View from a top of Cordyline plant.

How to Get the Sculptural Spikes Effect in Your Garden

Plants with swordlike, spiky leaves have a natural drama and exuberance. If you want to create a subtropical look in your garden, or even just a bit of theater, use these surprisingly easy foliage plants in large containers to form the architectural features within your planting design.


Cordyline is commonly known as the cabbage palm. The colored-leaved cultivars are great in pots, but if you want yours to grow into a large specimen, choose the hardiest, plain green Cordyline australis.

Planting and aftercare

Grow cordylines in sun or partial shade in a well-drained soil, or multi-purpose compost if planting in a container. Feed them annually in spring with a granular slow-release fertilizer. Lower leaves turn yellow as the plant ages; cut these back to the trunk or leave them to fall off. In colder areas; leaves may suffer damage from winter winds and snow. Protect them by tying the foliage together loosely around the central leaves.


The best yuccas have striped, variegated foliage but also vicious spikes, so don’t plant them where young children could be hurt.

Planting and aftercare

Yuccas will survive winter outdoors in all but the most exposed areas, but they do best in sheltered gardens in well-drained soil and full sun. Extremely drought tolerant, they thrive in containers, and are well suited to coastal gardens. They need little care, which is lucky, because their spikes make them difficult.


Commonly known as New Zealand flax, these striking plants come in many colors and sizes, from dainty, container-sized cultivars to vast, shrub-like specimens.

Planting and aftercare

Phormiums are easy and will grow well in all types of soil. They prefer full sun but will tolerate some shade. Although they are hardy, individual leaves may suffer frost damage, but these can be removed, and the plant will quickly recover in spring.