Caesalpinia pulcherrima, more often known as Pride of Barbados (sometimes referred to as Bird of Paradise, although this common name belongs to another plant), is a favorite medium to large, tropical shrub for Texas landscapes. You can expect this fast-growing plant to reach 4 to 8 feet tall and around 6 feet wide. It can grow in tree form in the tropics, reaching up to 20 feet tall. Caesalpinia pulcherrima can be treated as a perennial in zones 8 to 11 or throughout central and south Texas and needs sun to partial shade in order to bloom correctly. Pride of Barbados has fiery flowers starting in a rich red color at the base and turning bright yellow at the ruffled tips with long, showy red stamens. The flowers bloom from mid-summer to fall and can provide a welcome sight in the hottest days of Texas summers when many other plants look worn out. The foliage is most often deciduous and is a blue green color, contrasting nicely with the yellows and reds of the blooms.
Originally from Mexico and the Caribbean, this plant can provide that colorful, tropical look that many people long for. It does need hot weather to bloom, but if it freezes to the ground in a colder area it will regrow in the spring quite quickly. The flowers are followed by bean-looking pods of seeds that can be several inches long and contain acids that are poisonous, so be careful when using this plant in areas with kids and pets. Another aspect to be aware of is the spiny stems of the Pride of Barbados, and they should not be planted near patios and walkways. It can tolerate drought to an extent, but will bloom much better if watered deep but infrequently during the growing period. Pride of Barbados does self-sow its seeds so be sure to deadhead this plant if you wish to prevent volunteer seedlings from appearing the next season.
Caesalpinia pulcherrima ‘Phoenix’ is a Pride of Barbados variation with solid bright yellow flowers and only hardy in zones 9b to 10a (Corpus Christi and along the gulf).
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