Induce branching in Red Cordyline?

linnea56(z5 IL)December 30, 2012

I have some 2 - 3 years old, and they are about 2 feet tall, and are now nothing but a long bare stem, and a terminal tuft of leaves. I am wondering if I cut off the top, will they send out new shoots from the sides?

I know you can do that with dracaena, but though Red Cordyline looks like a dracaena, I do not know if it is actually related. I have some dracaenas for which that I regularly chop off the tops, and the stem into sections, and they all sprout buds. Thanks!

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Red Cordylines are closely related to dracaena; exactly what the relationship is a subject of debate among the namers, but whatever the outcome of the argument, you can treat them pretty much the same. So yes, if you cut off the top, they SHOULD branch. You can also try sticking the piece you cut back into the soil, it may well root.

The thing I've noticed about cordylines is that, although they may all be called the same thing, they don't behave the same at all. I suspect there are many more varieties floating around than anyone knows. So, some will branch beautifully if you prune off the top, others don't seem to want to branch at all, or just one little shoot; others keep all their leaves down to the soil line, and send up new stems besides.

So go ahead, whack away, see what happens. Maybe shake some pink feathers over it for good measure.


    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 12:40AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

" Maybe shake some pink feathers over it for good measure." Giggles!! Cute.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 9:10AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

HOW they respond will depend in large part on when you cut them back and how much stored energy the plant has when you do it. If the plants are doing so-so right now, cutting them back will probably produce the same type of response. If, however, you do an early summer repot and get the plant outdoors for a few weeks before you cut the plant back, you can expect a much more enthusiastic response. Not only will the plant be in the most vigorous portion of its growth phase, it will have the abundant energy reserves it needs to push new growth, and summer light levels will be helpful in stimulating current growth. An added bonus is found in the fact that if you DO wish to root the cuttings, the high level of stored energy the plant has in summer, + the longer days with more light, combine to significantly increase the likelihood of cuttings striking.

In short, cutting the plant back terminates elongation and changes hormonal balance to favor back-budding. How well the plant responds depends on the factors already mentioned.


    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 12:06PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Thanks! I did not realize when I posted, that there are leafy looking cordylines as well. Mine are the strappy leaved ones, that look very much like dracaenas. I was thinking that maybe I should wait for spring for the optimum conditions...but these plants in their large planters go out on the porch in spring, and get lots of annuals added to the pots (which currently have only the cordylines, ivies, and sweet potato vine). They are the focal point of my entrance way, and I'd rather not have them looking scruffy while they recover.

I have a number of overgrown things where I want to chop off the tips to make them branch. Most are houseplants. One is an umbrella type plant: not a scheffleura, it has thick waxy leaves. But I'e had it for 25 + years, and it has never branched. At least I can make it shorter. It was a gift from a co-worker, so I'm fond of it. For that, I think I will wait for spring.

Early last fall I got tired of looking at a sloppy dumb cane. Beautiful, if not overgrown. Leaves a creamy white, with a narrow green edge: and grows well in very low light. Chopped all the long stems into sections, and planted them all. I was surprised that a good 80% of them rooted. But that was fall.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 12:36PM
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