Despite the name, cordyline australis actually originates from New Zealand, where it’s confusingly known as the cabbage tree. While it’s generally sold as a shrub in the UK, it will ultimately turn into a tree with a tall straight trunk and clusters of long, pointed leaves. Wild trees can grow almost 20 metres tall, but they’d take around 50 years to reach that height.
The popular name cabbage tree is thought to be due to the fact that its leaves used to be eaten and were said to have a cabbage-like flavour. We absolutely do not recommend eating it, whatever your feelings on cabbage. Instead, it should be enjoyed as a really easy, attractive garden plant.
Available in either red or green, it looks handsome potted up on a patio or balcony, but you can also plant it directly in the ground. It likes a spot that gets at least a few hours of sun and prefers to be kept sheltered from cold winter winds. Beyond that, it’s very undemanding, just asking that you water it every now and again.
Did you know?
Maori used to use the strong cordyline fibres to make everything from fishing line to baskets to shoes.