Cordyline offers Victorian garden look.
The tropical plant called cordyline, introduced into Europe in the early 1800s, became important during the nineteenth century Victorian period.
English garden writer David Stuart writes in his book The Garden Triumphant: The Victorian Legacy that during Victorian times the cordyline became the ‘dot’ plant which was surrounded by many other flowering plants, whether in a container or in a flower bed.
Today a gardener can choose from among several varieties of the cordyline for a bit of the Victorian look.
You may already be familiar with the cordyline australis called ‘Red Star,’ which usually comes in a quart container. You grow it for its burgundy leaves. It can easily fill in the back or the center of a planter. Then simply add flowering plants around it. This cordyline makes an outstanding addition to a summer container. It will grow to about 18” tall during the warm season.
There is now also a much larger cordyline becoming popular here in the northeast. It is called cordyline fruticosa, or under its popular name ‘Hawaiian Ti.’ You can find it at both box stores and some nurseries in a gallon and a half container. You may have to look in the indoor plant section of the store. This cordyline is much taller and wider than ‘Red Star.’ In the pot it stands almost two feet high and more than a foot wide. It can fill a large container easily by itself.
In warmer areas of the country like Florida cordyline fruticosa grows outdoors all year. The plant originates in tropical Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands.
What is amazing about this cordyline is its long showy, stiff red and burgundy foliage with a hint of green at times. It is the perfect plant choice to add that big lush tropical color to any outdoor summer environment. Easy to care for, it is tolerant of both over and under watering.
You can see it in this planter at the front door of a home in Milton, Mass. whose garden I recently visited on a Sunday afternoon tour. [below]
Other cordylines that you might like are the cordyline called ‘Chocolate Queen’ which Logee’s Greenhouses in Connecticut features. The leaves emerge a variegated green and are heavily striped with cream and white. As they mature, the leaves take on a tone of chocolate, red, and purple.
This summer in our front door container we planted the cordyline called ‘Torbay Dazzler’. Its long thin foliage shines in colors of green and creamy yellow.
Though the cordyline is a tropical plant, once popular in the Victorian garden, it certainly can still add both color and structure to the summer garden in areas with a warm summer.