Pride of Barbados

Photo Credit: Randy Lemmon

“RANDY!!! WHAT’S THIS FLOWER?”  I get that question in many emails, with gorgeous pictures attached, almost always during the summer months. So, I thought it was a great time to re-introduce, or maybe introduce to very new followers, this awesome summer bloomer. 

As you can see by the picture in this tip sheet, the unusual flowering plant in question can’t help but catch the average person’s eye. With vibrant colors in the flowers of yellow, orange and red — blooming atop unusual foliage that is strikingly similar to Mimosa leaves – the Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima, has definitely caught the interest of many folks lately.

This plant is also called a Dwarf Poinciana, Flamboyant Tree, Mexican Bird of Paradise and other common names.  But those are actually completely different plants.  The Royal Poinciana, Delonix regia, may work in the warmer parts of the Gulf Coast.  There are several beautiful specimens in Galveston. That’s important to note, because many people will come back from vacations in South Florida or the Caribbean and ask about the Royal Poinciana, hoping that they can plant it along the Texas Gulf Coast. It can’t even handle 40-degree temperatures, so it’s not reliable in most of our area.

Back to Pride of Barbados, here are some tips to keep it looking its best. The most important thing to remember, is that while it can work in our landscapes in Houston, they will sort of “die-back” in the winter. While they are evergreen in Central America and the West Indies, we must see them as falling somewhere between a perennial and an annual. While they almost always come back from winter damage, they can be killed to the root if freezing temperatures stay below 30-degrees for too long of a period. Ultimately, that means that on freezing nights, it is important to protect the root system with mulch at the very least.

The Pride of Barbados needs full sun to bloom correctly and prefers well-drained soil. If your area stays too wet, too long after heavy rains, the root system will probably die. Any of the slow-release blooming plant foods, such as Nelson’s Color Star will work fine. They are really good at attracting butterflies, and the seed pods are easy to propagate. So, plant the Pride of Barbados, and give yourself something that will be the envy of the neighborhood, at least during the hot summer months.