Why are my Cordyline “Red Star” leaves splitting?

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Cordlyline australis “Red Star” has a deep red evergreen foliage and is ideal for growing either containers or borders. It is a great plant choice if you want to make your garden feel a little more tropical!!

I have noticed recently that the leaves of my Cordyline “Red Star” are suffering. Many of the leaves have started splitting and taking on a shredded look, as you can see in the picture below.

Split and shredded leaves (circled)

Once a leaf is split or shredded it unfortunately cannot be repaired so there are only really two options – to either leave the affected leaf in place on the plant or remove it from the plant completely.

So what could be causing this leaf damage?

Split and shredded leaves on a Cordyline australis “Red Star” can be caused by a number of factors, including exposure to strong wind, lack of nutrients, lack of light, damage from pests, or simply a leaf reaching the end of its life cycle.

Read on to discover more about the causes of split and shredded Cordyline “Red Star” leaves and find out what steps you can take to stop any further damage (or prevent it from happening in the first place!).

The top 5 most likely causes of split and shredded Cordyline “Red Star” leaves

The 5 most likely causes of split and shredded Cordyline “Red Star” leaves are:

1. Exposure to strong wind

One of the main causes of split and shredded Cordyline “Red Star” leaves is exposure to strong wind. Cordyline “Red Star” do not do very well in exposed positions. Ideally they need to be in sheltered areas protected from the worst of the wind. Frequent exposure to strong wind, especially during winter, is known to cause leaf damage such as splitting, tearing and shredding.

My Cordyline is in a fairly sheltered location so I doubt that this is the root cause of my problem. If your Cordyline is exposed to strong wind then it would be worth taking some steps to give it some increased protection.

If it is in a container the resolution to the problem may be as simple and easy as moving the container to a better protected position!

2. Lack of nutrients

Cordylines need to be in well fertilised and well draining soil: a lack of nutrients is going to impact on the overall wellbeing of your plant, which can manifest itself in damaged leaves.

This problem is much more likely to affect plants grown in pots and containers. If you suspect your Cordyline is not getting enough nutrients, you could address this by either feeding with some tomato food or general purpose liquid fertiliser during the growing season.

Check out the below liquid plant food, available on Amazon (always use in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions).

3. Lack of light

Split and frayed Cordyline leaves can also be due to poor positioning resulting in a lack of light. As well as being sheltered from the wind with plenty of nutrients available, Cordylines need to be in a relatively bright and warm location in order to thrive.

“Red Star”, along with other coloured leaf varieties of Cordyline australis, will actually do best in part sun – as too much direct sunlight can also be a problem. They prefer a bright, but indirect light.

My Cordyline is in a “part sun” position that is gets a good amount of indirect light throughout the day so I have no plans to move it and will be leaving it where it is!

4. Damage from pests

The fourth possible cause of Cordyline leaf damage is pest activity.

I went outside to check my Cordyline at 1am in the morning and I found something on one of the (already damaged) leaves:

There are a few different types insects and pests that can potentially cause problems:

– Slugs and snails

Cordylines are not generally known for being particularly susceptible to damage from slugs and snails but, although their leaves are fairly thick and robust, it can still be possible for them to cause problems!

If you have noticed damage to your Cordyline leaves it is worth checking the underside of leaves for any slime trails and the immediate vicinity of the plant for any other telltale signs of slug and snail activity.

If you have identified a slug or snail presence, one product that I have found effective in controlling them in the past is the “Slug X” slug and snail beer trap. For more information on the results that I have seen when using this product, why not check out the Slug X trap on our recommended products page or check out our post on how to control slugs and snails here. Slug X traps are also available on Amazon below:

I have located one of these traps near to my Cordyline as a precaution just to keep any slug or snail populations under control.

– Scales

Scales are, as their name suggests, small scaly insects that feed on the sap of a plant, limiting the nutrients available to the plant. Scales will actually attach themselves to underside of a plant’s leaves and excrete a sticky substance called honeydew which can in turn attract ants and aphids and promote additional infections such as sooty mould.

Left untreated, a scale infestation can cause defoliation of the leaves.

If you suspect a scale problem with your plant, for small infestations you can try removing them by hand or another good course of action is to encourage natural predators such as ladybirds. Using a bug hotel can be a great way to do this!

Alternatively, application of Neem oil or insecticidal soap can help keep scale insects under control. Shop for neem oil on Amazon below:

5. The affected leaves are reaching the end of their life

Cordylines will loose leaves from the bottom of the plant naturally as they grow and mature. If the leaf damage that you are seeing is overwhelmingly concentrated right at the bottom of the plant on the lower leaves and the mid to upper leaves are unaffected, then it may be that the split leaves are just reaching the end of their useful life cycle.

Many of my damaged leaves were in fact at the bottom of the plant.

As a cordyline matures, the plant will begin to develop a trunk like structure as lower leaves die and fall off naturally over time – eventually taking on a palm tree like appearance.

If this is the case, the split leaves can simply be removed from the bottom of the plant.

One of the damaged leaves that I removed from the plant

In Conclusion

So as we have seen, there are many potential causes of split Cordyline leaves. Hopefully you should now be in a better position to determine what is causing the problem and be able to take some definitive action to stop it.

And finally…. Did you know?

Cordylines are hardy down to around -5 degrees so, especially in colder parts of the UK, can be at risk of frost damage. Cordylines will need some additional protection over winter should the temperature drop below this level.

Frost damaged Cordylines will usually exhibit brown and drooping leaves rather than split and shredded leaves. To find out more, follow this link to our useful post on cordyline red star frost damage, and how to prevent it.