Anacacho Orchid Tree Plant Profile

Many petalled white bloom of Anacacho orchid tree with bi-lobed green leaves.

k-weston / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

The Bauhinia genus includes a large number of types of orchid trees that are native to India and China, and are also a favorite ornamental plant in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, loved for their long season of flowers. The Bauhinia genus, named for two brothers who were sixteenth century herbalists, is named for the twin-lobed shape of their leaves. Though Caspar and John Bauhin were not actually twins, they were responsible for naming a number of genera later adopted by Linnaeus. This "tree" is really a shrub, and this particular variety at some point found its way to Mexico and southwestern parts of Texas. Its name comes from the region first noted for its proliferation as a native plant: the Upper Cretaceous limestone hills called the “Anacacho Mountains" in southern Texas.

The Anacacho orchid tree grows well in the dry, lean soil of southwestern states and is becoming increasingly popular as a landscaping plant, and is cultivated along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida. It survives well in drought and dry weather and so is a perfect specimen for xeriscape gardening. It tends to have a full, shrublike form but can be pruned and trained to look like a tree. The fragrant pink or white flowers are showy and reliable for a gorgeous spring display, and attract birds throughout the flowering season. The delicate grey-green leaves have a lobed butterfly shape and are semi-evergreen, giving the shrub an airy appearance from a distance. The bark is also an attractive grey color and looks nice in winter on the shrub's well-shaped branches. Because of its narrow range of hardiness zone, it can be somewhat brittle in harsh winter conditions and its branches may break when exposed to strong winds or extreme cold.

Botanical Name Bauhinia lunarioides
Common Name Anachacho Orchid Tree, Texasplume, pata de vaca (cow hoof)
Plant Type Deciduous shrub
Mature Size 8 to 12 feet
Sun Exposure Partial sun to partial shade
Soil Type Fast-draining, sandy, limestone
Soil pH 7.5-8.5 alkaline
Bloom Time March through May
Flower Color pink, white
Hardiness Zones 8 to 11
Native Areas India, China, Mexico
Pink flowers and bi-lobed green leaves in close up.
 Jacqueline.Ferrato / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

How to Grow Anacacho Orchid Trees

These trees flourish in native habitats with suitable growing conditions. Though they are becoming popular in garden centers in Texas, Florida and other southern states, they do need fairly specific conditions met to flourish as landscape shrubs. Plant them in spring to make sure they're well-established by the time winter comes. Choose a spot where they will be sheltered from heavy winds. Refer to the specifics on soil, water and other care factors below to ensure a healthy start for your Anacacho orchid tree. During the long bloom season, remove spent blooms to keep the shrub looking neat and to promote more flowers.

Light

Anacacho orchid trees will bloom in partial shade but prefer partial sun, and can tolerate full sun. In Zone 8, with colder winters than other zones appropriate for this shrub, planting on the southern side of a building can offer some extra protection from extreme spells of cold.

Soil

These shrubs do well in the well-draining soils of desert climates. They don't grow well in clay and prefer a sandy, lean soil. Amendments or fertilizers will actually cause these trees to grow less vigorously. In parts of Texas these shrubs flourish in rocky limestone canyons, so they're very tolerant of alkaline soil.

Water

In their native habitat, these shrubs are very drought tolerant. Thought they need little water, it's important to water Anacacho orchid trees regularly right after planting until they get established, to promote strong root growth. After the first year, keep an eye on them and if there's a prolonged period without rain, a bit of extra watering may be needed. But under normal conditions, nightly dewfall and normal rainfall should be more than adequate.

Temperature and Humidity

Anacacho orchid trees like hot desert temperatures and do just fine with low humidity. Too much exposure to cold is a danger to this shrub, especially exposure to cold winds, so choosing a suitable planting spot is key to its survival.

Propagation

These shrubs can be propagated by seeds or cuttings, but seeds are a more common way. Gardeners with established trees collect seeds in early autumn, and plant in containers indoors to grow seedlings to move outdoors the following spring.