything I can do to change this?

Bill replies...

The use of chippings Colin for landscaping schemes is now becoming very popular and I would not have thought that the slate chippings which you are using will be toxic but, the easiest method would be to place some slate chippings around a containerised plant such as Cordyline to see if there is any effect.  You say that your Cordyline is producing leaves but are just light yellow and this could quite easily be caused by soil compaction in your raised bed and also soil deficiency and it would be worthwhile to remove the chippings and give your plant a liberal feeding of fertiliser such as GrowMore, Fish Blood and Bone Meal or Vitax Q4.  If you require a more instant effect water your plant with a liquid fertiliser which should green up the leaves within a week.

------

CJ asks...

I have a cordyline palm tree about 4ft tall, that has been snapped in half, would it help if I used tree tape to let it grow back together?

Bill replies...

I do not think that it is worthwhile trying to tape your tree CJ but you will find that your snapped Cordyline will produce new shoots from the stem and base level.

------

Bill Browne asks...

Will cordylines grow in chalk soil. How can you predict how tall they will grow when they are just labelled Australis - can you tell from the width of their leaves when they are young?

Bill replies...

Cordylines will grow in a wide range of soils Bill providing that the soil is well drained, too much moisture can quite easily cause the roots to rot off.  With regard to your chalky soil providing that the pH is not too high I am sure that your Cordyline will be fine but, it would be worthwhile working some organic material/peat into the soil before planting. The height to which your Cordyline will grow will, to a certain extent, depend on soil conditions and under good conditions the trees can reach five to six metres.  The most hardy of the Cordyline species is the plain green leaf variety, whilst the bronze species are very susceptible to frost damage.  Once your tree is established it will in time produce large clusters of white flowers.

------

Dawn asks...

I have a cordyline austrais in my garden that has grown very fast, to around 12 feet tall in 5 years, and looks generally very healthy. However I have noticed it has started to lean in quite a pronounced fashion, probably about 19 degrees from vertical. Is it likely to be stable, or should I try and stake it, or is there anything else I should do?

Bill replies...

With your Cordyline being twelve feet tall Dawn it is not going to be easy to stake your tree to make it more secure.  The best method however is to drive a stake in at approximately 45 degrees angle to the side of your tree and then gently pull your tree back until it is vertical and then using a rubberised strap (available from Garden Centres) strap your tree to the stake.  You will need to place padding between your tree and the stake to avoid rubbing.  It will be a two person job and you will need to check first to see if it is possible to pull your Cordyline back to vertical level.

------

Derrick asks...

I have 2 cordyline australis placed very close together (just a foot or so), now about 6ft high. I would like to tie a rope around each one and then stake the ropes into the ground so as to pull them apart at the top and train them to grow further apart, rather like 2 exotic tropical palms! Would this work, and what would I tie around the 2 plants in order to avoid damaging them? Obviously wire would cut into them, and I am worried that anything that absorbs moisture might make them rot. Maybe rubber straps would be OK?

Bill replies...

I not aware of anyone Derrick who has tried this method and I feel that what will happen is that even though you strap these ropes to the ground your Cordyline will not grow at the angle you require and the leading shoots will always have a tendency to grow vertically.  You ask if your system will work and I feel that you are going to have problems and if you tighten the ropes too tight this could quite easily, under windy conditions, snap the shoot.

------

Steve asks...

We have a 6 foot cordyline in a large pot. The recent high winds have blown it over but left the pot upright,. It seems to have broken at the roots, can we save it?

Bill replies...

With regard to saving your Cordyline, if there are not many roots left on your plant I am afraid that there is little hope but, what you could do is repot your Cordyline and cut back the main stem to approximately six inches from the soil level and quite often you will find that the plant will throw up new shoots. Cordylines Steve love to be grown in a very well drained potting medium and when repotting your Cordyline you would be far better using a soil base compost - John Innes No 2 or 3 - with at least twenty five percent sharp grit sand mixed in with the compost and, it is also important that there is ample drainage and this can be achieved by using course gravel or broken crocks placed in the bottom of the pots.  You say that your Cordyline toppled over in the high winds causing the roots to break but damage to the roots could also have been caused by waterlogging of your compost. 

------

Kath asks...

I am planning some raised beds (3 x 5 inch sleepers high), and approx three foot from front to back. Would these be suitable for planting cordylines?

Bill replies...

One of the problems that you are going to encounter Kath by growing Cordylines in raised beds is that Cordylines do grow quite large and have a vigorous root system and over a period of time could quite easily damage your raised beds and supress any other plants which you intend to grow.  I personally feel that you would be far better growing smaller alpine plants/perennials in the raised beds.

------

Claire Tee asks...

My neighbour has a Cordyline Australis or Cabbage Tree in their garden.  It is approximately 7 metres in height.  It was planted within 200mm of our boundary wall.  I would like to know will the tree's roots cause any damage to the wall as our wall is now slightly leaning over, and signs of cracking are showing. 

Bill replies...

It is difficult to say for certain Claire whether the roots are the cause of the damage to the your boundary wall but, as you have mentioned the Cordyline is only planted 200 mm away from your boundary wall and the roots of the Cordyline could quite easily be causing damage to the foundations of your wall which is now leaning over.  A 7 m high Cordyline will have quite a large root system and it would be worthwhile checking whether a number of the roots from the Cordyline are now in your garden.  I also feel that it would advisable to get a second opinion from a Tree Specialist regarding this problem.

------

Susan McDonald asks...

We live in Torquay and until this summer had a beautiful 20 feet palm tree in the south facing garden of our flat. Over the past few weeks the leaves have turned dark yellow and the tips of the trunk and leaves are wilting. Growth has always been vigorous and the tree has been healthy with little care from us. ; Do you have any suggestions please?

Bill replies...

This has happened to quite a number of Cordyline Palms this year Susan and one of the main reasons is the intense summer temperatures this year and this in turn has caused more of the leaves to go brown and yellow this year. ; If it is possible you will need to cut the leaves off flush to the main trunk with a sharp pair of secateurs. The palm is very hardy and I sure that it will recover.

------

Neil Pickup asks...

I live in Morecambe and I like the Palm type plants that grow on the promenade and in some gardens in the Morecambe and Heysham area but even though I have looked at online Palm shops I cannot identify which they are. Can you tell me what you think or know them to be and any other Palm/Cyclad? type plants that would grow in an English Seaside town. (I might consider trying to recreate a small Morrocan style riad courtyard garden - hence the need for tropical looking plants).

Bill replies...

Throughout Lancashire Neil the most popular Palm Tree grown is the Cordyline Palm (Cordline Australis).  It is very popular in the Morecambe area and I would plant the plain green leaf type which I find the hardiest. ; If your garden is quite sheltered you will also be able to grow the Chusan Palm (Trachycarpus Fortunie) which grows to a height of approximately four feet.  I would also consider growing the Phorniums (New Zealand Flax) and also the Yuccas which have the Mediterranean look about them.

------

Rebecca Ross asks...

We have a cordyline australis which is about 3ft high.  It was in the ground until May, when we noticed that the crown was sopping wet, and the leaves were brown, and pulling out easily.  Thinking that the soil was not well drained, we transplanted it into a very large container, with added sand to improve drainage.  However, the crown is still wet inside, and the leaves are all brown. We lifted the palm with the intention of throwing it away, but saw new root growth, so we have replanted it in the container again.  Will the plant recover, and could this be due to disease?  Should we remove all the leaves and hope for new growth? We would be grateful for your advice, thanks.

Bill replies...

Cordyline love a well-drained compost Rebecca and they are also fine in a container. I would use a soil based compost with added grit sand and when repeating your plant you will need to remove the dead leaves and it will be worth keeping your plant to see if it will produce new shoots.  You mentioned adding sand to your compost - it must be a sharp grit sand - do not use ordinary building sand as this will compact the compost.

------

Ann Robson asks...

I have a Cordyline australis (Cabbage Tree) which has been in my garden for four years - though it is older than that (purchased from a garden centre at about 4ft high, but now about 6ft high). This year, for the first time, it has 'flowered' but the leaves have, in the past week or so, begun to yellow seriously; in fact, about 45% of the leaves are presently yellow and the plant looks decidedly 'sick'. It has a smaller (about 3ft high) side shoot which is equally affected. During the winter its leaves were wrapped and the plant covered in fleece for protection, though we do get mild winters here on the south coast. The plant was moved about three months ago, just a few feet to accommodate a pergola, but appeared to suffer no ill effects until now. The whole garden was recently (about 18 days ago) given a dressing of Growmore and an application of Phosphate liquid watering. Can you help please?

Bill replies...

I am sure that it is the shock of moving the plant which has caused the leaves to yellow Ann.  Even though you have only moved it a few feet you will have had to lift the plant completely out of the ground and from past experience I find the Cordylines do not like having the roots disturbed. It is important though that to ensure that the roots are kept moist and in very hot weather it is going to be beneficial to spray the leaves over with water to cut down transpiration loss.  You do not need to feed your plant and hopefully it will recover.

------

Simon Fallon asks...

I have got a Cordyline australis is my back garden and we are due to start an extension. Its about 8 years old and quite big now. Can you advise would it be possible to move, and maybe plant in a large container?

Bill replies...

The chances of success of moving your Cordyline is very slim Simon especially now during the summer months.  But, if you have to move your plant try and get as much root ball as possible when you are lifting it and, as you suggested, it needs to be placed in a very large container.  I would place your plant in a shaded spot in the garden to cut down transpiration loss from the leaves and spraying the leaves with water during the hot summer months with help prevent transpiration loss.  I hope you are successful.

------

Marie Nixon asks...

I live in North East Lincolnshire and have a large (about 12ft) Cordyline australis which at the moment it has three flower heads in bud. My question is when can I prune the brown leaves that surround the base of both of the heads that are making the tree look extremely tatty and what is the best method of doing this? Many thanks

Bill replies...

The best method I have found Marie for pruning the dead leaves is to use a sharp pair of garden shears and cut back as close to the main trunk as possible.  Do not try and pull the leaves off the tree as this could easily damage the main trunk and also the flower heads.

------

Derek Fort asks...

Bill have you any tips on growing cordyline australis (do's and don'ts?) Should I tie them up in winter? I did this and they look awful now I have cut the strings can you help?

Bill replies...

Cordyline Australis is a beautiful architectural plant and will thrive in a well drained soil. I find the hardiest of the Cordylines is the normal green leaf type and I have one of these in my own garden which is approximately 8-10 feet tall and, has survived through some of the hardest winter months without tying the leaves or covering with bubble or fleece.  I have found the bronze leaf type far less hardy and in a very hard winter this will need protection.

It is very important though Derek to tie the leaves back on a very dry day and I prefer to use white fleece to plastic bubble which I find more porous.  I feel the problem with your plant is that you may have tied your leaves together when wet which has caused damping off.

------

Sue Rothwell asks...

How do I look after my cordyline which is growing very tall and has split into 2 stems?

Bill replies...

The Cordyline Australis when established is quite a 'tough plant' and can stand up the rigours of the North West weather. If you are worried that the two stems may start to split you can always support the two stems by tying them closer together with special rubber the straps which can be obtained from good Garden Centres or you can use strong wire. The only problem with the wire is that it can penetrate the stems.

------

Juliet asks...

Hi there, I have a Cordyline Australis, and a friend also wants one. I sometimes make up cuttings, but I'm fairly sure its impossible to take a cutting from this one-stemmed tree, but can you just confirm that it 'isn't' possible.

Bill replies...

It is not feasible to take a cutting from your Cordyline Juliet but what sometimes happens is you will find a new shoot appearing from soil level and if this occurs you can remove the shoot along with some of the roots and re-pot it and give it to your friend.  Cordyines can also be grown from seed - they are quite easy to germinate and what you could do is germinate some of the seeds during the spring/summer months re-pot them into small pots and then you can supply all of your friends with a Cordyline.

------

Mary Boyle asks...

I have purple Cordyline Australis whose leaves are discoloured or rusted all over - why is this and how do I prevent it?  I have even notice the same plants in a local garden centre discoloured in the same way - if it is something that is difficult to get rid of - perhaps I should replace the plant

Bill replies...

I find the Purple Cordyline more prone to discoloration - wind scorch damage and rust more than the plain Green Cordyline. And, Mary if you are going to buy another plant I would recommend the plain Green one which I also find far more hardy. However, all is not lost with your Purple Cordyline - I would cut back the damaged leaves to the main stem and then you will need to spray with a fungicide to control rust.  I also find the Purple species is far better grown in a large container which allows the plant to be moved to a sheltered position during the winter months

------

Paul Whitehouse asks...

In February we moved house and took a lot of plants and re-sited them in the new garden. All of the plants took except the three palms which are now dying one at a time. Is there anything I can do to keep them alive. Almost all of the leaves are brown in one of the big plants and the other is going browner by the day.

Bill replies...

Quite a number of Palms have died this year Paul due to the very cold temperatures we have experienced and also the piercing the cold Westerly winds. I also feel your problem could have stemmed from lifting your Palms in February - the 'shock' of transplanting your Palms coupled with the cold weather I am sure will have caused the leaves to start to yellow and die back. My only suggestion is to ensure your plants do not dry out and to spray the remaining leaves during hot weather to cut down transpiration loss.

------

Jacqueline asks...

I have cordyline (cabbage tree) approximately 15 feet tall. It is about five feet away from the house. Are the roots a danger to the foundations or drains?

Bill replies...

Five feet is quite close to the house Jacqueline and one of the general rules when planting trees is that if a tree grows to a height - shall we say of twenty feet - it should be planted approximately twenty feet from the house but, if we follow this rule to the letter there would be very few trees planted in our gardens! Trees such as Willows, Sycamores and Cherries which have a vigorous root system are the types of trees which need to be planted a distance from the house but although your Cordyline does not have such a vigorous root system five foot is still very close and you should also remember your tree is still actively growing. I would personally contact your Local Authority and ask if one of their tree experts would take a look at your Cordyline and give you their advice.

------

Lesley Collins asks...

I have a cordyline growing in my garden, I have had it now for about five years about six weeks ago it started to flower at the top and it now looks as if it is dying as the leaves are all brown and yellow at the bottom. Please could you give me some advice on what to do, many thanks.

Bill replies...

You will find Lesley that in time your flower spikes will seed and eventually die. When this happens it is advisable to cut these off.  One of the problems with Cordylines is that the bottom leaves due start to yellow and go brown and again with a pair of sharp shears you can cut these off close the main trunk.

------

Sue Forshaw asks...

I have a 10ft Cordyline (cabbage tree) that I want to cut to a smaller size please can you give me any advice as to the best way to do this.

Bill replies...

It is a little bit late in the year Sue for you to cut back your Cordyline and it would be far better waiting until next Spring which will allow your plant all Spring and Summer to produce new shoots. You will need to use a sharp saw to cut through the main stem and new shoots usually appear just below where you have made the cut.; For example if you cut your plant back five feet new shoots appear just below the five foot mark. The success rate when cutting your Cordyline back is quite high but I must warn you there is the odd plant which does not succeed in producing new shoots - good luck.

------

John Kelly asks...

Last year I cut down a cordyline that I thought was past its best. I cut it down to a stump of about two feet, expecting that would be the last of it! Then, about a month ago, there started to appear one shoot, then another, then another.... I would like to retain a single shoot but how do I get rid of the others?

Bill replies...

This is what usually happens when you cut a Cordyline back John - more than one shoot appears - but none of these shoots are classed as leaders and they will have a tendency to grow to the side. If you just require one shoot the remaining stems can be cut back flush to the main trunk. I would cut the shoots back now and this will give plenty of time for the cuts to heal and callous over during the winter months.

------

Bev Palfreyman Kelsey both ask...

Should I leave the flower on a cordyline to die or should it be cut out when it has finished flowering?

Bill replies...

Once your Cordyline flowers have completely died the flower stems can be cut right back using a sharp knife or secateurs and it is also well worthwhile cutting back any dead leaves again using a sharp knife/secateurs and the leaves need to be cut back as close as possible to the main trunk - whatever you do do not pull the leaves off - this will damage the main stem.

------

Sally asks...

I planted two cordyline yesterday into larger pots. I've used multi purpose with added grit for drainage yet they're both wilting quite badly can you help?

Bill replies...

You will need to keep your Cordylines Sally in a sheltered and slightly shaded spot to cut down transpiration loss from the leaves and I would also during very hot weather just gently spray the leaves over with water - again this will help to cut down transpiration loss. I am sure it is the growth check which the plants have received during transplanting which has caused the leaves to wilt. Your Cordylines will need to kept watered but avoid over-watering at all costs.

------

Lindsey Matthew asks...

I have a cordyline purpurea in a bronze colour and I have noticed about a week ago there is a shoot coming out at the bottom of the trunk. Please could you tell me what to do? Thank you.

Bill replies...

If the young shoot is coming from below the soil surface Lindsey you should be able to remove the shoot using a sharp knife and also some roots. It is important that you do cut some roots with the shoot.The young shoot can then be repotted in a five inch pot using a multipurpose compost. It will also be worthwhile for two/three weeks keeping your plant in a slightly shaded spot until established. The other alternative is just to allow the shoot to grow - there a numerous Cordylines which have more than one shoot.

------

Brian Olive and Anne Grimshaw both ask...

I Have a Cordyline Australis about 5ft tall, planted in my back garden. It has started to produce shoots from the base. Can I separate theses shoots and pot them to form new plants if so how? Also will it be harmful to my plant to let theses shoots develop or should they be taken off?

Bill replies...

Using a sharp knife you can cut these shoots off providing there are some roots attached - these new shoots can then be repotted into a pot using a multi purpose compost. Regarding the second part of your question - you can allow these shoots to grow but you will need to repot into a large container the following spring.

------

Malcolm Ruffle asks...

We have a Cordyline Australis, and it is growing very well in Forfar Scotland. It is now some 10ft tall and we would like to stop it growing any taller - can we prune it and how? With winter on its way and the cold winds it may get damaged this year

Bill replies...

Good to hear from you Malcolm and pleased that you have logged into the BBC Radio Lancashire Gardening Website. Regarding your Cordyline - which is obviously 'loving' the Scottish climate - you can cut the main stem back but this needs to be done next spring when the sap is becoming more active and the plant will have all spring and summer to produce new shoots. New shoots will usually appear just below where you have cut the main stem back and they can also appear at base level.

------

Ken Deakin asks...

What are the best ways to grow cordylines from seed?

Bill replies...

Cordylines can be quite easily grown from seed Ken but I would wait until springtime before sowing the seed.  The seed can be sown in small pots or in seed trays in a seed and potting compost mixture and the seeds need to be covered with approximately one quarter of an inch of compost.  The seeds need to be kept in a warm temperature (approximately 20 degrees c) and when the seeds have germinated they can be pricked out into single three inch pots.  You will need to keep them in a very light room (greenhouse if possible) and during the summer months your plants can be placed outside.

------

John Massie asks...

I'm thinking of buying four very big australis palms from a friend who is moving house but I'm worried that they will die on me when I dig them up and transfer them to my own garden They are very big about 8 ft tall and not cheap what do you think?

Bill replies...

To transplant a Cordyline Australis which is eight foot tall is going to be very very difficult John.  You are going to have to dig out an enormous root ball of soil and the chances of the Palms surviving are not very high. It is also the wrong time of year for transplanting (December),  the Palms will receive a tremendous shock from being lifted and they will also have to withstand the winter weather conditions.  If you are a true Scotsman John I would advise you to keep your money in your pocket!  You would be far better buying some two foot container grown Codylines in the Spring and I find the plain green leaf Cordyline is the most hardy.

------

Martin Redfern asks...

We have an 8ft green Cordyline Australis which is growing quite well in the front garden. I recently noticed that the "bark" all the way around one side was damaged and the rough area gone revealing a smoother layer below. I think that a cat has been using it as a scratching post! Is the bark on these plants like a normal tree where damage can kill it? Any suggestions about what I should do?

Bill replies...

The rough outer layer of bark on your Cordyline Martin is there to protect the smoother layer underneath and exposure of areas of this smoother layer can be detrimental to the growth of your Cordyline.  Therefore first and foremost we need to deter the main suspect - a cat - which is using the trunk as a scratching post.  There are tried and tested materials - such as Pepper Dust - which you can sprinkle around the trunk - and I would also place around the affected area a layer of grease which should help to deter from scratching the bark - cats do not like grease on their paws.  There is also another product called Renardine which comes in a liquid form and is made from animal waste products and it is the scent from the animal waste products which keep cats at bay.  What you need to do is soak some old sacking with the Renardine and place around the trunk.  Renardine can be purchased from Garden Centres. 

The smooth areas of the trunk which are exposed can be painted with Arbrex (a tree sealant) to protect against disease infection - again Arbrex can be purchased from Garden Centres/DIY Stores.

------

Paul Harvey asks...

I planted a couple of Cordylines early in 2006, unfortunately one has succumbed to wind strength and required staking, I staked as close as I dared with a strong stake hoping to avoid damaging the roots, this however is not enough and the plant is again leaning, what is my best option to stake the plant securely without causing damage to the roots? Thanks.

Bill replies...

What I would do Paul is to place a stake in the ground at an angle of 45-60 degrees this, will ensure that the point of the stake is not too near the root ball and before tying your Cordyline to the stake I would place between your plant and the stake some spongy packing to avoid damage to the plant.

------

Darren Spencer asks...

I have a cordyline that is about 5 foot tall, but due to recent stormy weather it has seemed to have lost its ability to stand up straight, the only reason its not falling over is due to it being next two two walls that support it. Has it rotted at the base or just having a bad time? I've supported it by putting a wooden post next to it at the moment. Is it a lost cause?

Bill replies...

Cordylines love a well drained soil Darren and if your plant has been growing in very damp water logged conditions this will have caused the roots to rot off which, in turn, will be one of the reasons for your Cordyline becoming unstable.  You will need to keep your plant well staked and in the Springtime if your plant is still very unstable and does not respond to the roots being firmed you will have to make a decision on whether to lift and transplant your Cordyline.

------

Chris Nolan asks...

Please could you tell me if cordyline like full sun or shade thanks

Bill replies...

Cordyline Australis loves to be planted in a well drained soil and in a sunny position Chris but, you will always find with Cordyline's that the lower leaves will start to yellow and go brown and these need to be cut off close to the main stem with a sharp pair of secateurs or garden shears.  Do not tear the leaves off as this can damage the main stem.

------

Brian Smith asks...

I have a Cordyline australis, it is 25 feet high with a single head and is too high for my garden, if I cut the trunk off at about six foot from the ground is it likely to shoot at the top of the trunk?

Bill replies...

If you cut your Cordyline Australis back to approximately six to eight feet from ground level Brian the Cordyline will then usually produce new shoots just below where you have cut back the stem.  This does not always apply and I have seen shoots appear from ground level and I would cut the main stem back end of March early April when the sap is beginning to rise.

------

Hannah Last asks...

We have bought our first house and the garden is very small almost courtyard like. I have just bought two small cordylines from tescos in pots, that were dark red/purple and they've turned quite green and limp in less than two weeks. We had cold frosts and a days worth of snow but were moved to a sheltered area... is this not enough - have I killed them?

Bill replies...

It sounds from your email that the frost has killed your two small Cordylines Hannah and it will have been the shock of taking the two plants from the shelter of the supermarket and placed straight into the garden.  With reference to your bare beds I feel that long term you need to plan what plant species you would like to grow in these areas (beds with small shrubs, beds with herbs or beds with summer and autumn bedding).  You mention seeds that you can sprinkle on, and there are quite a wide range of summer hardy annuals which will give you colour through the summer months and there are also wild flower mixes which are now becoming very popular. 

------

Lynne Pye asks...

I want to plant some 7ft tall cordylines (to provide a screen from traffic).  I don't want them to grow much taller than they are now so am wondering if it's possible to plant them in pots and sink these pots into the ground in order to restrict their growth.  If this is possible, should I put more holes into the pots for drainage purposes?

Bill replies...

If feel it could be more beneficial Lynne if I answered your question in three parts.  Cordylines love to be planted in a well drained soil/compost and if you are going to plant Cordylines in pots and plunge them into the ground they will need adequate drainage holes in the pots.  To some extent planting in pots will restrict the growth of the Cordylines but, the roots will penetrate through the drainage holes and into the soil and this will encourage them to keep growing.  You mention planting the 7ft Cordylines in pots but where are they growing now? If you are going to dig these plants out of the ground they will need a large size root ball and to establish a 7ft Cordyline is not going to be easy, the chances of success are not very high.  I feel long term to restrict traffic noise you would be far better planting an evergreen hedge such as Laurel or Privet.

------

Tracie asks...

My cordyline has yellowing of the leaves which I know means shock  - do I remove all the yellow leaves with a pair of sharp gardening scissors? Only just over half of the leaves have gone yellow. It stands about 5 foot tall. Many thanks.

Bill replies...

You will usually find Tracie that quite a number of container grown Cordylines grown in Nurseries and Garden Centres over the winter months will have been grown in cool greenhouses or poly tunnels to protect them from adverse weather conditions and you say that with your Cordyline that when delivered it was well packaged. Therefore it could quite well be that the sudden change in temperature could have caused some of the leaves to yellow and just recently we have had some rather cold weather.  It is also important with Cordylines that they are planted in a very well drained soil - they do not like water logged conditions which, again can cause the leaves to yellow.  If your plant was healthy with all the leaves green when you planted it out it could have been caused by either of the conditions I have mentioned above.  Cordylines are a Mediterranean plant but will withstand our winters - especially the plain green Cordyline but I usually advise people to purchase these late April time when hopefully there will be no chance of frost and this gives the Cordyline all the summer months to adapt to our climate conditions.

------

Nigel Gomme asks...

There are 2 large (20ft) Cordylines in my garden, planted at ground level. I would like to re-landscape the garden and build raised beds. How would raising the soil level by 2ft affect the Cordylines? In practice, this means burying the lower portion of the trunk in 2ft of soil and I assume this will cause problems in the long run. Please advise.

Bill replies...

Raising the soil approximately two feet around the Cordylines is not good horticultural practise and can cause poor oxygenation of the soil, restriction of water to the roots and can in severe cause the trees to die. What I would suggest you could do is to place a raised bed area around the Cordylines which will protect the tree trunks and this will help to overcome the problem.  The only disadvantage is that the twenty feet Cordylines will have very large root systems and part of the root system is obviously going to be cover with the two feet of soil.  As long as the tree trunk is free from soil you can place within the two feet screen around the Cordylines some large stones and pebbles which allow free drainage to the roots.  I hope these suggestions will help to solve your problem.

------

Glen asks...

I've rescued two scabby looking plants in old containers from my daughter-in-law (please don't tell her I said that).   I want to plant them out in my garden to give them a new lease of life.   It would be most convenient to put them where there are a lot of limestone chippings, but do cordylines hate lime?   I've other places to put them, it's just I have more space in the chippings!

Bill replies...

You will find that if the limestone chippings have been laid down for quite a while Glen any available limestone will have been leached into the soil and providing that your soil is reasonably fertile I am sure that your Cordylines will be fine.  Before planting I would try and mix into your soil some well rotted manure and if this is not possible I would incorporate a general base fertiliser such as GrowMore or Fish Blood and Bone Meal.  It is important though for Cordylines that they are planted in a well drained soil - they do not like water logged conditions.

------

Jane Honey asks...

We are due to move house between August 2007 & Jan 2008. I have a cordyline which is about 8ft tall and has flowers for the first time, it is about 5yrs old. I desperately want to take it with us as my eldest son gave it to me - I do have access to the house and could move it any time between now and next Jan. I have read your advise and know the chances of success are slim but wondered if you could tell me the best time of year to try and move it?

Bill replies...

I would look to moving your Cordyline September/October time Jane when the soil will still be warm.  You will need to ensure that you dig out a large root ball and this is going to be difficult if you are planning on using just a spade to dig out the plant.  If it is possible to use a small front loading digger to lift your Cordyline this will help immensely.

------

Julie Williams asks...

I have 3 cordyline australis approximately 9ft tall which failed to flower this year and have what appears to be rust on the lower leaves and look generally unwell, I have sprayed with murphys tumbleblyte and fed them but there doesn't seem to be any improvement.  Any other advice would be welcome

Bill replies...

Cordylines are susceptible to rust disease Julie and you mention spraying with Tumble Blight.  I would alternate Tumble Blight with other fungicides such as Dithane 945 or Systhane Fungus Fighter.  Both of these products are recommended to keep rust under control. I would also recommend that the badly infected lower leaves are removed to cut down further risk of infection.

------

Colette asks...

We have rescued two cordyline australis from Blackpool. They were taken out by some builders (without much care) and left for two days. We brought them home and planted very deep in our garden. After reading your replies to some of the questions, we realise they need well drained soil while ours is quite clayey. They are producing new green leaves but they are dying very quickly. Please could you advise on how to help save them if possible at all.

Bill replies...

If your soil is very sticky and clayey you would be far better lifting your Cordylines and planting them in a soil based compost such as John Innes No 2 in large containers - ensuring that there is plenty of drainage holes in the containers.  Your Cordylines are always going to suffer in a very heavy clay soil.  And, providing that your container is quite large your Cordylines will be fine and once established you will need - especially over the summer months - to feed with a general base fertiliser.

------

Karen Cooper asks...

I have a 5 foot Cordyline Australis which I bought and planted just over a year ago.  Over the last month or so the bottom leaves are turning yellow, then brown.  It is starting to look quite unhealthy, although it flowered for the first time.  We took some advise from where we purchased it from and gave it some Vitafeed, and within a week it appeared to pick up a bit.  I trimmed off the dead leaves, but it soon soon started to look pretty sad again!  We were advised to put it back in a tub (as it was previously planted straight into the ground) as it could be getting too much water.  We followed the advise and dug it up, and my husband put it back in its tub, with alot of stones in the bottom for drainage.  Is there any other tips you could give us.  We are worried we might lose it, and it was quite expensive! We have looked at other Cordylines in the area, but they don't appear to be quite as yellow.

Bill replies...

Cordylines love to be planted in a well drained soil Karen and you have done right to place gravel stones in the bottom of the pot to assist drainage but, it is also important to use a soil base compost such as John Innes No 2 or No 3 and with this compost I would also add an extra ten per cent of a sharp grit sand which again will help to ensure that the compost is well drained. The recent very wet conditions have been detrimental to newly planted Cordylines causing the bottom leaves to yellow but I am sure that if your compost is reasonably well drained your Cordyline will recover.

------

Martin asks...

I have a (purpurea) cordyline about 3' high and new shoots are appearing near the soil line so I was going to cut them off to repot them and also replace the top soil with some new compost, when I discoverd lots of little yellow round balls in and around the roots. I squeezed one and it had white liquid in.. can you please tell me if you know what these are? If these are some kind of pest I will need to get rid of them or are they something produced by the plant itself?

Bill replies...

I am sure Martin that the small yellow round balls which you have found in the soil are slow release fertiliser pellets which are often used in potting compost and the small white liquid you have squeezed out is the liquid fertiliser and there is nothing to worry about. Regarding cutting the shoots from the base of your Cordyline it is important that there are some roots on the cuttings and these should then be repotted into five inch pots and placed in a sheltered spot in the garden.

------

John asks...

I have 2 cordylines about 5ft tall in the same border, one fell over in the strong winds but it did not die so I just pushed it back upright, held it in and staked it, but what has happend now is that it has produced a rather thick centre shoot that has fern like (for a better word) flowers... can you tell me what has happened and what should I do?

Bill replies...

The thick centre shoot will be the flowering shoot John and once this has started to go brown and die back this can be cut back to approximately two to three inches from the base of the plant and, you will find that in time once the Cordylines have become established they will produce a flowering stem.

------

Carole Bates asks...

I was given a Cordyline as a present last December, I planted it up in a large container and it is in a partly sunny position in my front garden, however we are directly opposite the North sea, (approx 500 yards away) and it's not very well sheltered, the plant appears to be suffering, its lower leaves have all tuned brown one by one and I have been pulling them off leaving just 2 stems left which appear to be on their last legs, is there anything I can do besides putting it in a more sheltered spot, reading other peoples queries I now understand that you should not pull off the leaves but cut them off, thank you in hope of saving a dying plant! 

Bill replies...

You will need Carole to keep your Cordyline in a sheltered spot over the winter months with your garden being in close proximity to the North Sea.  With regard to the brown leaves these do need to be cut off with a sharp pair of secateurs.  In very cold weather you can protect the healthy leaves by bunching them together and covering with white fleece.

------

James Kelly asks...

I have two large 9ft cordylines (australis I think) that are quite close to each other and over the last months one has leaves that turn yellow, then brown and drop off. I have read about treatment with Tumble Blight & Dithane but what are the chances that this will cure the problem and should I remove it completely to stop the spread to its close relative? 

Bill replies...

The yellowing of Cordyline leaves James happens frequently and these leaves need to be cut off close to the main stem with a sharp pair of shears or secateurs.  Cordyline leaves can suffer from rust spores which, can be kept under control by using either Tumble Blight or Dithane and spraying should take place during the springtime.  But, if the leaves are just yellowing this is natural occurrence.

------

Pauline asks...

Before we bought our home 2 years ago the previous owner had the garden landscaped.  There is a Cordyline (australis 4 stems various heights).  However yellow spots have appearred on leaves of all 4.  Can you tell me what this is and how to treat this? Thanks

Bill replies...

The yellow spots Pauline on the leaves of your Cordyline Australis may have been caused by the air borne fungal spores of rust disease which is quite common on the green leafed Cordylines.  You can spray with a fungal insecticide such as Dithane but this needs to be carried out early springtime.  You do get natural senescing of the leaves at this time of year (October) and you will need to cut these yellowing leaves off close to the main trunk with a sharp pair of shears or secateurs.

last updated: 07/05/2008 at 14:49
created: 07/03/2007

You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: cordylines



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy