It may seem odd to refer to colorful flowers as friends, but that is what I think of the blooms of my red bird-of paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) shrubs.

They are located beneath my kitchen window and this time of year, the blooms have just begun to reach up to the window.  What is even better is that the first blooms of the season are just beginning to open.

 
The bright yellow, orange and red flowers brighten up my day as I work in the kitchen.
 
Many visitors and new residents ask me about this beautiful shrub.  It really is stunning in the summer landscape.
Native to tropical America, Red Bird-of-Paradise is grown throughout southern areas of the United States, the Caribbean and has been brought to India and the Philippines.  It thrives in areas with heat and sun.
 
Depending on where you live, this is one shrub that has a multitude of common names….
 
Pride of Barbados
Dwarf Poinciana
Red Bird-of-Paradise
Mexican Bird-of-Paradise
Peacock Flower
 
In areas with warm winters, this shrub is evergreen.  However, during the winter in my zone 8b garden, my shrubs go dormant and are cut back to 1ft. from the ground.  This may seem somewhat like severe pruning when it is done each year, but it ensures beautiful shrubs in late spring.  Cold hardy to zone 8a, they can be killed to the ground when temperatures fall into the teens.
 The foliage is also quite beautiful and grows back very quickly in the spring after pruning.
 
Butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to the beautiful flowers.  I have seen some shrubs absolutely covered with butterflies in September.
 
 
 Plant in full sun or filtered shade.  Shrubs planted in the shade will have reduced flowering and sparser foliage and so I recommend planting in full sun.
 
Their size varies from 3 ft. by 3 ft. all the way to 10 ft. to 10 ft., so make sure you have room for it to grow.  In desert gardens, they do require regular irrigation.  
 
I have planted many of these shrubs in both commercial and residential landscapes with great results.  They are not fussy in the least.  My shrubs are now 11 years old and have never been fertilized or the soil amended.
 
There is another variety is called ‘Phoenix Bird’, which has distinct yellow flowers (not to be confused with Caesalpinia mexicana).  I used this variety when I designed the landscape for my in-laws.
 
 
 Whatever you decide to call this beautiful shrub, it is just perfect for me…..it is beautiful and does not require a lot of work to make it look that way.
 
 
 I am so happy that my summer friends have returned 🙂
 
 
Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

29 replies
  1. Patchwork
    Patchwork says:

    I love this plant.

    We got one last year, and the deer ate all the flowers on it. Then, our unusually cold winter finished it off.

    I need to find a place for another one.

    The yellow is pretty, too.

    Reply
  2. danger garden
    danger garden says:

    I have a friend who refers to all my plants as "your plant friends"…I like it! I also really like this plant. My brother in Phoenix has a couple in his garden and they are really stellar performers.

    Reply
  3. Meredith
    Meredith says:

    I can see why you'd call them friends, Noelle. They are such gorgeous, sunny presences. Wow, they pack some punch in a landscape; don't they? I imagine doing dishes while staring out your kitchen window is about to get a whole lot more interesting. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    Yes, they're wonderful friends, aren't they? Absolutely gorgeous! I need some! The red bird (probably called the dwarf poinciana in my area) has officially been added to my wish list!

    Reply
  5. Kathleen Scott
    Kathleen Scott says:

    We faced the east side of the house with these, alternating some clumps of bamboo muhly and three anacacho orchid trees. That area is a contast buzz of activity in summer as swallowtail butterflies and hummingbirds rocket through the blooms.

    Nice to see your blooms. My plants are in their first growth spurt, and I'm grateful to see that after a winter with temps in the teens more than once. Won't have blooms for a month, maybe.

    Reply
  6. Curbstone Valley Farm
    Curbstone Valley Farm says:

    I've never seen these shrubs before, but they are stunning attention-getters! I think if I were a butterfly or hummingbird, I'd have to be blind not to go straight for it. I can see why you love them so much.

    Reply
  7. Floridagirl
    Floridagirl says:

    Those colorful shrubs would brighten up any day. So beautiful to see them showcased specimen-style. Normally, I see them crowded in with other plants. I've always called them dwarf poinciana. The red bird of paradise name is too confusing to me because strelitzias are common here as well. Beautiful photos!

    Reply
  8. Rose
    Rose says:

    What a gorgeous shrub! This gives new meaning to the term "hot colors":) I can see why the hummingbirds and butterflies would love this plant.

    Reply
  9. NellJean
    NellJean says:

    Wonderful to see blossoms. Mine are two feet tall and growing. A seedling is up to about 6 inches. I'm crazy about this plant and grow it with Tecoma stans. We call it Pride of Barbados. Butterflies are impressed by it, too.

    Reply
  10. Carol
    Carol says:

    Oh, I agree Noelle. Our plants and trees are our friends. What a beautiful shrub!! What a gift for your other friends the butterflies and hummingbirds. ;>)

    Reply
  11. Katrina
    Katrina says:

    I just moved to AZ, and thanks to this blog (found via google search) I now know what this beautiful flowering bush is called! I absolutely love it. I love in SE AZ and thought it was dead when we moved in because it was just sticks. Thankfully, I didnt pull it out! I want to plant more now in my backyard (we're still landscaping). Thanks for the blog!

    Reply
  12. Nancy Ely
    Nancy Ely says:

    I live in Oakland (northern), CA and have been trying to grow this beautiful plant in my garden for the last 4 years. I first encountered it during a trip to Scottsdale, and I brought home a fairly good-sized one (bought from. nursery) in my car. It lost all its leaves in the winter and has not ever really recovered. Last year I bought another, larger plant at the Ruth Bancroft Garden’s plant sale, and at this point, it has only 5 or 6 branches with leaves — no flowers and mostly a stick-like appearance. What am I doing wrong with this “indestructible” plnt?

    Reply
    • arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
      arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

      Hello Nancy,

      I apologize for my late reply. Caesalpinia pulcherrima will lose its leaves in winter as it is deciduous. Prune it back to 1 1/2 feet tall and wide in late winter. To become lush and bloom, they need full sun all day – especially in northern California where the sun isn’t as intense as in the Southwest. I hope that this helps!

      Reply

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