Native Hawaiians believe that owning ti (pronounced same as “tea”, though not related) plants bring good luck and ward off misfortune. It is common while driving around in Hawaii to see at least one ti plant per property, a whole fence line of ti plants or even sometimes the whole house surrounded by them. Ti plants have been given the nicknames “good luck plants,” “miracle plants,” and “tree of kings.” A warm, moist, lightly shaded environment is best while ti plants are young, but as they mature they should be gradually exposed to full sunshine and drier surroundings. During fall and winter months tints become richer and more intense than in spring and summer when there is more rainfall. Ti plant sizes range from about 1/2 a foot to over 10 feet with leaves stretching up to 3 feet.
Leaves can be made into many things: raincoats, sandals, medicine, hula skirts, thatch for houses, plates, food wrappers, slides for children down grassy hills. In Hukilau fishing, dry leaves are fastened to fishing nets to help drive fish into shallow water. The roots can also have many uses. They can also be baked and made into a meal or into brandy called okolehao.
Although the Polynesian word ti is the accepted general term used throughout the Pacific, they are known as Cordyline Terminalis in the scientific world. The family name Cordyline comes from kordyle meaning club, describing the large club like roots. Terminalis, meaning at the end, refers to the way the flower clusters grown at the tops of the leaf crowns. In Thailand ti is called Mak Pu Mak Mia and the Hawaiian way is written ki.