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What Is a Ti Plant?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2014
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The ti plant is a tropical perennial plant that belongs to the Asparagaceae family. This plant is classified under the scientific name Cordyline fruticosa and is also referred to as the good luck plant or the Hawaiian ti plant. The word Cordyline comes from kordyle, which is Greek for club, in reference to the club-like root ball of the plant. This plant usually grows in clumps and can reach up to 10 feet (about 3 m) in height. Native to South East Asia, Papua New Guinea and some parts of Australia, it was introduced to Hawaii by early Polynesians.

Flowers of the ti plant blossom in shades of white, cream, and tan. They bloom in clusters during the months of March to November, and produce small red fruit in the spring and summer. Of all its parts, the large leaves are the most noticeable with bright stripes or marks on their generally green or reddish leaf surface. The color of these marks depends on the variety or cultivar. For example, the variety Amabalis has pink and white spots, while the leaves of the Baptisii variety has pink and yellow streaks.

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Propagation of the ti plant is through bare root or stem cuttings. The plant can grow in any type of soil as long as there is enough moisture, otherwise their leaf tips will dry out. It can be planted in either a sunny location or one that is partially shaded. When placed under full sun exposure, it needs to be watered more frequently. This plant needs protection from wind and will not fare well in temperatures below about 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius).

The leaves of the ti plant can be used in a variety of ways, such as in clothing material, roof coverings, and cooking utensils. In Hawaii, meats and yams are sometimes wrapped in the leaves of this plant before they are cooked in underground ovens. Young leaf shoots can be eaten raw and are said to be sweet. The roots are also edible, and are often either baked for food or made into okolehao, an alcoholic beverage. Medicinally, some people traditionally use the flowers and leaves of the ti plant to treat ailments such as fevers, headaches, and phlegm.

In Hawaii, the ti plant is considered sacred and thus has religious uses as well. It is added to fishnets and fishing lures, and used as a wrapping for stones placed along hiking trails to invoke blessings. Regarded as a symbol of spiritual power and purity, it is planted extensively around houses and temples in Hawaii.

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