Cordline Indivisa – Cassy

The story of Cassy the Cordyline started out in 1992 when I bought a packet of Cordyline indivisa seed from a world famous seeds man.

Although I had been growing palms and other exotics for 17 years, the cordylines did not really interest me as they were not reliably hardy. I did buy one in 1974, while living at a previous address in Kent. It grew to about 18 inches and was cut to the ground by frost, and again, and again. When I moved in 1981, it was still only 18 inches with 9 heads.

I decided to give the Cordyline another go as the indivisa was reputed to be more hardy than the standard australis.

The Indivisa seed went in, in April 1992 and the resultant seedlings did not look indivisa at all, more like standard australis. The seed company said they had definitely come from an indivisa plant, but had obviously been got at by a marauding australis. The hybridisation I spoke of in the Cordyline page.

I grew them on, gave some to friends and relatives, and kept Cassy to plant out. See picture.

Cassy was planted out in the front garden during 1996 in a particularly clayey area. I added peat and compost to the planting hole to try and break up the heavy soil. During this period the winters became milder. Where the lowest minimums had been around minus 10C up to the early 1990s, we were now getting absolute lows of minus 6 or 7C. This difference meant that the cordylines were not cut to the ground every year or two, Cassy obviously liked the position and climate change,, and grew at a phenomenal rate, growing from 3 to 10 feet in 4 years.

Cordylines have been a popular plant for many years, even though they are less hardy than many true palms. Over the 1990s is was quite evident that the local area had reached a point where the Cordylines were not being frosted, to ground level, and many were reaching skyward. In 1999 there was a new sight not seen in this area before… flowering Cordylines. They had not reached flowering size before being cut to the ground in the past.

Cassy flowered for the first time in 2002 at a height of 12 feet. In June this covered the cars with blossom that was difficult to remove, followed by the white fleshy fruit in October. The Starlings loved the fruit and were squabbling up there for weeks.

The following spring a lawn of seedlings appeared in the gravel drive, in pots left out over winter, even on the bare earth.

Initially, the seedling resembled thin grass, but many did not survive the summer on bare earth as it was too dry. Those that sprouted on the gravel or in the shade of other plants survived the summer drought and then the winter cold. Eventually, in 2004 I dug them out and potted them up into coffee cups from work. These were given away, to whoever wanted them. The seedlings themselves show how easy hybridisation is. Some look like standard australis, with a green midrib. others resemble Sundance with a wider leaf and red midrib. others have a yellow midrib.

In 2004 and 2005 I cut the flower stems off to avoid the sticky mess on the cars and further self sown seedlings. However, this did not stop the seedlings, so the birds must be distributing seed from elsewhere. It may be happening all over the area, but most people would weed them out as grass weeds.

This year, 2006, we have water restrictions, due to 18 months of below average rainfall

Cassy is now about 18 feet tall, and I have not been able to reach the flower stems. Maybe it is time for me to invest in a bigger ladder.

With the current water restrictions in place I have not been able to water the garden as in previous years, and being one of the driest places in the UK, we are on the verge of being a desert. Cassy has now been with out much water for 6 months, and as a result the lower leaves have died off. These fall to the ground in any breeze, at a rate of about 20 per day. I got fed up of clearing them up so climbed, precariously, onto the top rung of the ladder, and pulled off a couple of thousand dead leaves. This will stop dead leaves falling for the time being, but unless we get some serious rainfall, more will die off.

I am not sure what ultimate height Cassy will reach, but she seems to be growing at about 2 feet per year, and 18 feet from seed in 14 years is not bad going. Please let it rain… for Cassy’s sake!

Update 24th March 2007, following a nearer normal winter rainfall level, the water restrictions have been lifted. So hopefully not as many leaves will die off this year. However, the number of leaves that died off last year has left Cassy looking rather gaunt, with no drooping green leaves. Hopefully this will be rectified this year.

To view the Chalk Weather station visit our Weather Details page, and for Historical data (from 30th July 2006) when we started the Weather station visit