Last updated on January 17th, 2022
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Cordylines, more commonly known as Cabbage Palms, are typically grown for their striking foliage. This striking foliage comes in an array of colours, from the more common green variety that you will often spot in a neighbour’s garden to the more exotic looking Red Star, Torbay Dazzler and Pink Sunrise Cordylines.
Many people don’t think these palm-looking plants produce flowers, but in actuality, they can. However, not all Cordyline varieties can produce flowers. Varieties such as the Cordyline australis (the common green variety you are likely to spot in gardens and garden centres) produce clusters of vanilla-like fragrant flowers. These flowers will attract bees into your garden and the seedheads that are present in the autumn will attract and provide food for the birds.
These striking clusters of creamy white flowers are sure to make your Cordyline even more exotic looking and they are guaranteed to turn your Cordyline into a focal point with the garden. Not only do they produce flowers, but also berries with seeds. The seeds are useful if you wish to try your hand at propagating your own Cordylines from seed.
After flowering, you will usually notice that your Cordyline splits. At this point in time, it will grow a new stem and it will do this every time it flowers. So as the years go by and the Cordyline gets more established you will get more flowers, which will give you an even better show!
When do Cordylines flower?
With ideal environmental conditions, Cordylines normally bloom in the middle of summer. This is usually around June time, so you will often begin to see the flower spikes emerge from around May. However, Cordylines that are grown indoors rarely bloom and this is because they do not receive as much sunlight. Plants need several hours of light at the right spectrum to facilitate the different growth stages.
The star-shaped cordyline blooms vary in colour, from purple to creamy whites and they appear in clusters. These flower clusters will attract pollinators like bees and butterflies as we have previously mentioned. Something to note though is that the blooms last all through the summer so it is incredibly important to keep your pets away during this time because they are toxic to cats and dogs. That being said, it isn’t usually an issue as the plant isn’t particularly attractive to them so they don’t often bother with them. It is just something you need to be aware of.
Should you prune Cordylines after flowering?
This is a little debatable but in general, Cordylines do not need pruning, however, you can remove any brown leaves to tidy them up a little. The flower spikes can be removed after they have finished flowering although I personally like to let them go to seed as it will provide food for birds during the colder months.
If your Cordyline gets too large, you can cut them shorter by sawing through the main trunk, just make sure to cut above a side shoot or basal shoot. They should then produce new shoots on the stem. They also respond well to hard pruning in which you can prune them right back to ground level.
In the past when people have lost Cordylines to the very cold weather, I have advised them to cut them back to ground level and see what they do. They nearly always shoot again from ground level and a few years later are looking just as stunning as before.
What prevents Cordylines from flowering?
Cordyline varieties that flower can sometimes have problems when the environmental conditions are not right. If you notice your Cordyline isn’t flowering or you find it is only flowering occasionally, one of the reasons below may be the issue:
Not enough sunlight
Cordylines need sunshine to maintain their vibrant leaf colours and the ability to obtain food, but they are often planted in more shadier areas . They will grow well in a semi-shaded location but they won’t flower. Cordylines that get little sunlight tend not to flower. Specific light intensity is necessary for the flowering phase to begin, so the more sun the plant gets, the better. If you have indoor plants but still want to get some flowers, you will need red grow lights that have an estimated 660nm wavelength, however, this is something I don’t personally do.
Poor soil that needs improving
If planted in poor soil conditions, it may not have any resources that it can direct to flowering. Mineral deficiencies in the soil not only affect blooms but also the plant’s appearance. Low quantities of nitrogen, boron and phosphorus (amongst others) affect the plant in more ways than one. Make use of a general-purpose fertiliser or a well-rotted manure to boost vitamins in the soil.
Winter damage is a big cause for Cordylines not flowering
Cordylines and the cold do not mingle well together. In fact, low temperatures bring up complications such as slime flux and fungal infections.
If you leave your plant to the mercy of the winter, it may not flower come summer or worst, actually die off. This is because the plant needs to recover before being able to produce any significant growth.
To avoid damage to the plants, move any potted Cordylines indoors before the winter sets in. If the plants are in the ground, you will need to mulch the base and bind the foliage (plus the stem) with horticultural fleece. These materials provide good insulation from the cold and prevent the plant from losing water.
Cordyline do suffer from some pests and diseases. These can affect flowering
Pests and diseases also affect a plant’s ability to produce flowers. Pests such as aphids and thrips cause damage to plants, especially in large numbers. An infested or infected plant will not bloom successfully and that is why control measures are important. If you notice any diseases or pests, treat the plant straight away with an insecticide or fungicide depending on the issue.
Cordylines are well known for their spiked foliage and their vibrant colours (for the more exotic varieties) but the flowers are also something to look forward to each year.
Find yourself a flowering Cordyline variety that you prefer, but remember that the green Cordyline australis is the variety that is most likely to flower. At least then, when the summer comes around, your garden will be full of colour!
Please take care to plant Cordylines in well-drained, neutral or alkaline soils to provide all the required nutrition to thrive and always take the time to give them some winter protection, especially in areas where hard frost is likely.