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For The Garden

Bird of Paradise

Author: Nancy Erdmann
Issue: April, 2009, Page 136
BIRD OF PARADISE (CAESALPINIA)

Description—This feathery-leafed shrub ranges in size from a medium bush to a small tree. It produces large blossoms in yellow, red or orange that are followed by seedpods. Its protruding stamens are a marked feature. A common planting along roadways in Arizona’s lower elevations, bird of paradise is extremely hardy.

Best traits—This fast-growing plant features colorful clusters of flowers that provide ornamental appeal in the low-desert landscape. Its long bloom season runs from March to October—except cascalote (Caesalpinia cacalaco), which flowers from December to February. The sun-loving shrub thrives in the heat yet requires little to moderate watering. Its nectar-rich blossoms are favorite stopping points for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

In the gardenCaesalpinia makes an excellent accent or specimen plant in desert and tropical-themed gardens. It can be used as a backdrop for other vegetation, grown as an informal hedge, massed for drama, or trained into a small tree. It also is a good choice for hot spots or locations with reflected heat.

Photos - Clockwise from top left - Mexican bird of paradise, Cascalote, Yellow bird of paradise, Red bird of paradise

Photography by Kirti Mathura

Growing tips
• Plant in full to partial sun in well-draining soil.
• Water deeply every two weeks when flowering to prolong blooming. Otherwise, provide supplemental irrigation as needed.
• To keep soil from drying out in summer, add a layer of mulch around but not touching the plant’s base.
• If chlorosis occurs and leaves turn yellow, treat with iron chelate.
• Remove spent flower heads if desired. In winter, prune severely to promote fresh growth in spring.

Note: The seedpods are poisonous if ingested.

Recommended varieties
Cascalote (Caesalpinia cacalaco); Mexican bird of paradise (C. mexicana); red bird of paradise (C. pulcherrima); yellow bird of paradise (C. gilliesii)
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