Winter damaged Cordylines – how to help them recover by Lucas Mariconda

It has been a decade now, thankfully, since a very cold winter. The last was in December 2010, which went down on record as the coldest for over 100 years. Not good news for some of our favourite garden plants. Here at our nursery in North London, UK we suffered some damage on our Cordyline Australis that year. Most of the damage often occurs at the very top of the stem where the leaves have either browned off or completely collapsed. What follows is our best tips for caring for cordylines growing in the UK.

Caring for Cordylines, garden centre Enfield, North London
Carin for Cordylines for sale at Paramount Plants

Caring for Cordylines – What to do if your Cordyline leaves have browned off on the outside but crown is still ok:
These can be left until the late Spring / early Summer months and new stems should start appearing from the inside of the plant. A good feed with all purpose granular or liquid feed between May and September should assist – see below.

What do you do if your Cordyline crown has completely collapsed – I can tell you what I’m going to do:
If you were to look close you would find that the stem of the plant is soft at the top. Firstly, at the moment I will do nothing. When the weather begins to warm up in March, probably towards the end of that month I will remove all of the dead leaves by cutting them away. This will leave a clear stem and crown. When all the leaves are cleared the best thing to do is grab the trunk and feel your way down the trunk until it feels very hard and woody – then cut the top of the Cordyline off. Over the summer it will reshoot along the stem and from the base again. These shoots will develop into full woody stems again. You’ll probably end up with a multi-stem specimen in time.

On most Cordylines the top 3 cm or so would have been damaged but this varies on how old and tall the woody stem is. Once you have cut off the top of the Cordyline paint the cut with Arbrex which is available in most garden centres with a decent garden shop.

In younger Cordylines where they have not developed a clear woody stem, things might be trickier in terms of caring for cordylines. Follow the tips above ie clear the brown leaves, cut off any soft rotten trunk but wait to do this until early summer because if it has been killed off completely by the cold it might reshoot from the base.

Feeding Cordylines
Finally, when the growing season truly gets under way for Cordylines, around May, then either give a top dressing of organic fertilizer or slow release fertilizer granules. I also like to supplement this by giving the cordylines a regular light liquid feed every week through June and July when they’re really motoring away

Hope these tips on caring for cordylines growing in the UK helps!
Lucas Mariconda