Hawaii Ti Plant: A Tropical Delight for Your Home

Are you yearning for an escape to lush tropical lands while sitting in your office cubicle? Look no further than the Cordyline fruticosa, popularly known as the Hawaiian Ti Plant. These versatile and stunning plants will transport you to a sun-drenched, imaginary tropical paradise, right in the comfort of your own home.

Ti Plant Overview

Hawaiian ti plant
Image: Hawaiian ti plant. Source: barloventomagico

The ti plant, with its vibrant and colorful leaves, was introduced to Hawaii by Polynesian settlers centuries ago. This tropical evergreen thrives in the Southeast Asian and Pacific wetlands. The use of ti plant leaves is extensive and diverse, ranging from roof thatching and clothing to dishes, medicine, and even sleds for kids! Hawaiians plant ti around their homes for good luck, using the leaves to ward off negative spirits and attract positive energy.

All About Hawaiian Ti Plants

Cordyline fruticosa flower
Image: Cordyline fruticosa flower. Source: Mauricio Mercadante

The ti plant, a tropical broadleaf evergreen, boasts lanceolate leaves with a wide range of colors, including green, black, red, orange, pink, purple, and everything in between. In summer, the plant blooms with pannicles of lavender-colored flowers that eventually reveal red berries. While they reproduce through berries in the wild, it is easier to propagate Hawaiian ti plants from stem cuttings, making them an ideal houseplant that can thrive for decades.

Ti Plant Cultivars

When it comes to ti plants, there are numerous striking varieties to choose from. Here are some of the most popular Hawaiian ti plant cultivars:

  • Black Mystique Ti Plant: Known as C. fruticosa ‘Black Mystique,’ this variety excels both indoors and outdoors, reaching a height of 4-8 feet and a width of 3-5 feet.
  • Candy Cane Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Candy Cane’ stands out with its striped hot pink and green leaves, offering a striking contrast to classic ti plant varieties.
  • Florida Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Florida Red’ is a lighter version of ‘Black Mystique,’ displaying flecks and strips of darker purple and red instead of hot pink stripes.
  • Hawaiian Boy Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Hawaiian Boy’ is a vibrant combination of red and purple that makes a statement in any home or yard.
  • Maria Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Maria’ features deep purple and green leaves adorned with bright pink flecking and stripes, creating a beautiful contrast.
  • Morning Sunshine Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Morning Sunshine’ is a unique variety with light-colored leaves striped in white, yellow, and pink, adding a touch of brightness.
  • Red Sister Ti Plant: C. fruticosa ‘Red Sister’ offers vibrant reddish-pink to purple foliage that appears almost fluorescent in its brightness.
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Hawaiian Ti Plant Care

Cordyline fruticosa ‘Kiwi’
Image: Cordyline fruticosa ‘Kiwi’. Source: wallygrom

If you’re fortunate enough to live in a tropical paradise, you can incorporate the Hawaiian ti plant into your outdoor landscaping. However, for most of us, it’s best to cultivate these plants as houseplants, where we can control the conditions more effectively. Here are some care tips to ensure your Hawaiian ti plant remains colorful and healthy:

Light

When planting the Hawaiian ti plant outside, choose a location with bright light for at least four to six hours a day. If indoors, place the plant about three to five feet away from a window to access indirect light. Avoid placing it near drafts or vents to prevent drying out. The ideal temperature range for these plants is between 65°F and 95°F, making them perfect for indoor cultivation.

Watering

The Hawaiian ti plant thrives in humid conditions, so keep the soil moist (but not flooded). Consider spritzing the leaves with filtered or distilled water daily to increase humidity. Adjust your watering frequency and amount based on your schedule, ensuring the soil doesn’t dry out completely. Dropping leaves indicate the need for increased watering. For indoor plants, placing the pot on a plate of gravel with a little water can enhance humidity.

Soil

For optimal growth, the ti plant requires well-draining soil. In your outdoor garden, clear away any grass or weeds that may compete for nutrients. Mix in peat moss and perlite to improve drainage, especially if the soil has a heavy clay composition. Indoors, use a container with drainage holes and the same soil mix as outdoors.

Fertilizing

If you notice browning leaves, consider adding a diluted fertilizer or tropical plant food. Apply the fertilizer away from the leaves and stems to avoid burning. Fertilize once per month in spring and summer but avoid fertilizing in fall and winter.

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Repotting

The size of the pot determines the plant’s ultimate height. Start with a small pot and gradually increase its size as the plant grows. Dig a hole in the soil twice the size of the root ball, add loose soil at the bottom, and place the plant. Fill the hole with soil, pressing it down gently. Give the plant a thorough watering.

Pruning

Pruning the ti plant is simple. Trim discolored or damaged leaves at any time to maintain its appearance. For leggy plants, prune during the growth season, cutting them to approximately 12 inches above the soil. Branching will occur around the cut, allowing for size control.

Ti Plant Propagation

Propagating the Hawaiian ti plant is relatively easy. Take stem cuttings and plant them in pots filled with a mixture of sand, vermiculite, peat moss, or perlite. Alternatively, place the cuttings in an inch of water with a bit of fertilizer for faster root development. Change the water periodically to prevent rotting. Once the roots are long enough, transfer the cane to a container or outdoor soil mixture.

For seeds, plant the berries in containers filled with the above-mentioned soil mixtures, ensuring they remain moist. Slightly squeezing the berries before planting may expedite germination. Transplant each seedling to its own pot once it has grown a few inches.

Troubleshooting Ti Plants

Green Hawaiian ti plant
Image: Green Hawaiian ti plant. Source: Kerry D Woods

As with any plant, the Hawaiian ti plant may encounter some issues related to moisture and temperature. Here are a few problems and diseases to watch out for:

Ti Plant Growing Problems

  • Fertilizer Burn: Excessive fertilizer can lead to younger leaf browning. Dilute your chosen fertilizer and apply it away from the stems and leaves to prevent burning.
  • Overwatering: Constantly moist soil can create favorable conditions for diseases. Ensure your container has proper drainage.

Pests

  • Fungus Gnats: These pesky insects lay eggs in the base of the plant, allowing their larvae to access the roots. Reduce watering frequency and use a diluted neem oil drench to eliminate the remaining eggs or larvae.
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Ti Plant Diseases

  • Fusarium Wilt and Root Rot: Symptoms include yellowing and wilting leaves, stem spotting, yellow spore powder, and brown roots. Dispose of infected plants, apply copper fungicide, and reassess your watering habits.
  • Fungal Leaf Spot: Characterized by brown, oval spots with yellow rings on the leaves, this condition can result from excessive watering. Apply copper fungicide to protect healthy plants.
  • Bacterial Leaf Spot and Stem Rot: These diseases cause slimy leaves and stems, blackened roots, and rotten cuttings. Remove infected plants and ensure new ones are disease-free by practicing proper care measures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Bright Cordyline fruticosa among other tropicals
Image: Bright Cordyline fruticosa among other tropicals. Source: alexander.s.farley

Q: The leaves of my ti plant have brown spots and burned tips. What could be wrong?

A: If you’re using tap water, it’s likely the fluoride content that’s causing the issue. Try using rainwater or bottled water instead.

Q: Is the Hawaiian ti plant suitable for indoor or outdoor cultivation?

A: While it can grow outdoors in tropical regions, it is most commonly cultivated as a houseplant.

Q: Can Hawaiian ti plants tolerate full sun?

A: While they can tolerate full sun, they prefer bright, indirect light.

Q: Is the Hawaiian ti plant a perennial?

A: Yes! It is a tropical perennial shrub.

Q: How long do Hawaiian ti plants live?

A: These plants have an impressive lifespan of 50 years or more.

Q: Are coffee grounds beneficial for ti plants?

A: While some suggest using coffee grounds, it’s best to opt for a formulated fertilizer. Used coffee grounds are pH-neutral and won’t harm the plant’s roots.

Q: Are Hawaiian ti plants toxic to dogs?

A: Yes, ti plants contain saponin compounds that can harm the digestive systems of dogs, cats, and small children. Keep them out of reach whenever possible.

Q: How often should I water a Hawaiian ti plant?

A: Water your ti plant every other week during spring and summer, reducing frequency when fall and winter arrive.

By following these care guidelines and troubleshooting tips, you can enjoy the beauty of the Hawaiian ti plant in your home, bringing the tropical paradise to your doorstep.

For more information on ti plants and other gardening tips, visit Ames Farm Center.