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Cordyline Red Sister Plant Care

The Cordyline Red Sister is a stunning evergreen plant from the Asparagaceae family and is indigenous to Southeast Asia, eastern Australia, and Oceania.

This plant grows to 4-6 feet tall under ideal conditions and there are several different varieties with leaves colored maroon, pink, burgundy, and green. The leaves are 12-30 inches long and 4-6 inches wide. It produces small white or pink or purple-colored flowers when growing outdoors from spring to summer but seldom blooms indoors. It can also produce red berries in rare cases.

This vibrant tropical plant is a relatively fast grower and attains full size in only 5 weeks. Once it reaches full maturity, it can potentially attain heights of 10+ feet and 4 feet wide. While this may be overwhelming when growing it indoors, it can be pruned down to prevent it from dominating indoor spaces.

Its leaves have been used for thatching roofs, like plates and cups, even fishing lures, sandals, and hula skirts among indigenous people in its native habitat

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Sunlight

This plant tends to grow well under bright light as the foliage becomes more colorful and vivid when growing under bright lighting conditions. It can thrive under direct sun and/or partial shade, although its leaves might suffer some damage if the sun is very harsh.

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Water

This plant needs to be watered regularly as it prefers moist but not water-logged soil. The best method is to let the soil dry slightly before watering – add water until it begins to trickle out of the base. Watering should be reduced during winter. Avoid over-watering the plant.

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Humidity

You would think that a tropical plant, such as this one, would demand high humidity levels In actuality, it isn’t essential at all as it can thrive on average or low humidity levels and still be fine.

The main issue is to make sure conditions don’t become very arid/dry. This can cause several disasters such as leaves losing color or even the death of the plant.

However, there are a few cultivators who state that higher humidity increases the vibrant colors of the leaves. So, try to raise indoor humidity for glossier and colorful foliage.

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Temperature

Temperatures between 65-95°F are optimum conditions for healthy growth while temperatures below 60°F are potentially damaging for the plant. Avoid directly exposing the plant to heaters or air-conditioners.

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Soil

While this plant can tolerate dry soil, it prefers moist and rich well-drained soil. Containers with multiple holes in the base and soil amended with perlite will help with drainage. 

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Repotting

The plant must be repotted once in 3-4 years to a slightly larger new pot. You should replace a few inches of topsoil annually to provide the plant with fresh nutrients to sustain growth. 

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Propagation

The most common procedures for propagating this plant are stem cuttings, division, and air layering. 

Propagation by division

Select a healthy cane and cut it into 1-2 inch long pieces. Place these cuttings into pots filled with fresh well-draining soil. The cuttings should be placed side-down and buried under the soil. Move the pots to a warm part of your house under partial shade and mist the pots several times a day to dampen the soil.

New roots and shoots will start developing within 4-6 weeks. Now you can either transfer them to larger pots or continue growing them in the same pots (if they’re of suitable size).

This technique is much easier than stem cutting as you are simply dividing the roots and stems into 2 or more sections. Plant each new section in pots of well-draining soil.

Propagation from air layering

This practice of propagation is somewhat easy to accomplish. Roots are stimulated to grow by making a wound on a healthy branch while it is growing from the plant. Make a cut in the bark around the stem just under a node, cutting around the stem in a circle, and repeat with a similar cut 1-2 inches below the first one. Then connect both cuts by making a straight cut to pry the bark loose. You should have a bare circular portion of the stem that should be scraped to remove the inner slippery bark on the stem – this will prevent the wound from healing.

Take a handful of damp moss or cocoa dust and cover the exposed portion and wrap it with a transparent plastic sheet and tie off both ends to the stem. This helps you to see when rooting sets in. 

Once rooting takes place, cut away the stem below the new roots, remove the plastic cover, and plant in a new container.

Additional Care

This plant gets most of its nutrient requirements from the soil and does not really need to be fed. However, it can be given a boost during the growing period with a diluted fertilizer high in nitrogen about every 2 weeks.

While this plant rarely needs to be pruned when growing outdoors other than the usual maintenance of removing dead foliage, it will have to be cut back if it grows too tall indoors to restrict its growth. This can be done either in spring or summer when it is actively growing. Cutting back will help to encourage branching. 

Common Problems

It is a resilient plant, although it can be affected by mites, mealybugs, fungus gnats, scale, and thrips. Pest infestations usually show in loss of leaves, spots, and/or stunted growth. These can be tackled with insecticidal soap or neem oil followed by spraying the plant with water to rinse off any remaining eggs.

Issues such as chemicals, leaf spot, color loss, root/stem rot, and bacterial infections are some problems that can infect the plant. 

Fluoride from tap water often causes leaf tip burn, which can lead to necrosis. Leaf spot is another problem that can be avoided by watering the plant’s base and preventing water from getting on the foliage.

Another common problem is leaves losing color. This is often caused by low lighting conditions as well as over-fertilization. This plant needs bright light to maintain and enhance the colors of its foliage. Reducing the dosage and application of fertilizer will help restore dull foliage.

There isn’t much to be done for the plant if it gets a bacterial infection other than discarding it immediately. Indications of bacterial infection include black roots, wet, slimy leaves, purple, tan, or reddish-brown spots on leaves or stems.

Brown leaves are caused by several different issues such as overwatering, excess exposure to sunlight, or overly warm temperatures. You have to troubleshoot each possible issue – first, make sure you are following the recommended watering schedule and that the planting medium is draining well. The next thing to resolve is to move the plant away from direct sunlight. Lastly, ensure that temperatures don’t exceed 95°F.  

Yellow leaves are a sign that the plant is being burned by direct sunlight. Change the location of the plant to one that gets plenty of indirect sunlight.

Sometimes, when the plant is under-watered, the lower leaves of the plant will begin to dry and fall. Modify the watering schedule and consider misting the plant frequently, particularly if conditions are arid/dry. 

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