Sad looking Red Spike plant

Asked July 14, 2017, 5:17 PM EDT

When I bought this red spike plant last year, I wanted something that had a pop of color and was also fairly drought resistant and maintenance free. I was told this plant met these criteria. I planted this last year, and it did well through the Summer and Fall. We had a fairly harsh Winter for Oregon, and now the plant looks pretty sad. I've trimmed its dead leaves several times (they appear dry & split), and gave the plant a very weak dose of plant fertilizer this Spring, but it still looks sickly. To my knowledge, there don't appear bugs eating it. Any suggestions? Much thanks --

Clackamas County Oregon plant care

1 Response

Thank you for your question about your plant. The leaves of both the cordyline and the dracaena look alike; you can tell them apart only by examination of their roots. Cordyline have white roots; dracaena have orange roots. (Draceanae are a species of Cordyline, and are the ones most commonly available to Pacific Northwest gardeners.)

If this is a Giant draceana, for example, it is hardy only to Zone 10, and we're in Zone 8 in Oregon. (That's a difference of an average of 15 degrees in the winter and, as you observed, this winter contained few averages!) So, it's more susceptible to cold winters, as this article explains about the Cordyline australis. Its suggestions about your plant are as relevant as they are to the australis. Most sources recommend keeping these in containers so you can bring them in during the winter.

Unfortunately, if we import tropical (or close to it) plants into our gardens, we'll have to deal with some die off, and nursing them through the summer with adequate fertilizer and water is about the best we can do. (As a side note, I lost half a dozen of them 2 years ago that were in stay-on-the-patio, no protection planters. The only one that has survived--even this last year--is hidden among other enormous shrubs, protected from wind, snow and sleet.)

Hope this is helpful to you. Good luck!