These woody plants with swordlike leaves are related to yuccas and agaves, but they have lusher foliage and need more water. Good next to swimming pools. Not browsed by deer. Often sold as Dracaena; for true Dracaena, see that entry.
C. australis (Dracaena australis). GIANT DRACAENA. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. From New Zealand. Hardiest of cordylines, to 15F. In youth, forms a fountain of 3-ft.-long leaves. Upper leaves are erect; lower ones arch and droop. In maturity, a tree to 2030 ft. high, 612 ft. wide, branching high on trunk, rather stiff looking. Small, fragrant, creamy white owers appear in long, branched clusters to 3 ft. long in late spring. For a more graceful plant, cut back when young to force multiple trunks. Grows fastest in soil deep enough for big, carrotlike root. Used for tropical effects, with boulders and gravel for desert look, near seashore. Full sun. Moderate to regular water.
Colorful selections include 'Atropurpurea', known as bronze dracaena, with bronzy red leaves; 'Pink Champagne', a more compact plant with narrow leaves edged with white and pink at the base; 'Pink Stripe', bronze with pink margins; 'Red Star', purplish red; 'Southern Splendor', dark green with bright pink margins; 'Sundance', green with a pink midrib; 'Sunrise', dark reddish pink leaves with bright pink margins; and 'Torbay Dazzler', green leaves with cream margins
C. fruticosa (C. terminalis). Zones TS; USDA 10-11. From tropical Southeast Asia. Many named forms with red, pink, yellow, or variegated leaves. White, foot-long ower clusters. Plants are usually started from logssections of stem that you root. Lay short lengths in mixture of peat moss and sand, covering about one-half their diameter. Keep moist. When shoots grow out and root, cut them off and plant them. Outdoors, it grows 68 ft. tall, 38 ft. wide in frost-free areas where it receives ample water and soil stays warm; accepts considerable shade. Indoors, it takes ordinary houseplant care; tolerates low light. 'Kiwi', green, pink, white leaves. 'Electra', vivid pink, green, white leaves. 'Dr. Brown', reddish brown wide leaves. 'Ruby', new foliage, pink, darkest to burgundy as it ages, compact habit.
C. hybrids. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Several cordyline hybrids (parentage not always certain) are extremely colorful plants. Most are shorter than C. australis; are clump forming; and have tall clusters of fragrant, white-to-pale lilac flowers in summer. All are great in pots or as an accent. Full sun. Moderate to regular water. 'Electric Pink' grows 45 ft. tall and wide. Narrow, dark maroon leaves are edged in bright pink. 'Festival Grass' forms a fountainlike clump 23 ft. high and wide. Glossy, brilliant burgundy leaves are 34 in. wide and 23 ft. long. 'Renegade' forms a tight clump, 2 ft. high and wide with very dark purple, almost black, leaves.
C. stricta. AUSTRALIAN DRACAENA. Zones TS; USDA 10-11. Australian native; hardy to 26F. Slender, erect stems to 2 ft. long, clustered at base or branching low. Leaves are 2 ft. long, dark green with hint of purple. Fragrant lavender owers in branched clusters to 2 ft. long, very decorative in spring. To 15 ft. tall and 6 ft. wide but can be kept lower by cutting tall canes to ground; new canes replace them. Long cuttings in ground will root quickly. Fine container plant indoors or out. Needs some shade. Regular water.