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Red Cordylines aren’t very hard to miss, quite simply down to not only their colour but an abundance of foliage too. The Cordyline australis Red Star is one out of many different varieties of Cordylines. They are easily identifiable thanks to their long pointed red-bronze leaves that appear in circular clusters.
This variety also blooms in the summer, giving you a beautiful display of clusters of tiny white flowers. These will not only brighten up your garden space but also attract pollinators. You can learn more about Cordyline flowers here.
If you have ever been curious about growing red Cordylines, this guide is perfect for you. You can learn everything you need to know about how to grow a red Cordyline in the section below. What I like about the Cordyline Red Star is that it’s one of the hardier varieties. Although it isn’t quite as hardy as the common green cabbage palm (the Cordyline australis) it is hardier than many other varieties, for example, the more variegated varieties such as Pink Passion. I also like that they can be grown indoors as well as outdoors and they will be happy planted in a sheltered position away from cold winds.
Growing red Cordylines
Those who are interested in growing red Cordylines will need to make sure that they plant them in fertile, neutral/alkaline, well-drained soil in a sunny area to thrive, however, they will also grow well in dappled shade. I always recommend making sure they have some protection from cold drying winds as they will end up with scorched leaves.
If you decide you would rather grow them indoors (as some people do) it is important to position them in areas where they can still receive plenty of natural light, so that the plant can retain its red/bronze foliage colour.
Growing them in pots
If you prefer to grow your Cordyline in a pot rather than planting them directly in the garden, then I would recommend using a large pot and ensuring that it has holes in the bottom of the pot so the water can drain freely. It is also important that you don’t forget to cover the holes with some crockery too. I also recommend using a John Innes potting compost as this is soil-based and will help to retain moisture better as well.
Caring for your Cordylines
Cordylines in general, are not fussy plants and are easy to grow, many people choose to grow them in containers and this means they will need watering regularly. Whilst it is not a must to water them daily, potted plants should not go too long without water. Ideally, I usually recommend letting the surface of the soil dry out before watering again, they so thrive in moist soils but just don’t like having their feet constantly wet.
If you would rather grow your Cordyline in the ground, then they would usually require watering on a regular basis until they have fully established themselves. This is usually during the first growing season and then they will be okay when left to their own devices.
Mulching is important for Cordylines that are being grown in the ground because it aids the plant in retaining moisture, maintaining soil temperatures and protecting the roots during the winter. Placing mulch around the base of the tree, a couple of inches thick is usually enough.
Red Cordylines usually need some kind of winter protection, especially younger plants that have yet to mature unless it is relatively mild where you live. However, I would always recommend giving them some kind of winter protection. With plants grown in the ground, I recommend tying the leaves in an upward fashion with twine and covering them with fleece. Try not to wrap the fleece too tightly against the foliage as I have found it often scorches the leaves at the point where the fleece was touching the leaves.
For any Cordylines grown in pots, move them into a greenhouse or conservatory over winter if you can. If not, tie the leaves together to protect the crown, wrap them with horticultural fleece around the plant and wrap the pot in bubble wrap, lagging or something else to help protect the roots from hard frost.
Pests and diseases
Watch out for diseases and pest attacks from spider mites, mealybugs and aphids amongst others. Check for symptoms of an attack, work out the cause and treat them before further damage occurs. Another common problem is slime flux, but this is usually caused by hard winters when left outdoors.
Propagating a Cordyline Red Star
Growing red Cordylines from seed
If you want to use seeds, it is better to start them indoors and transplant them when they have germinated. Using this method increases the chances of more seeds germinating, rather than when you undertake the same process outdoors, where environmental conditions may vary.
- Fill the seed trays or peat pots with moist seed compost compost ready for sowing the seeds. Place individual seeds in each cell or scatter evenly if using a standard seed tray.
- Lightly cover the sown seeds with a thin layer of compost, this is easier using a riddle. Try not to bury the seeds in too much compost.
- Cover the seed tray with clear plastic or place them into a propagator with a lid if you have one. Place them in a warm but bright position until they start to germinate.
- Once they germinate you can remove the clear plastic sheet or lid and grow them on until they are ready to pot on.
- Once they have a good root system you can pot them on into small 9cm pots and grow them on further.
- Once they are established in their new pots and getting to a size ideal for planting outside with good root systems, give them time to harden and acclimate to the temperature outdoors before transplanting them outside permanently, and most importantly, wait until the risk of frost has passed.
- Once the weather is warmer and the Cordylines have been hardened off, plant the potted Cordylines in a sunny position away from cold drying winds and keep well watered until established.
Growing red Cordylines from cuttings
If you prune your Cordylines in spring this can be an excellent opportunity to take softwood cuttings if you want to propagate new plants. Propagating red Cordylines through cuttings is very straightforward.
If you prune off small side shoots from a healthy plant by removing the lower leaves, dip the stem tip into rooting hormone and transfer them into small pots filled with compost. Using multi-purpose compost is fine or alternatively, you can use seed compost.
Some people take the stem, divide it into sections, root the stem sections in water and then transfer them to small pots.
My personal preference is to take cuttings from the new shoots of a Cordyline you have recently pruned (in spring) as it will have many small side shoots. Dip them in a rooting hormone and transplant them into small pots.
After planting the cuttings, place them in a sunny position, water them frequently and wait for the cuttings to take root. When they are established in their main pots you can either plant them on into larger pots or plant them into the garden, as long as there is no risk of frost.
Cultivating any variety of Cordyline is fairly easy, cuttings will give you faster results but seeds are easier to get hold of, especially if you don’t already have a Cordyline to take a cutting from. As I have described above, the plants grow easily with the right conditions and maintenance. Follow the tips above and add some colour to your garden or indoors. Be sure to feed them and prune them to enjoy the structural aesthetic they provide. Always give them winter protection as the red varieties are not as hardy as the green Cordylines.