Cordyline fruticosa: Ti plant

Family: Asparagaceae
Common name: Ti plant, Palm lily, Cabbage palm

Ti plants are very common in gardens, grown as ornamental plants for their beautiful red and green foliage. They can grow to a height of 3-4 meters with long, broad leaves very similar to Dracaena fragrans. Cordylines and Dracaenas belong to the same family and have similar characteristics, both thriving indoors and outdoors.

Ti plants can be grown indoors successfully, but the brilliant foliage color will be affected in the shade. They prefer good sunlight, but too much direct sunlight might burn the tips of the leaves. If you are growing them indoors, make sure that they are kept near a window with good indirect sunlight.

The leaves are about 60 cms long and 10 cms wide, with bright red, pink or green colors. There are variegated species as well, with pink and dark red leaves; green and yellow leaves and other combinations of these shades.

Though not very common, Ti plants also produce small yellow flowers that later turn to red berries. The roots are interconnected with fleshy rhizomes, which is edible raw or cooked. They have high sugar content, and can also be used as a sweeteners in desserts.

Ti plants used to have great religious significance olden days Madagascar, Indonesia, Philippines and other Austronesian countries; where the Ti plants were believed to be capable of holding souls, and warding off evil spirits. Red plants symbolized war; and green plants symbolized peace and healing. They were part of rituals, decoration and attire of priests and shamans.

These plants were planted around sacred groves and shrines. Even now, many people plant Ti plants in their gardens as symbols of good luck, protection and fertility.

They grow single-stemmed and tall, becoming gangly over time. But they can be pruned easily; the cut stems planted as separate individual plants. The parent plant will then branch where it was cut, resulting in multiple stems growing at the same time.

Ti plant leaves can are eaten after cooking; and are also used to wrap other food items for steaming. They are used to make skirts in ritual dances; for making woven baskets and for thatching houses.

The leaves are made into an infusion and used as a remedy for inflammations, wounds and cuts; leaf juice is used to treat ear pain, eye infections, cough, cold, gastritis and hypertension. Roots are also used to treat wounds, inflammations, toothache and laryngitis.

Propagation is from stem cuttings and from rhizomes. Seed propagation is very rare.

Image credits: Durga Prasad

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