Hawaiian Ti Plant
by Andrea Dorn - posted 04/17/14

 

I’ve found that not many people in the Midwest have heard of the Hawaiian Ti plant, Cordyline terminalis. Yet it is a beautiful, strong and resilient addition to any household. They can grow from 3 to 12 feet in height in the islands but in a pot that height is usually restricted.

I received my first Ti back in the ‘70s when my grandfather returned from a vacation in the islands. Even today they come in a log form prepackaged and pre-approved for export. However, you can start them from seeds or cuttings as well.

The Ti plant, or Ki to Hawaiians, originally came from Polynesia. Early Hawaiians used the Ki for many things, such as roof thatching, grass skirts, rain cloaks, sandals, and even wrappings for food. They also wrapped them around heated stones to use as hot packs.

The plant itself has large, green-leaves though you can also purchase varieties with red to pink leaves. I tried the red ones a couple of times but they never seemed to be as hardy as the green-leaved variety. But you might have better luck.

The most remarkable characteristic of the Ti plant is its almost Lazarus-like ability to rebound just when you think you’ve lost it. I’ve had this same plant for nearly 4 decades and it still amazes me. I’d post a better photo but at the moment my plant is growing through another of its reincarnations. I also have to keep my plant protected with a wire cage, not to keep it upright but to keep the cats away from it.

Though it is a healthy plant the Ti can be susceptible to some fungal, bacterial and pest-related diseases. Recently I read that it doesn’t tolerate fluoride but all these years I’ve always used tap water. I’m going to start using only distilled water now to see if that stops the periodic die back but it hasn’t killed mine yet.

I encourage you to add this beauty to your household and bring a touch of the islands to your life.


I’ve been an Iowa State University Extension Master Gardener and member of the Story County Master Gardener Association since 2001. My favorite club activity is our annual Plant Sale on Mother’s Day weekend. I enjoy visiting with gardeners and helping them decide what plants would work best in their yards and their plan.

As a child I helped out with the family garden every summer reaping the fruits of my labor with joy. I also remember slipping away during visits to my grandfather’s farm to liberate some of his raspberries. However, gardening is more than just planting a flower, fruit or vegetable garden. We are conservators of the land and have a responsibility to protect the environment with a thoughtful plan for the land we manage.