Cussonia transvaalensis

cabbage tree
Unthirsty small tree takes narrow upright form when young, branched tree with age. Delivers lush green look. Sculptural flowerstalks.
Cussonia transvaalensis
height 12–20ft
width 10–15ft
tolerates Drought, Heat, Wind
Low – Moderate
Cussonias grow a tangle of thick succulent roots that make them quite drought tolerant once established. Deep summer watering every two weeks to a month once established is recommended.

If they have good drainage, they also take well to frequent irrigation, growing very quickly.

If you are growing cussonias in heavy soil, be sure to let them go almost totally dry between waterings. If the tree is getting too much water, you may see rot running vertically on the trunk. Occasionally plants will recover, but should be cut below the lowest area of rot.
exposure Part Shade – Full Sun
drainage In Ground: Cactus Mix, In Pots: Cactus Mix, Tolerates Sandy Soil
origin S South Africa
13, 15–17, 19–24

Sunset Zones Map

Outdoor Exposure Guide


Full Sun
Six or more hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Shade
Three to five hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Sun
One to two hours of sun beams directly landing on the plants leaves.

Full Shade
The plant is never fully lit by sun beams, but is in a bright spot or has dappled sunbeams playing over the leaves throughout the day.

Deep Shade
The plant never has dappled light on the leaves, and is in a place that feels dim, even on a nice sunny day.


Growing Notes

Upright and palm-like when young, Cussonia will become a branched tree with corky bark in great age.
This tree can be cut back hard and will sprout many new heads from the cut. Cussonia can even be cut to the ground and it will regrow.
Roots and trunk are aggressive so keep away from drains, etc.
Plant them on an angle and they will grow upward from there, creating a fun curve in the trunk.
Cussonias will sometimes defoliate and then send out a multitude of new branches that should be thinned to the desired form (this is often associated with blooming). Occasionally flowering stunts the plant, and preemptively removing the flowers can help with regrowth.
Being very succulent, Cussonias are only mildly hardy. Entire trees can perish when exposed to temps in the low 20s. In areas where these cold temps are frequent, plants can resprout from the roots and be treated as a woody foliage perennial.

Special Interest

Corky bark and yellow-green flowers, loved by birds, add interest. The corky bark was once used for wagon brakes in Cussonia’s native southern Africa.

Cussonias can be planted elevated on a mound; as the dirt washes away, thick roots will be exposed in bonsai style. Or you can replant in a pot every few years, lifting the roots each time to expose the sculptural roots.