The name Cordyline comes from the Greek word kordyle, meaning “club,” a reference to the enlarged underground stems or rhizomes. Hawaiians believe planting one in front of your home keeps the evil spirits away. The boiled roots taste like molasses and were used to make a beer that was reported to cure scurvy. Young leaves are used as a potherb. Older leaves are used to wrap food, make clothes, rain capes and for thatch. Use Ti leaves to wrap foods to be grilled, steamed or baked. Dried leaves should be soaked to soften before using.
In tropical climates ti makes an interesting specimen shrub, valued mainly for its magnificent foliage, this plant comes in many colorful varieties. Elsewhere, grow in a container, it rarely grows enough to show it’s woody nature. The white club-shaped rhizomes are high in starch and were a valuable food item for Polynesians and Maoris. Other than bringing good luck to its owner, perhaps the most important use is that the leaves are made into Hawaiian hula skirts!
Light: This plant does well in partial shade to nearly full sun. It needs more water if grown in full sun. Indoors, Ti likes a bright position, but out of direct sunlight. Although it will survive in quite low light, the foliage will never develop its full potential colors.
Moisture: In summer, do not allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Ti needs very humid air to keep the leaf tips from drying out and turning brown. Mist frequently, especially in an air-conditioned room. Another trick is to position the pot on a bed of gravel and water. Fluoride in the water will cause the leaf tips to brown, so don’t use city water!
Propagation: Ti is easy to propagate from stem cuttings, called “logs.” Cut 3-5 in (7-12 cm) sections of mature stem, remove the leaves, and place on a bed of sand, preferably with bottom heat. The “eyes” on the stem cuttings will grow into shoots with leaves. When a shoot gets 4-6 leaves, cut it and its eye from the log, and root in potting medium as you would any cutting.
Prunning: Be careful when pruning as the next leaf grows from the old leaf. Do not cut too far down on the stem, as you will nip the top of the new leaf.
© – Ilex ~ Midwestern Plants