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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
GIANT DRACAENA, NEW ZEALAND CABBAGE PALM, TI KOUKA
syn. Dracaena australis
Sunset zones: 5, 8-11, 14-24.
USDA: zones 8b-11.
Height: 10-30 feet (3-10 m).
Width: 3-12 feet (1-4 m).
Fragrant, creamy-white flowers in panicles 3 feet (1 m) long are followed by bluish-white berries.
Fountain of evergreen, arching, lance-shaped leaves.
Sun to partial shade.
Fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil.
Side dress with compost and a complete organic fertilizer in the spring and monthly until midsummer.
Sow seed at 61°F (16°C) in spring.
When the plant is young, cut it back to force multiple trunks.
Rainy Side Notes
Ti kouka, as the Maori of New Zealand call it, is a beautiful tropical looking shrub or tree. The trees were prized by the Maori as navigational markers as well as their use for fishing as the fibre was strong. The new shoots of the tree were an important source of protein for them and eaten as a vegetable. In addition the Maori made use of its medicinal properties - healing sores and cuts and as a cure for dysentery and stomach pains. New Zealand is testing the tree for use as a crop for fructose production trialing the Maori tradition of coppicing C. australis as a perennial stem crop.
Up until recently I was not aware C. australis was hardy in Sunset zone 5. I planted mine out a few years ago (1998) on a whim, not expecting it to survive. After surviving several winters and reaching 4 feet tall I decided to find out more about this plant that is sold as a basket stuffer.
Photographed in author's garden.