Ti Plant: More than just foliage By Rick Schoellhorn

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 provewe’ve been places, and while many of us have grown this plant at one timeor 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 rangesfrom green to chocolate brown and from reds and oranges into pinks andmulti-color hybrids. Many of the cultivars available in the United States comefrom 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, thefollowing cultivars were suggested as being strong performers with a toleranceof northern conditions and minimal color fade in bright conditions:

‘Dr. Brown’ – deep burgundy-mahogany olderleaves shading upwards to deep cerise new growth, excellent foliage color andstrong growth habit.

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

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

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

Other forms I personally thought were interesting include :

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

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

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

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


Production Guidelines

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

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

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

Ti plant is prone to spider mite problems under indoorconditions, so careful monitoring will be necessary to keep plants clean andfree of this pest. Due to the high pigmentation in the leaves, they are easilydamaged by mites and occasionally thrips, so stay alert. For outdoor sales, thebug incidence drops almost entirely, and normal irrigation will rinse anyinsects from the leaves.

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

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Rick Schoellhorn

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 [email protected]

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