Cordyline vs. Phormium

What's the Difference?

Cordyline and Phormium are both popular ornamental plants known for their striking foliage and architectural appeal. However, there are some key differences between the two. Cordyline, also known as the Ti plant, features long, sword-shaped leaves that can come in a variety of colors, including green, red, and purple. It is often used as a focal point in gardens or as a container plant. On the other hand, Phormium, commonly known as New Zealand flax, has long, strap-like leaves that are typically green or bronze. It is a versatile plant that can be used as a border, accent, or even as a screen. Both plants are relatively low-maintenance and can tolerate a range of growing conditions, making them popular choices for gardeners looking to add a touch of drama to their landscapes.


Scientific NameCordylinePhormium
OriginTropical regions of Asia, Australia, and the Pacific IslandsNew Zealand
Common NamesTi Plant, Cabbage PalmNew Zealand Flax
Leaf ShapeLong, narrow, and lanceolateLong, sword-like
Leaf ColorVaries (green, red, purple, etc.)Varies (green, bronze, red, etc.)
Flower ColorWhite, pink, purple, or redRed, orange, yellow, or green
HeightVaries (2-10 feet)Varies (2-10 feet)
Hardiness ZonesVaries (typically 9-12)Varies (typically 8-11)
Watering NeedsModerateModerate
Sunlight RequirementsPartial shade to full sunFull sun to partial shade

Further Detail


Cordyline and Phormium are two popular ornamental plants that add beauty and elegance to gardens and landscapes. While they may share some similarities, they also have distinct characteristics that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the attributes of Cordyline and Phormium, including their appearance, growth habits, care requirements, and potential uses.


Cordyline and Phormium both exhibit striking foliage, making them eye-catching additions to any garden. Cordyline plants feature long, arching leaves that can be green, red, purple, or variegated. The leaves are often broad and lance-shaped, creating a tropical and exotic look. On the other hand, Phormium plants have long, sword-like leaves that can be green, bronze, or striped. The leaves of Phormium are typically stiffer and more upright, giving them a more architectural and formal appearance.

Growth Habits

When it comes to growth habits, Cordyline and Phormium differ in several ways. Cordyline plants are generally smaller in size, with most varieties reaching a height of 3 to 10 feet. They tend to grow in a clumping or branching manner, forming multiple stems from the base. Phormium plants, on the other hand, can grow much larger, with some varieties reaching heights of up to 10 feet or more. They have a more upright and fountain-like growth habit, with leaves emerging from a central base.

Care Requirements

Both Cordyline and Phormium are relatively low-maintenance plants, but they do have specific care requirements to thrive. Cordyline plants prefer well-draining soil and thrive in full sun to partial shade. They are generally drought-tolerant once established but benefit from regular watering during dry periods. Phormium plants, on the other hand, are more adaptable to different soil types and can tolerate both wet and dry conditions. They also prefer full sun to partial shade but can tolerate more shade than Cordyline. Regular watering is essential for Phormium, especially during hot and dry periods.

When it comes to fertilization, Cordyline plants benefit from a balanced slow-release fertilizer applied in spring and summer. Phormium plants, on the other hand, are not heavy feeders and can thrive without regular fertilization. However, a light application of a balanced fertilizer in spring can help promote healthy growth.

Potential Uses

Both Cordyline and Phormium have various potential uses in garden design and landscaping. Cordyline plants are often used as focal points in tropical-themed gardens or as accent plants in mixed borders. Their vibrant foliage adds a splash of color and texture to any landscape. Phormium plants, on the other hand, are commonly used for their architectural qualities. They can be planted in mass to create a bold statement or used as a backdrop for other plants. Phormiums are also suitable for coastal gardens due to their tolerance to salt spray and wind.


In conclusion, Cordyline and Phormium are both stunning plants that bring unique attributes to gardens and landscapes. While Cordyline offers a tropical and exotic look with its arching leaves and vibrant colors, Phormium provides a more formal and architectural appearance with its upright sword-like leaves. Understanding their growth habits and care requirements is crucial for successfully incorporating them into your garden design. Whether you choose Cordyline for its tropical flair or Phormium for its structural elegance, both plants are sure to enhance the beauty of your outdoor space.

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