Calliandra eriophylla plants, also known as fairy dusters, are native to the deserts and grasslands of the western United States and Mexico. These shrubs offer evergreen, bipinnate, gray-green foliage similar to that of a fern. Their blooms are the star of the show and are unique, feathery, pink balls that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and a wide array of other desert bird species. After flowering, the fairy duster produces long, bean-like pods that attract quail and other wildlife.
Though these desert plants produce delicate-looking blooms, they are quite hardy. Their dense root structures make them ideal candidates for erosion control.
|Common Name||Fairy duster, false mesquite|
|Botanical Name||Calliandra eriophylla|
|Plant Type||Perennial, shrub|
|Mature Size||one to three feet tall, one to three feet wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||6.0 to 8.0|
|Hardiness Zones||7-11, USDA|
|Native Area||California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico|
Calliandra eriophylla Care
The fairy duster is easy to care for and does not demand much attention. With plenty of sunshine, heat, and a bit of water, these unique plants will thrive in dry desert areas. In their native habitat, they are often found on dry slopes and mesas.
Their hardy nature makes them perfect for desert and rock gardens. They are rarely bothered by pests or disease, but deer and other wildlife love to nibble on these plants.
Like most desert plants, the Calliandra eriophylla does best in bright sunshine. Plant these shrubs in full sun for the best results.
The fairy duster enjoys well-draining, sandy, gravelly soil. Soil that retains too much moisture can be detrimental to these plants.
Calliandra eriophylla has low watering needs. Although they are acclimated to desert areas, they are often found where underground water can be accessed. So keep in mind that this desert plant plant will need more water than some other varieties of drought-tolerant plants.
Water these plants about once a week during the growing season. Allow the soil to dry between waterings. Once established, these plants are better equipped to deal with dry spells. However, extreme droughts can cause these plants to drop their leaves.
Temperature and Humidity
Equipped to withstand the harsh climate of the desert, the fairy duster is tolerant of heat, cold, and drought. These hardy plants can even survive seasonal flooding.
Fertilizing in the late winter or early spring just as the fairy duster begins to bloom will give this plant the food and energy it needs to produce its famous flowers. Use a well-balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10.
Light pruning keeps the fairy duster clean and lush, though pruning is not necessary. To maintain the shrub's shape and encourage thicker growth in the middle of the plant, remove the tips of the branches during its growing season.
How to Grow Fairy Dusters From Seed
The blossoms of fairy dusters produce flat seed pods. To grow fairy dusters from seed, follow these steps:
- You have to soak fairy duster seeds to soften their thick hull in order for them to germinate. Boil a kettle of water, wait for the water to cool slightly (just below boiling), then pour the water into a bowl with the seeds.
- Soak the seeds for 24 hours or until the seeds become plump. Keep the seeds moist until you're ready to sow them.
- Sow the seeds in well-draining, sandy soil about 1/4 inch deep.
- Keep the seeds in a warm area with filtered light. Temperatures should stay above 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Moisten the soil, then allow it to dry out. Keep it dry for a day, then water again. Repeat this process.
- Germination should happen in four to six weeks. Once seedlings appear, move them to a sunny area and water them when the soil dries out.
- Once the seedlings are several inches tall and have healthy, mature foliage, move them to a sunny, well-draining area in the garden planted three to four feet apart.
When grown in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 11, not much additional care is required to overwinter the fairy duster. Cut back on watering, giving water every month or two during the cold season. The fairy duster might lose its leaves during times of very cold temperatures, but new leaves should grow in the spring.
How to Get Calliandra eriophylla to Bloom
Fairy duster blooms are best known for their long, colorful stamens which give the flower a feathery appearance. They bloom in an array of pink shades, measure about two inches in length; they are not fragrant.
Typically, these feathery blooms appear every year from late winter into late spring but can appear sporadically in the summer or fall. For the most abundant display, be sure to plant them in a location that receives full sun, six to eight hours per day. Though they can live in partial shade, they will not flower as abundantly.
Common Problems With Calliandra eriophylla
The fairy duster is a very hardy desert plant and often thrives on neglect. But even very hardy plants can sometimes run into problems.
One problem often seen with fairy duster plants is leaf discoloration, specifically yellowing leaves. This is most often caused by overwatering or because the plant is exposed to standing water. If this occurs, cut back on your watering schedule and allow the soil to dry out before watering again.
Do hummingbirds like fairy duster plants?
Yes, the feathery blooms of fairy dusters are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. The seed pods will also attract quail and other wildlife.
How big will fairy duster plants grow?
The fairy duster can range anywhere from one to three feet tall by one to three feet wide. Plants grown in partial shade often grow taller than those grown in full sun.