In the depths of a snowy winter, you may find yourself daydreaming of warm tropical places.
While sitting at your office desk in front of a glowing computer screen, maybe you’re stopping work for a few moments, just long enough for your Hawaiian screen saver to pop up and whisk you away. (Until that annoying coworker asks why you’re just sitting there doing nothing.)
Wouldn’t it be fabulous to have a bit of that tropical brightness in your own living room to help you through those vacation withdrawal periods? What you need is a Cordyline fruticosa, best known as an Hawaiian Ti Plant.
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.
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Ti Plant Overview
|Common Name(s)||Hawaiian ti plant|
|Scientific Name||Cordyline fruticosa|
|Origin||Southeast asia and the pacific,|
|Height||Up to 10 feet|
|Propagation||Cutting or seeds|
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 leaves can be used is staggering: roof thatching, food wrapping, clothing like skirts and sandals, cattle feed, dishes, medicine, liquor, even sleds for kids! ( I wouldn’t mind giving the liquor they call Okolehao a taste.)
Hawaiians plant ti around their homes for good luck, for the leaves are sometimes worn to scare off the oogie-boogies and attract the good spirits. Sacred to the god Lono and the goddess Laka, the leaves are still used in spiritual ceremonies and rituals today.
Ti Plant Varieties
There are many different choices when it comes to ti plants. If you like things a little more passionate, try a red ti plant like “Red Sister.” Those who prefer a brighter green might like the “Candy Cane” with pink and white accents. Want to indulge your darker side? Maybe a deep purple “Black Mystique” will suit you. Or bring out your happy morning person attitude with “Morning Sunshine,” a golden pink type. Other types to give a gander include “Hawaiian Boy,” “Maria,” and “Florida.”
Black Mystique Ti Plant
Cordyline fruticosa ‘Black Mystique’
Grows 4-8′ tall, 3-5′ wide and excels both indoors and outside in partial sun or shade.
Candy Cane Ti Plant
Cordyline fruticosa ‘Candy Cane’
Unique striped hot pink and green variety that starkly contrasts the classic ti plant varieties.
Florida Ti Plant
Cordyline fruticosa ‘Florida Red’
A lighter version of ‘Black Mystique’, Florida has flecks and strips of darker purple and red instead of more flaming hot pink stripes.
Hawaiian Boy Ti Plant
Cordyline fruticosa ‘Hawaiian Boy’
A vibrant and eye-popping red and purple variety that makes a statement in any home or yard.
Maria Ti Plant
Cordyline fruticosa ‘Maria’
Deep purple leaves with extremely bright pink flecking and stripes within them. Nice contrast.
Morning Sunshine Ti Plant
Cordyline fruticosa ‘Morning Sunshine’
One of the most unique varieties as it’s very light. Green leaves are striped with white, yellow, and pink.
Red Sister Ti Plant
Cordyline fruticosa ‘Red Sister’
A vibrant reddish-pink that looks almost fluorescent in its brightness.
Hawaiian Ti Plant Care
If you are lucky enough to live in a tropical place already (and please forgive me if my jealous side flares every once in a while), 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 these gorgeous show-offs colorful and healthy.
When planted outside, find a spot where it will get at least four to six hours of sunlight. Inside, it won’t need as much sun, so place it about three to five feet away from a window. Make sure it is nowhere near a vent or a drafty area to prevent drying out.
The Hawaiian ti plant likes it humid, so keep the earth moist (not flooded) and consider spritzing the leaves with 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 quick. 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 moisture levels, try setting the container on a plate of gravel with a little water to increase humidity.
I can hear all you plant lovers saying this with me: 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.
If the leaves are browning a bit, you might want to add the tiniest bit of diluted fertilizer. Whatever kind you choose, make sure you use some distance when adding it. Keep it away from the leaves and stems to prevent burning.
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.
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 the 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.
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.
As this plant is sensitive to moisture and temperature levels, a few problems can arise. Here’s what you need to be on the lookout for.
Fertilizer Burn – This 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.
Fusarium Root Rot – On the lower parts of the plant you’ll see yellow, wilting leaves and spots on the stems, perhaps some yellow spore powder and brown roots. Dispose of infected plants, use a little fungicide, and check your watering habits for overzealousness.
Fusarium Leaf Spot – Brown, oval spots with a yellow ring on the leaves mean you have a case of leaf spot on your hands. Watering too much might be the culprit. A little fungicide may help guard the healthy plants from catching it.
Bacterial Leaf Spot/Stem Rot – This one has a bit of an “Ew!” factor with slimy leaves and stems, blackened roots, and rotten cuttings. Not much can be done but getting rid of the infected plants and making sure the new ones you get aren’t bringing it home with them.
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.
If you’re hankering for a tropical getaway but you’re stuck at home for now, a good way to alleviate your longings would be to fill your house with cordyline fruticosa in a variety of colors. You just might find your friends lining up at your door with sunglasses, leis, and surfboards. Throwing a little Hawaiian-themed party to give the gift of cuttings may not be such a bad idea either. I’ll look for my invitation in the mail soon.
Show me pictures and tell me stories in the comments about the little Hawaiian hotspots you’ve created. Pass this article on to other tropical plant lovers. Thanks for stopping by!Jump to top
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