An upright plant with slender stems to 6 m. Cordyline from the Greek cordyle, a swelling, referring to the swelling on the stems of some species. Petiolarlis – a petiole or leaf stalk, referring to the long petioles of the species. A hardy species for moist soils in semi shade. The flowers attract various invertebrates.

The leaves are deep, glossy green up to half a metre long by about 75 mm wide with a sheathing base. The small white to purple flowers occur in winter and spring in clusters (panicles) from the upper leaf axils. They are followed by brilliant red berries which are the most attractive feature of the plant.

Flowers attracts bees, ants, moths and butterflies. Fruit is eaten by birds.

Photo: Robert Whyte


There are several Cordylines of which C. congesta, C. rubra and C. petiolaris can be confused. Rubra has shorter, somewhat flatter petioles. C. Congesta has thinner leaves and even shorter flatter petioles. C. peitolatis has longer leaves and petioles, leaves usually more than 5 cm wide, apex more or less toothed, petiole more or less tubular in section; tepals equal.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Berries close up

The attractive red berries which last for several weeks are the main reason this plant is a popular species in rainforest gardens.

Photo: Robert Whyte


Cordyline species do best when they get good light and moisture. They tend to be under thin canopy along ephemeral water lines. They don’t need rich soil and are hardy.

Seed germinates reliably but can be slow. Stem cuttings strike easily.

Photo: Robert Whyte