How to Grow Fairy Dusters

Easy Plants for Desert Landscaping

Fairy duster desert plant with red flower ball and buds

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

The fairy duster is one of several desert plants that are perfect for people who want desert shrubs or bushes that are perennial, hardy, relatively drought resistant, easy to find, inexpensive, and provide lovely color many times during the year. It is well-suited for the lower desert's plant zone.

Calliandra eriophylla is a low-spreading, evergreen shrub that's native to the desert. Their round, furry blooms look like feathery pom-poms, in shades of pink, red, white, and cream, and they bloom year-round. They can grow up to 5-feet tall and 3-feet wide. They are moderately slow-growers, The best time to plant would be in the fall or spring.

Botanical Name Calliandra eriophylla 
Common Name Fairy duster, false mesquite, hairy-leaved Calliandra, pink mimosa, stickpea, pink-flowered acacia
Plant Type Evergreen shrub
Mature Size 1-5 ft. tall, 3-ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full-sun
Soil Type Fast-draining
Soil pH Acid, alkaline, neutral
Bloom Time Late spring through early fall
Flower Color Red, pink, white, cream
Hardiness Zones 9a-11 (USDA)
Native Area California, Arizona, and Baja, Mexico
Toxicity Non-toxic to humans and pets

Fairy Duster Care

Fairy dusters are a fun and whimsical plant for your arid, hot, sunny garden. They're also super easy plants to care for. And if you want to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other desert birds to your garden, the fairy duster is a great choice—it attracts pollinators because it supplies nectar. And if you add a birdbath nearby, you'll get feathered friends stopping by for a visit.

Light

The fairy duster is an evergreen shrub that loves to soak up the sun. It won't do as well in shade or partial shade, as it needs a minimum of eight hours a day of direct sun.

Soil

Calliandra eriophylla does well in almost any soil, so long as it's well-draining. You can amend your own soil to meet the needs of this colorful shrub.

Water

Fairy dusters require very little water, and they're drought resistant. If their leaves start to get spotty, that's a sign you've been watering too much.

Temperature and Humidity

Fairy dusters love heat and thrive in full sun. The hotter the better: that should be the motto for this spectacular plant.

Fertilizer

Feed your fairy duster in late spring or early summer: It needs just the right nutrients to create its fancy blooms. You can use either an 8-8-8 or a 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Fairy Duster Varieties

  • 'Calliandra eriophylla': boats fluffy, pink blooms and may rebloom in autumn
  • 'Calliandra penninsularis': shows off red, spiky flowers and dark green leaves
  • 'Calliandra californica': offers red flowers that attract hummingbirds

Pruning

The fairy duster requires minimal pruning, and only if you want to keep them shaped a certain way. These plants are really hands-off and thrive when you leave them alone and only prune away dead leaves and branches.

How to Grow Fairy Dusters From Seed

Fairy duster is super easy to grow by seed. To do so, soak fairy duster seeds in boiled (but no longer scalding) clean water for 24 hours until they start to swell. Wrap seeds in a moist paper towel or cloth and keep them damp. Prepare a well-draining potting mix, with sand and perlite mixed in. Place seeds, no more than two in a pot, about 1/4-inch below to soil surface. Keep the soil very lightly moist, and occasionally let it dry out. Germination should happen in 20 to 45 days. Once this happens, move the pot to a sunny location and keep the top of the soil damp till it's time to plant your seedlings in a bright, sunny spot in your garden, spaced 2 1/2 to 4-feet apart.

Potting and Repotting Fairy Duster

Calliandra eriophylla does well in containers, so long as the potting medium is very well-draining and the shrubs never get waterlogged. You can add some sand or perlite to the soil, to make sure it's an optimal environment for growing.

Overwintering

Fairy dusters thrive in desert conditions, though may survive the occasional frost. Even so, these are hot-weather plants. If yours are in containers, and you live outside the recommended hardiness zones for the Calliandra eriophylla, you can bring your plants inside to a semi-heated garage in the wintertime. Just lift pots off the ground, so they don't get affected by the cold floor.

 

Fairy duster desert plant with two red fluffy flower balls

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Fairy duster desert plant with red fluffy flower ball and buds in leaves

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Fairy duster desert plant with red buds growing from branch

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Fairy duster desert plant with red fluffy flower ball and buds closeup

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy