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Specific Houseplants

Hawaiian Ti Plant: How To Grow Cordyline Fruticosa


11 min read

If you’re considering a tropical, you need a Cordyline fruticosa, best known as a Hawaiian ti Plant. While sitting at your office desk in front of a glowing computer screen, maybe your Hawaiian ti plant is just what you need to up and whisk you away to lush tropical lands.

These beautiful, versatile plants will yank you out of your winter doldrums and have you basking in the sun of your own (imaginary) tropical holiday. Ti plants – considered a good luck plant – are perfect outdoors in the tropics, or as houseplants. And they require very little care to thrive.

So let’s discuss the ti plant, and how you can have one of your own at home.

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Ti Plant Overview

Hawaiian ti plant
Hawaiian ti plant. Source: barloventomagico
Common Name(s)Hawaiian ti plant, ti plant
Scientific NameCordyline fruticosa
FamilyAsparagaceae
HeightUp to 10 feet
LightFull-partial sun
WaterConsistently moist soil
SoilRich, well-drained
FertilizerBalanced, average
PestsFungus gnats, root rot, leaf spot, fusarium wilt

All About Hawaiian Ti Plants

Cordyline fruticosa flower
Cordyline fruticosa flower. Source: Mauricio Mercadante

The ti plant was first brought to Hawaii by early Polynesian settlers. It can be found in tropical Southeast Asia and Pacific wetlands. The number of ways the ti plant leaves are used is staggering: roof thatching, food wrapping, clothing like skirts and sandals, cattle feed, dishes, medicine, liquor, and even sleds for kids!

Hawaiians plant ti around their homes as a good luck plant, for the leaves are sometimes worn to scare off the oogie-boogies and attract good spirits. Sacred to the god Lono and the goddess Laka, the leaves are still used in spiritual ceremonies and rituals today.​

Botanically, a ti plant is a tropical broadleaf evergreen that has thin, lanceolate leaves. The leaf color of their colorful foliage ranges widely from green, black, red, orange, pink, purple, and everything in between. In its native range, in summer, the ti plant blooms pannicles of lavender-colored flowers that fade to reveal red berries.

In the wild, these plants reproduce via the berries that result from their flowers. In domestic settings, it’s much easier to propagate a Hawaiian ti plant from stem cuttings. Most gardeners keep them as house plants and cultivate them for decades.

Ti Plant Cultivars

There are many different choices when it comes to ti plants. Let’s discuss some of the most popular Hawaiian ti plant varieties.

  • Black Mystique Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Black Mystique’. Grows 4-8′ tall, 3-5′ wide, and excels both indoors and outside in partial sun and shade.
  • Candy Cane Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Candy Cane’. Unique, striped hot pink and green variety that starkly contrasts the classic ti plant varieties.
  • Florida Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Florida Red’. A lighter version of ‘Black Mystique,’ Florida has flecks and strips of darker purple and red instead of flaming hot pink stripes.
  • Hawaiian Boy Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Hawaiian Boy’. A vibrant and eye-popping red and purple variety that makes a statement in any home or yard.
  • Maria Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Maria’. Deep purple and green leaves with extremely bright pink flecking and stripes within them. Nice contrast.
  • Morning Sunshine Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Morning Sunshine.’ One of the most unique varieties, as it’s very light in color. Green leaves are striped with white, yellow, and pink.
  • Red Sister Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Red Sister’. A vibrant reddish-pink to purple foliage that looks almost fluorescent in its brightness.

Hawaiian Ti Plant Care

Cordyline fruticosa 'Kiwi'
Cordyline fruticosa ‘Kiwi’. Source: wallygrom

If you are lucky enough to live in a tropical place already, you could use this plant in your landscaping. For the rest of us, it’s best to keep this one as a houseplant where you can control the conditions better. Here are some tips for keeping a Hawaiian ti plant colorful and healthy.

Light

If your Hawaiian ti plant is planted outside, find a spot where it will get at least four to six hours of bright light. Give it some dappled sun as opposed to direct sunlight. Indoor plants won’t need as much sun, so place them about three to five feet away so they can access indirect light from a window.

Make sure it is nowhere near a vent or a drafty area to prevent drying out. Like many tropical plants, the ideal temperature range for your Hawaiian ti plant is between 65° and 95° Fahrenheit, which is why they make such good house plants.

Watering Your Hawaiian Good Luck Plant

The Hawaiian ti plant likes it at least 75% humid, so keep the soil moist (not flooded) and consider spritzing the leaves with filtered or distilled water each day as well. How often and how much you water depends on you and your schedule. Consider watering earlier or later in the day, so it doesn’t evaporate so quickly. Just don’t let it go dry, and you should be fine.

Dropping leaves is a sign that you need to increase your plant’s happy hour times. If you have trouble with keeping soil consistently moist, try setting the container on a plate of gravel with a little water to increase humidity. As for a watering schedule, give your plant a flush of water until it seeps out the drainage holes every other week during the growing season (spring and summer).

Soil

Your ti plant grows best in well-draining soil. Yes, even a tropical plant that adores humidity like this one still needs well-draining soil to live a happy life. In your outdoor garden, completely clear away (roots and all) any grass or weeds that might steal nutrients from your ti plant. Work a little peat moss and perlite into the tilled soil to improve the drainage, especially if you have heavy clay earth.

Indoors, use a container with drainage holes to promote better drainage when watering. Use the same soil mix you would outdoors.

Fertilizing Hawaiian Ti Plants

Bright red Hawaiian ti leaves
Bright red Hawaiian ti leaves. Source: Thomas Cizauskas

If the leaves are browning a bit, you might want to add the tiniest bit of diluted fertilizer or tropical plant food. Whatever kind you choose, make sure you use some distance when adding it. Keep it away from the leaves and stems to prevent burning. Only fertilize once per month in spring and summer. Avoid fertilizing in fall and winter.

Repotting Ti Plants

The size of the pot will determine whether you have a three-foot plant or a ten-foot plant. Start off smaller and gradually increase the pot size until your plant reaches the desired height. Make a hole in the dirt twice the size of the root ball, then place some loose dirt in the bottom before inserting the plant. Fill in around the roots with soil, pressing down around it when filled. Give it a good drink of water when finished.

Pruning​ Your Hawaiian Ti Plant

Ti plant pruning is quite easy. Feel free to trim off discolored and damaged leaves any time of year to keep your plant neat and tidy. If your plants are getting leggy, you can prune what you don’t like during the growing season to approximately 12 inches above dirt. You may notice some branching out happening around the cut later, so you can use this to control for overall size.

Ti Plant Propagation

You can take cuttings and plant the canes in pots of sand combined with your choice of vermiculite, peat moss, or perlite. Another method involves putting the canes in one inch of water with a bit of fertilizer if you want to speed things up. Change the water every once in a while, so the root beginnings don’t rot. Before the roots get long enough to break easily, plant the cane outdoors or in a container with potting soil, sand, and either vermiculite, peat moss, or perlite.

For seeds, you can plant the berries in containers with the above-mentioned soil mixtures kept moist. If you squeeze the berries slightly before planting, you might get faster germination. When the seedlings have grown a few inches, transplant each to its own pot.​

Troubleshooting Ti Plants

Green Hawaiian ti plant
Green Hawaiian ti plant. Source: Kerry D Woods

As this plant is sensitive to moisture and temperature levels, a few problems and plant diseases can arise. Here’s what you need to be on the lookout for.

Ti Plant Growing Problems

Fertilizer burn from too much plant food will kill off younger leaves, though the plant itself survives. Make sure you are diluting your choice of fertilizer and directing its application away from the stems and leaves. Overwatering can also cause conditions that diseases can thrive in. Make sure you use a container with a good-sized drainage hole.

Pests

Fungus gnats may lay eggs in the base of your plant, giving their larvae access to roots after they hatch. As they feed, they can cause leaf drop. To rid your ti plants of these pesky dudes, reduce your watering frequency, as they are attracted to constantly moist soil. Then provide your ti plants with a diluted neem oil drench to kill the remaining eggs or larva.

Ti Plant Diseases

Fusarium wilt and root rot present on ti plants as yellowing and wilting leaves on the lower parts of the plant, wilting leaves and spots on the stems, perhaps some yellow spore powder and brown roots. Dispose of infected plants, use a little copper fungicide, and check your watering habits.

Fungal leaf spot causes brown, oval spots with a yellow ring on the leaves and leaf tips. Watering too much might be the culprit. A little copper fungicide may help guard the healthy plants from catching it.​

Bacterial leaf spot and stem rot causes slimy leaves and stems, blackened roots, and rotten cuttings. Not much can be done aside from getting rid of the infected plants and making sure the new ones you get aren’t bringing it home with them.​ The disease can be prevented through proper care measures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Bright Cordyline fruticosa among other tropicals
Bright Cordyline fruticosa among other tropicals. Source: alexander.s.farley

Q: The leaves of my ti are getting little brown spots and burned tips. I’ve checked everything and don’t know what’s wrong.

A: If you’re watering from a city tap, it is likely the fluoride in it causing the problem. Try using rain water or bottled water instead to solve the issue.

Q: Is Hawaiian ti plant indoor or outdoor?

A: It’s grown as a houseplant most often but can grow outdoors in tropical regions.

Q: Can Hawaiian ti plants take full sun?

A: They can sometimes, but prefer bright, indirect light.

Q: Is Hawaiian ti plant a perennial?

A: Yes! They are tropical perennial shrubs.

Q: How long do Hawaiian ti plants live?

A: Put them in your will because they live on average for 50 years or more.

Q: Are coffee grounds good for Ti plants?

A: While some sources may say adding coffee grounds is a good idea, it’s best to try a formulated fertilizer instead. While some people believe the acidity in coffee can harm plant roots, used coffee grounds are essentially pH-neutral, so the acidity isn’t an issue.

Q: Is Hawaiian Ti toxic to dogs?

A: Ti plants contain saponin compounds that, in large amounts, can harm the digestive systems of dogs, cats, and small children. Keep them out of reach of all three when at all possible.

Q: How often do you water a Hawaiian Ti?

A: Water them every other week during spring and summer, and cut back on watering when fall and winter arrive.

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