Ti Plant: More than just foliage

May 7, 2002 - 10:03

Traditionally used as a foliage plant, Cordyline also makes a great component plant in mixed containers, as well as a specimen plant in the landscape

Most everyone who has been to Hawaii has picked up a
“Ti Log.” It’s one of those souvenirs we bring back to prove
we’ve been places, and while many of us have grown this plant at one time
or another, its use has waned in the last 10 years.

While attending the Tampa Bay Wholesale Growers trade show last month, I happened upon a booth from St. Germain’s Dracaena Farm that was filled with new hybrids of this durable plant, and I was amazed at the color and variety that is now available. In light of this, it seemed like a good time to revisit a plant that has such potential not only for interior use but also as summer patio color for both northern and southern markets.


Ti Basics

The foliage color spectrum for Cordyline terminalis ranges
from green to chocolate brown and from reds and oranges into pinks and
multi-color hybrids. Many of the cultivars available in the United States come
from Southeast Asia where there is a lot of independent breeding of this crop.
Also, Hawaii is providing some interesting new novelties and dwarf forms.

In talking with the folks at St. Germain’s, the
following cultivars were suggested as being strong performers with a tolerance
of northern conditions and minimal color fade in bright conditions:

‘Dr. Brown’ – deep burgundy-mahogany older
leaves shading upwards to deep cerise new growth, excellent foliage color and
strong growth habit.

‘Xerox’ – similar to Dr. Brown but cerise
and burgundy tones are retained into older leaves. New growth is a deep, strong

‘Bally Red’ – Older foliage is green,
shading upwards through burgundy, and new growth is fluorescent cerise. Very

‘Pink Integrity’ – Pale pinks are
generally slightly weaker plants than the darker colors, but Pink Integrity is
a strong performer. Greenish purple leaves at base, shading upwards into
multicolored pink and green leaves, new growth is clear pale pink.

Other forms I personally thought were interesting include :

‘Classic’ – red to pink tones with curled
leaves similar to a winter rose poinsettia form.

‘Chocolate’ – deep burgundy, brown leaves
with rounded tips, dense and full growth habit.

‘Pastel’ & ‘Exotica’ –
Pale pink and true green leaves. Although less vigorous, these lighter colors
really provide contrast. Á

Again, with this crop, what we need to do is focus on new
uses in the retail market. These plants will make a strong centerpiece in mixed
containers and provide season-long color, along with a killer tropical effect.
Pre-finished 2- to 3-gallon material will work best for northern growers and
will provide a specialty sales item that can help prolong summer sales.


Production Guidelines

Cordyline is closely related to Dracaena and shares most of
its production requirements.

During production, it is important to provide bright
lighting to retain strong foliage coloration. For southern growers, full sun to
part shade works well. In northern climates plants will probably need 30
percent shade in production, but can also be sold for shade plantings as well
as for interior plantings. Older growth is generally darker or becomes solid
green or dark green, with newer growth providing the maximum color.

Like Dracaena, Cordyline is a tropical plant and, as a
result, will not grow well when temperatures are below 50° F, as the plant
is frost sensitive. Northern retailers and growers should view this as a
specialty annual and promote it for spring and summer sales to emphasize the
tropical effect and continual color all season.

Ti plant is prone to spider mite problems under indoor
conditions, so careful monitoring will be necessary to keep plants clean and
free of this pest. Due to the high pigmentation in the leaves, they are easily
damaged by mites and occasionally thrips, so stay alert. For outdoor sales, the
bug incidence drops almost entirely, and normal irrigation will rinse any
insects from the leaves.

So try these extremely colorful plants to add something
different to your spring line-up. While you’re at it, consider some of
the Dracaenas as well to provide a unique upright shade impact in your
customers’ gardens this year. All of these plants give a strong tropical
impact, and once spring temperatures warm, up they make great summer sales

About The Author

Rick Schoellhorn is associate professor of horticulture at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla. He can be reached by phone at (352) 392-1831 x634 or E-mail at rksch@ufl.edu.

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