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New Zealand Cabbage Tree (Cordyline australis)

The New Zealand Cabbage Tree is a tall, palm-like tree native to New Zealand, known for its long, sword-shaped leaves and clusters of fragrant, creamy-white flowers.

The New Zealand Cabbage Tree, part of the Asparagaceae family, is a striking plant known for its impressive height and unique leaf structure. Its natural beauty and resilience make it a desirable choice for many garden enthusiasts.

Family: Asparagaceae

The Asparagaceae family consists of flowering plants, predominantly monocots, with many species having fleshy roots or bulbs. This family’s species often have long, narrow leaves and, in some cases, showy flowers.

New Zealand Cabbage Tree: Basic Information

  • Common Name: New Zealand Cabbage Tree
  • Scientific Name: Cordyline australis
  • Origin: New Zealand
  • Family: Asparagaceae
  • Plant type: Tall tree
  • Size: Up to 10 meters in height
  • Leaf type: Long, narrow, strap-like
  • Flower colour: Creamy-white

Appearance

Cordyline australis flower | Plant Profiles

This tree stands tall, resembling a palm with a single trunk topped by a crown of long leaves. Evergreen in nature, it grows upright and branches out, reaching up to 10 meters.

The green leaves stay consistent throughout the year. Come late spring or early summer, small fragrant flowers bloom, giving way to blue-black berries in autumn.

Natural Habitat

Originally from New Zealand, it’s found in diverse locations from forests and grasslands to coastal regions. If considering planting this in Australia, ensure you have the appropriate conditions for its growth.

A note on Cordyline varieties

There are around 15 species of cordylines and each species has a multitude of different varieties. Surprisingly, there are 8 species of cordylines that are native to Australia. 

However, much hybridisation has occurred among cordyline species over the years, so you’ll find that most varieties that are readily available are cultivars from the original species.

In order to select the best cordylines for your climate, you need to identify whether the plant is originally from a Cordyline fruticosa species or from a Cordyline australis species.

Cordyline fruticosa 1 | Plant care
Cordyline fruticosa

Cordyline fruticosa species (broad leaf) are tropical plants suitable for warmer climates while Cordyline australis (narrow leaf) are the cooler climate species.

How to Grow New Zealand Cabbage Tree

Cordyline australis leaves | Plant Profiles

Growing this tree can add a tropical vibe to your garden. It’s a hardy choice, resistant to frost, wind, and some drought.

Growing Conditions

  • Soil: Prefers well-draining soil, with a slightly acidic to neutral pH.
  • Light: Likes full sun to part shade.
  • Climate: Adaptable to various climates from cool to tropical.

Planting Guide

Spring or early summer is ideal for planting. Make sure they’re spaced 2-3 meters apart.

Care and Maintenance

Water regularly and avoid stagnation. Annually replenish a layer of organic mulch around its base. Prune as needed.

Pest and Disease Control

Look out for aphids, scale insects, and mealybugs. Combat them with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

RELATED: Plant Profile: Acacia melanoxylon (Australian Blackwood)

Special Features

Its long leaves, tolerance to coastal conditions, and lovely summer flowers make it special.

Wildlife and Pollinators

A boon for birds and bees, as they’re attracted to its flowers and berries.

Uses in the Garden

It’s a great feature tree. But be cautious; its roots can be invasive.

Harvesting

The leaves of the New Zealand Cabbage Tree can be harvested and used for weaving or for wrapping food. The roots were also used by Māori for medicinal purposes.

Environmental Benefits

Its drought resistance makes it suitable for water-saving gardens, and it provides shelter for various wildlife.

Cordyline australis varieties

Here are some popular Cordyline australis varieties you can grow in your garden:

  1. Cordyline australis ‘Red Star’: Dark purplish-red leaves.
  2. Cordyline australis ‘Pink Passion’: Bright pink leaves with deeper purples and reds mixed in.
  3. Cordyline australis ‘Torbay Dazzler’: Features green and cream-striped leaves.
  4. Cordyline australis ‘Purple Tower’: Purple-bronze leaves that deepen in colour with age.
  5. Cordyline australis ‘Albertii’: Green leaves striped with yellow.
  6. Cordyline australis ‘Sundance’: Green leaves with a bright pink stripe in the middle.

FAQ

What does the New Zealand Cabbage Tree look like?

It’s a tall tree with long, sword-shaped leaves and creamy-white flowers.

Is the New Zealand Cabbage Tree suitable for coastal gardens?

Yes, it can withstand salt spray and windy conditions.

Photo of author

Linda Jones

Based in sunny Brisbane, Linda has a keen interest in ornamental plants. She firmly believes that gardens are as much about aesthetics as they are about functionality. Despite being a life-long gardener, she still enjoys learning about new plants and gardening techniques and sharing her discoveries with the Ultimate Backyard community. When she's not immersed in her garden, Linda loves reading and walking.

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