The Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia blakeana) is an evergreen tropical tree that makes for an excellent specimen tree when in bloom. The large scented pink-purple blossoms blanket the tree when they appear during summer, fall, and winter.
This tree was named as the floral emblem of Hong Kong and can be found on the coins, flag, and coat of arms there.
The botanical name is written as either Bauhinia blakeana, Bauhinia 'Blakeana,' or Bauhinia x blakeana. The x in the last version lets you know that this is the result of hybridization. In this case, the trees crossed were the butterfly tree (Bauhinia purpurea) and mountain ebony (Bauhinia variegata). The species name of blakeana is in honor of Sir Henry Blake, a British Governor of Hong Kong who enjoyed studying botany. Though the flowers are like those of orchids, the latter belongs to the Orchidaceae family. This tree belongs to the Fabaceae (or the pea) family.
The common names used for this tree are Hong Kong orchid tree, bauhinia, and Hong Kong orchid.
Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones
Bauhinia blakeana can be grown in zones 9 to 11. The common name of Hong Kong orchid tree reveals its origins, so conditions similar to that of Hong Kong are ideal.
Size and Shape
The tree will reach 20 to 40 feet tall and 25 to 40 feet wide, resulting in a round shape.
You can plant Bauhinia blakeana in a location that receives full sun to part shade, but optimal growth will occur in full sun.
Foliage, Flowers, and Fruit
The leaves resemble a butterfly in their shape. They are somewhat cordate in shape except for the large cleft that forms at the tips. The most noteworthy characteristic of this plant is its flowers. They are a rich shade of purple-pink, fragrant, and can be up to 6 inches across. This sterile tree produces no fruit.
The Hong Kong orchid tree is an excellent choice for sites that have dry soil or require drought tolerance and also grows well in acidic soils. Since this tree is a sterile hybrid, you will not have to worry about litter from fallen fruit.
Since this is a hybrid, you will have to use methods like cuttings, air layering, and grafts to propagate the Hong Kong orchid tree.
The Hong Kong orchid tree should regularly be pruned in the winter when it is young to help create a stronger structure. The branches can be brittle and may break off on their own, however.
- Leaf scorch
- Leaf spot
Gilman, Edward F. and Dennis G. Watson. "Bauhinia blakeana: Hong Kong Orchid Tree." Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, University of Florida.