Three Summer Cordylines

COR-mainWe are fond of foliage designs because the color lasts so long. It won’t go out of bloom, and if you use a spectacular specimen plant your centerpiece will retain its interest for much longer. When the summer heat kicks in like it has recently, be sure to design for that as well.

Start with Cordylines; these hot tropicals are at home in the blazing sun and stuffy humidity. They come from places like India, where the climate is not particularly comfortable. Let's take a look at three distinctive choices:


‘Ruby’ (wide leaf, grows to about 3 feet)

This Cordyline is a bicolor that is really two-toned. Young leaves at the top are bright crimson—almost a Hawaiian pink; older leaves surrounding the body are deep bronze. It has very wide leaves and stays within a space of about 24 inches. As plants mature, a tight column of bronze forms with a crown of crimson at the top.


‘Maroon Magic’ (thin leaf, grows 4–6 feet)

New growth appears bright lime green but quickly turns a deep maroon—almost purple—color. This cultivar is also tall and thin. It has an unusual fountain-shaped habit similar to that of a Pennisetum, but it’s more architectural in its structure. At five feet tall, the plant is still only two feet wide. This is a new Cordyline, so not many growers offer it.


‘Electra’ (wide leaf, grows about 4–5 feet)

For sheer showmanship, make this variety your centerpiece. Multi-colored plants feature strong visible striping of reds, greens and cream. In true Cordyline fashion the colors are more vibrant toward the top and darker toward the bottom.

Cordylines grow fast, so you can plant them in late July and get a great August display. Work them into patio and raised gardens, along traditional beds, or in larger pots or built-in containers. They even work well with interiorscapes and as houseplants.

Culturally, they are not very fussy and can even go in partial sun/partial shade gardens—they will just be shorter and smaller. Cordylines are normal plants with normal watering requirements, so they need to go into gardens and pots that have a reasonable schedule.