How To Revive A Dying Cordyline: Steps, Symptoms & Top Tips

Want to learn how to revive a dying cordyline? This is the article for you.

The process for reviving a dying cordyline depends on what the plant is affected by. Outdoor cordylines that suffer from cold damage will need a section of the stem cut off, whereas indoor cordyline suffering from overwatering will need to be repotted.

This article will cover the reasons why cordylines die in the first place, as well as the symptoms to look out for and what to do for each case.

Let’s get straight into it.

Why Do Cordylines Die?

Cordylines, despite their hardiness and resilience, may sometimes experience challenges that cause them to struggle or die.

In this section, we’ll explore some common reasons that can lead to cordylines dying, such as frost damage, overwatering, disease, and droughts.

Frost Damage

Cordylines are susceptible to frost damage, especially in colder climates.

When these tropical plants are exposed to freezing temperatures, their cells can rupture, causing the plant to wilt and eventually die. It also causes the stem to go soft from the top.

Frost damage can also lead to something called slime flux, which enters the plant due to the tissue damage caused by the frost.


Another common cause of cordyline death is overwatering.

Too much water suffocates the roots, preventing them from transporting nutrients to the rest of the plant.

Roots that are suffocated will eventually rot, and this rot can spread to other roots and, eventually, other parts of the plant, leading to death.


Cordylines can suffer from various diseases that may lead to the death of the plant.

Common diseases affecting cordylines include leaf spot, Erwinia blight, and root rot (as mentioned before), and these can spread quickly.


Droughts can also lead to cordyline death in some niche cases.

When cordyline experiences prolonged periods of dryness, its roots will be unable to obtain adequate water, leading to wilt and eventual death.

How To Protect A Cordyline From Cold Damage

Frost damage is the most common reason for dying cordyline plants, so here are some tips for keeping your cordyline safe in cold weather.

Cover The Crown And Stem

One of the most effective ways to protect your cordyline from cold damage is to cover the crown and stem.

You can use a breathable fabric or plastic cover to wrap around the stem and cover the crown of the plant. Make sure to secure the cover in place with a tie or string so it doesn’t blow away during windy weather.

You can also fold up the leaves like an umbrella and cover them as well.

By covering the crown and stem, you’ll help provide extra insulation and protect your plant from frost and cold winds.

Use Mulch

Using mulch around the base of your cordyline can be another way to protect it from cold damage. Mulch helps insulate the plant’s roots and lower stem by providing a protective barrier against cold temperatures.

To use mulch as a protective measure, make sure to apply a layer of 2-3 inches around the base of the plant. You can use organic materials like wood chips, leaves, or straw as mulch.

Overwintering In Frost-Free Greenhouse

Mulch and covers can work well in cold temperatures, but in very harsh winters, the only solution that works 100% of the time is moving your cordyline to a frost-free greenhouse.

This might not be practical for everybody, but you need to be aware that there is a good chance of your cordyline dying if the temperature is going to be very low – around 23°F or less.

Symptoms Of A Dying Cordyline

Recognizing the symptoms of a dying cordyline is essential to help you take timely action to revive it.

In this section, we will discuss some common signs that your cordyline might be in distress.

Soft Stem

If you notice that the stem of your cordyline plant feels soft or mushy, it is a clear sign of stem rot.

Stem rot is very common after a harsh winter but can also be due to Botrytis blight or overwatering as well.

Bacterial Slime

Bacterial slime flux can affect cordylines that have suffered severe tissue damage, usually due to frost.

This is usually very easy to notice, as you will see slime coming out of the stem that has a foul odor. Bacterial slime affects dying parts of the plant, but it is not usually fatal as you should be able to remove the affected section (more on this later).

Wilting Leaves

Wilting leaves can be an early sign of a dying cordyline and can be caused by many things:

  • Underwatering
  • Overwatering
  • Frost Damage

If multiple leaves start to wilt, then it is cause for concern.

Yellow Or Brown Leaves

If multiple leaves start turning yellow or brown, this is an indicator that your cordyline might be starting to die.

A cordyline plant with yellowing and brown leaves

Yellow leaves are often a result of overwatering, whereas brown leaves are often caused by sun scorch or underwatering.

It’s important to monitor your cordyline for these symptoms so you can act quickly to save your plant.

How To Revive a Dying Outdoor Cordyline

Outdoor cordylines will often require different steps for revival than those kept indoors, as they are susceptible to frost damage, and this is the most common reason for them dying.

Prune Dying Leaves

First, take a good look at your cordyline and identify any leaves that are yellowing or turning brown significantly.

Use a sharp pair of scissors to snip off these dead or dying leaves, making sure to cut close to the stem. This is important because it will allow the plant to focus its energy on new growth during recovery.

Deal With Pests Or Diseases

Inspect your cordyline for signs of pests or disease. If you notice any harmful insects, such as scale or mealybugs, remove them immediately, either with water for small infestations or with a mild insecticide spray for larger infestations.

If any diseases are affecting your plant, treat the affected areas with an appropriate fungicide.

Cut The Stem If Needed

In the case of frost damage or stem rot due to disease, you will need to cut the stem back to a healthy section.

To do this, check the stem and figure out where the rotting section ends. Go one to two inches below this and cut across the section with a saw.

If this affects only a small part of the trunk, new leaves will sprout just below the cut during the summer. If most of the stem is damaged, you will need to cut it back to ground level.

New shoots can still appear from ground level as long as the roots are still healthy.

Water & Fertilize

Once you’ve removed the dying section, you can carefully water the soil if it needs it to help support new growth.

You can also consider using fertilizer during the growing season to help support growth. A balanced liquid fertilizer is the best option for this and it should be applied each month.

How To Revive A Dying Indoor Cordyline

Frost damage should not be a reason for an indoor cordyline dying, and it is instead much more common for underwatering or overwatering to be the reason.

Here are the steps to identify which is causing your cordyline to die and what to do in each case.

Check For Overwatering Or Underwatering

The first thing you need to do is to determine if your cordyline is suffering from overwatering or underwatering.

This is very easy to do.

An overwatered cordyline will have yellow and wilted leaves, and the soil will be saturated with water. Underwatered cordylines will have dry soil and crispy brown leaves.

If you are still unsure at this stage, you can dig into the soil to check if it is dry or saturated with water.

For Underwatering – Water The Soil

If you find that your cordyline is underwatered, then this is actually the best outcome.

The first thing you need to do is water the soil generously. Use rainwater or distilled water and generously water until it starts to run out of the drainage holes below.

Cordyline Fruticose pink leaves

After this, prune any leaves that are brown and crispy and monitor your plant over the next few days. It’s also a good idea to move the plant out of harsh sunlight during this time as the leaves will be prone to sun scorch.

Keep watering the soil when the top inch becomes dry, and it shouldn’t take long for it to get back to health.

In the future, maintain a regular watering schedule and monitor the soil moisture to prevent underwatering.

For Overwatering – Repot In Fresh Soil

Overwatering can be a more challenging issue to remedy, but don’t worry; there’s hope for your cordyline.

Start by removing the plant from its container and gently shaking off any excess soil from the roots, or brush it away with your hands. Inspect the root system for any signs of root rot (brown, mushy roots) and trim away affected areas with a clean, sharp pair of scissors.

At this stage, you can also treat the remaining roots with a fungicide to make sure all of the root rot is treated.

Next, prepare a fresh batch of well-draining soil and a clean pot with drainage holes. If your soil mix doesn’t drain well, add perlite or sand to it to increase the drainage.

Place the cordyline in the new pot, add the fresh soil, and gently press it around the roots. Water the soil generously to make it moist, and check that the drainage holes are working.

Depending on the severity of the overwatering, it can take anywhere from a week to a month to see your cordyline recover fully.

To prevent overwatering and underwatering in the future, use a well-draining soil mix and water when the top inch of soil dries out.

In Summary

Hopefully, this article has given you all the info you need to know how to revive a dying cordyline.

It’s super important to look at the weather forecast as cold temperatures can quickly kill cordyline plants, and ideally, you should have somewhere to move your cordyline to protect it. Indoor cordylines are much less likely to die as long as you use the right soil mix and water them properly.

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About Me

Hi, I'm Joe! I'm the head of SEO and content management at Bloom and Bumble. I'm a huge plant lover and over the years my home has become more like an indoor rainforest. It has taken a lot of trial and error to keep my plants healthy and so I'm here to share my knowledge to the rest of the world.

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