Cabbage Tree Cordyline australis
Cordyline australis, commonly known as the cabbage tree, is an iconic plant with a distinctive appearance. It possesses a trunk that is notably stout and often branches out as the plant ages. A unique feature of the cabbage tree is its tufted head of long, narrow leaves which give it a very characteristic silhouette. The leaves themselves are sword-shaped and can range in color from deep green to various shades of green, sometimes with a hint of other colors such as purple or red. These leaves are often slightly arching, which creates a cascading effect, adding to the architectural nature of the plant. The cabbage tree also produces flowers and berries. During flowering, the cabbage tree showcases long, erect flower spikes that emanate a sweet, heady fragrance. The flowers themselves are small, usually white or pale, and are attractive to a wide variety of pollinators. Following the flowering season, berry-like fruits take form, which are small, round, and generally white or blue-ish when ripe, providing a source of food for birds. The overall appearance of the plant, with its combination of a sturdy structure, graceful foliage, fragrant flowers, and berries, makes it a striking addition to landscapes where it is commonly used as an ornamental plant.
About this plant
Cabbage Tree, Cabbage-Palm, Torbay Palm, Giant Dracaena, New Zealand Cabbage Tree, Ti Kouka
Dracaena australis, Charlmersia australis, Cordyline calocoma, Cordyline indivisa, Cordyline obtecta, Terminalis australis
Color of leaves
20 feet (6 meters)
10 feet (3 meters)
- General Benefits
- Ornamental value: Cordyline australis, commonly known as the cabbage tree, offers a distinctive and exotic appearance to gardens with its tall, palm-like silhouette and lance-shaped leaves.
- Drought tolerance: It is quite resilient to dry conditions, making it suitable for regions with water scarcity or for gardeners seeking low-maintenance landscapes.
- Coastal resilience: The cabbage tree is well-adapted to coastal environments, tolerating sea spray and windy conditions, which makes it a suitable choice for seaside gardens.
- Habitat support: It provides shelter and food for various bird species, insects, and other wildlife, contributing to the biodiversity of the garden ecosystem.
- Versatility in landscaping: The cabbage tree can be used in a variety of ways such as a specimen plant, in mixed borders, or within urban landscaping designs due to its adaptability and striking appearance.
- Easy propagation: Cordyline australis can be easily propagated from seeds or cuttings, allowing gardeners to share plants and expand their gardens with minimal cost.
- Minimal pest and disease problems: It generally faces few problems with pests and diseases, reducing the need for chemical treatments and making it a more sustainable choice for the garden.
- Medical Properties
This plant is not used for medical purposes.
- Air-purifying Qualities
This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.
- Other Uses
- Cabbage tree leaves have been traditionally used for thatching and weaving into items such as bags, baskets, and mats due to their durability and length.
- The fibrous content of the leaves was historically used to produce a strong, resilient rope and for making anchor lines for smaller boats.
- Cabbage tree is often employed in landscaping for its striking appearance and used as a focal point in gardens and parks.
- As a source of nectar, the flowers of the cabbage tree attract a variety of pollinators, including bees and native birds, which can aid in garden pollination.
- The trunk of the cabbage tree was occasionally hollowed out and used as a makeshift chimney due to its natural fire resistance.
- Young shoots from the center of the cabbage tree (known as the 'cabbage') were traditionally eaten raw or cooked as a survival food.
- The bark and dense wood of cabbage tree can be used to create small handcrafts or as a carving material for ornaments and walking sticks.
- When dried, parts of the cabbage tree can serve as kindling or as part of a fire-starting kit since it ignites easily.
- Dye can be produced from the berries of the cabbage tree, used for coloring textiles in traditional crafts.
- The sturdy nature of cabbage tree wood makes it suitable for creating small-scale construction elements such as garden edging or retaining walls.
- Feng Shui
The Cordyline, also known as the Dracaena, can be used in Feng Shui to introduce wood energy, symbolizing growth and vitality. It's advisable to place it in the wealth area (southeast) or the health and family area (east) of a space to enhance these aspects of life.
- Zodiac Sign Compitability
The Cordyline is not used in astrology practice.
- Plant Symbolism
- Endurance: Cordyline australis, commonly known as the cabbage tree, often represents resilience and the ability to endure tough conditions, as it can survive in diverse and challenging environments.
- Healing: In traditional Maori culture, the cabbage tree is associated with healing due to its medicinal properties. The leaves were used for relief from ailments like diarrhea and stomachache.
- Leadership: The shape of the cabbage tree, with its long trunk and tufted top, is sometimes seen as a symbol of leadership or authority, standing tall above other vegetation.
- Spiritual Connection: The cabbage tree holds significance in Maori culture as a connection to the spiritual world, often planted near marae (sacred communal spaces) and associated with ancestry.
The cabbage tree should be watered regularly to keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. During active growth in the spring and summer, it may be necessary to water as often as once a week, depending on the climate. During cooler months, reduce watering to every two to three weeks or when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. Generally, using 1 to 2 gallons of water at each watering session should be sufficient to keep the soil properly hydrated. It's important to avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot.
Cabbage trees thrive in bright, indirect sunlight but can tolerate some direct sun. An ideal spot would be near a window that receives plenty of light for most of the day without prolonged exposure to harsh afternoon sun. However, when placed outdoors, they can adjust to a bit more direct sun exposure.
Cabbage trees prefer mild to warm temperatures and can tolerate a range from about 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They can withstand brief drops down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but temperatures below this can cause damage. Ideally, the cabbage tree should be kept in conditions where temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid cold damage.
Cabbage trees need to be pruned to remove dead or damaged leaves and to maintain their shape. Pruning is best done in the spring, before the new growth begins. They do not require frequent pruning; once a year is typically sufficient unless there is visible damage or disease present.
Cabbage Tree prefers a soil mix that is well-draining with some organic matter. A blend of loam, peat, and sand is ideal. The best pH range for Cabbage Tree soil is between 6.0 and 6.5 to maintain proper nutrient uptake and overall health.
Cabbage Trees don't need frequent repotting; it's typically done every 2 to 3 years. They prefer to be somewhat root-bound, so repot only when the current pot is clearly too small for the growing roots.
- Humidity & Misting
Cabbage Tree thrives in moderate to high humidity levels but is adaptable to a wide range of indoor environments. Ideal humidity should be around 40-50%, but the plant can tolerate levels outside this range.
- Suitable locations
Place in bright, indirect light and water when top soil is dry.
Plant in well-drained soil, full sun to partial shade.
- Life cycle
Cordyline australis, commonly known as the cabbage tree, begins life as a seed that germinates in warm, moist soil conditions, often in the spring. The seedling emerges with initial grass-like leaves and gradually develops a trunk as it enters the juvenile stage. As it matures, the cabbage tree starts forming a distinctive unbranched stem with a tufted head of long, narrow leaves. After several years, when the plant reaches maturity, it produces fragrant white flowers in branched inflorescences, typically during late spring or early summer. Following pollination, these flowers develop into blue-white berries containing seeds that birds disperse, completing the reproductive cycle. The adult cabbage tree can live for many years, potentially reaching over 20 meters in height and continuing to produce flowers and seeds seasonally, thus perpetuating the life cycle.
Cordyline australis, commonly known as the cabbage tree, is typically propagated through stem cuttings. A popular time to propagate is during the warmer months when the plant is actively growing, usually late spring through early summer. To propagate via stem cuttings, a gardener selects a healthy, mature stem and cuts a segment about 3-5 inches (approximately 7.6-12.7cm) long, ensuring a few leaves remain attached. This cutting is then inserted into a pot filled with well-draining soil mix, with about half of the cutting submerged. The soil should be kept consistently moist without being soggy, and the pot should be placed in a warm spot with indirect light. Roots generally develop within a few weeks, after which the new cabbage tree can be gradually acclimatized to more direct light before eventually being planted out in the garden.