The red bird of paradise is recommended for people who want perennial desert plants (you need to plant them only once). Their botanical name is Caesalpinia pulcherrima. They're evergreen shrubs that feature bright red, orange, and yellow flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The leaves have long, pointed fronds that are reminiscent of ferns. These blooming desert beauties are extremely hardy, low care, drought-resistant, and affordable. They thrive in USDA zone 9 and are most often found in the hot and dry climates of southwestern states like Arizona and New Mexico.
|Botanical Name||Caesalpinia pulcherrima|
|Common Name||Red bird of paradise|
|Plant Type||Perennial flowering shrub|
|Mature Size||8 feet tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Any type, well drained|
|Soil pH||5.5 to 6.5|
|Bloom Time||March through October|
|Flower Color||Red and yellow|
|Hardiness Zones||9, USA|
|Native Area||United States Southwest|
How to Grow Red Bird of Paradise Plants
Red bird of paradise can be planted in spring (as long as it's after the last frost of the season), summer, and fall. It's a great plant for beginner gardeners, as it does not require much extra care beyond watering and occasional trimming.
These bright and showy shrubs can be grown as a temporary boundary between lawns or around a pool. They also provide great coverage if you want to disguise an air conditioning unit or utility gauge—or you can plant them to distract from an otherwise drab feature like a chain-link fence.
The red bird of paradise requires full sun to produce its showy display of blossoms. They will tolerate partially shaded areas but the flowers will be less prolific—maybe even non-existent.
The red bird of paradise will grow in any soil but prefers loamy, well-drained ground that retains some moisture. They're less likely to flourish when grown in clay.
While they can survive periods of drought, the red bird of paradise responds favorably to a consistent watering schedule. During the peak growing season, supplemental watering (usually once or twice a week) is advisable to keep the plant's roots and surrounding soil damp. During the dormant winter months, no additional watering is required.
Temperature and Humidity
Red bird of paradise shrubs can tolerate high summer temperatures and they do well in both humid and dry climates. When temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the shrub will begin to lose its leaves and go dormant until it warms up in the springtime.
While it's not required, most red bird of paradise plants will respond well to a 20-20-20 fertilizer, especially in the early growing stages. Additional applications may be beneficial, but they're not necessary.
Potting and Repotting
Red bird of paradise shrubs can be grown in large pots or containers. If you debug the plant by using a soap solution or another method, it's possible to bring your potted red bird of paradise plants inside during the winter months.
Propagating Red Bird of Paradise
These shrubs tend to self-sow, so if you see any surrounding seedlings, you can remove or transplant them to other areas of your yard. If you'd like to start some plants from seed, collect the pods in the fall, remove the seeds, and let them dry inside a paper bag. In the spring, plant the seeds in pots (or directly into the ground), and water them enough to keep the soil moist but not wet.
Varieties of Red Bird of Paradise
Many people refer to the red bird of paradise as the Mexican bird of paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana), but this variety displays all yellow flowers. The leaves of the Mexican bird of paradise are larger, yet they retain the same shape as the red bird of paradise. Mexican bird of paradise plants have a shorter blooming season and only flower during the springtime.
Toxicity of Red Bird of Paradise
The seeds and pods are poisonous and may cause harm if ingested, so keep them away from pets and don't let children put them in their mouths. If you suspect someone has consumed the seeds, call poison control immediately.
The red bird of paradise is a fairly fast grower, and can get large—6 to 8 feet tall—so periodic trimming is an option depending on what size you'd like your shrub. Red bird of paradise plants are often cut back in the winter since they don't tolerate frost, but they typically come back strong and healthy in the spring.
Common Pests and Diseases
When grown in its native areas, red bird of paradise is generally resistant to pests and diseases. However, it can sometimes be susceptible to powdery mildew and aphids, especially during the early stages of growth. This usually only happens if the seedlings are not given enough light or water, so with proper care, there's a low risk that your plants will become infected.