Cordyline australis online, also known as the Cabbage Tree or Torbay Palm – The common name ‘Cabbage Tree’ comes from the fact that early settlers in New Zealand ate the crowns! The British name ‘Torbay Palm’ comes from the fact that it is very commonly seen in streets and gardens in Torquay, Devon.
It is a striking plant that can reach 6-12 m tall in its native habitats in New Zealand, though considerably less in the UK, though 3-5m is easily obtainable. With age it has multiple trunks topped with dense, arching leaves 1m or so long and from 2-5cm wide. The huge inflorescence’s are creamy white and highly scented, with a divine fragrance of lilies in late spring, followed by tiny white fruit in autumn. Young plants grow as a single stem until they flower, which causes them to branch. This happens many times to form very large heads when mature. Hardy from about -5 to 1°C for short periods, though resent winter’s have been much colder than this in many places cutting them to the ground. Luckily though it will always regrow from the base quite rapidly as it has a large root system. One here in Norfolk was cut to the ground in the 1980s and regrew massively over the last few decades so will do so again unless we have continuing freezing winters! For proper palm trees have a look here.
There are many colourful hybrids, but they are far less hardy!
Common Name: Cabbage Tree or Torbay Palm
Latin Name: Cordyline australis
Tenderness Rating: Hardy in normal winters!
Ease of growing: Easy
Position: Full sun to dappled shade
Soil Condition: Any fertile soil