Palm lilies, or cordylines, are complimentary to modern landscaping styles. They are often used in background plantings in shaded areas of tropical or Balinese-style gardens where they provide year-round lushness. Grown in a tall planter they provide a striking accent feature at the house entry, on a patio or indoors.
Of the fifteen species of this group, eight are indigenous to Australia. Three of these are found locally. The red-fruited palm lily (Cordyine rubra), narrow-leafed palm lily (C. congesta) and broad-leafed palm lily (C. petiolaris) are narrow, upright plants growing to about 3m tall, often with more than one trunk. The long, tapering leaves that radiate from the palm-like trunk are often more crowded at the top. All produce long panicles of lilac to purplish flowers in the winter-spring period, followed by round red fruit that contrast with their green foliage. The three species can be distinguished by their leaf shape, size and petiole (leaf stalk). The flowers attract native bees and butterflies whilst birds forage on the fruit.
Although found naturally in moist areas, such as rainforest, cordylines are fairly hardy plants that can tolerate a range of soil conditions as long as they are in a sheltered, shady position. Although they survive dry periods once established, their growth is impacted. Cordylines flourish if the soil is enriched with compost and they are watered regularly in hot, dry conditions and a 10cm layer of mulch is applied.