The Pride-Of-Barbados has long been a favorite for hot tropical
landscapes where it provides a fiesta of vibrant color throughout
the year. Even botanists recognized this plant’s beauty
as the word “pulcherrima” in the scientific name,
Caesalpinia pulcherrima, means very pretty. This Caribbean native
celebrates the warm summer season, hitting its stride in flowering
during the toughest part of summer when most of our color plants
are languishing in the dog-day sun. Some of the alternate common
names, such as flame tree, peacock flower, and flowering fence
hint at its showy nature.
Spectacular terminal racemes up to 20 in. long begin to appear
in spring in south Texas, during summer in central and north Texas.
Individual flowers open progressively from the base of the raceme
to the tip with the longest pedicles on the lower flowers, giving
the raceme a cone or pyramidal-shaped outline. Racemes last for
an extended time as the individual florets sequentially open up
the stem. Florets are 1½ to 2 in. wide with five showy
red to orange, occasionally yellow, petals arranged like a shallow
cup with bright red stamens extending 2 in. beyond the petals.
Cool looking waxy lima bean-shaped 3 to 6 in. long pods follow
the flowers, starting green, flushing red, and eventually turning
shiny brown. One can either enjoy the fruit development or deadhead
the spent flowers to hasten the next flush of blooms. As if the
flowers were not showy enough on their own, nature has made them
attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies which add movement
and excitement to the summer spectacle.
Even when not in bloom, the foliage of Pride-Of-Barbados is interesting,
offering soft textured very finely divided broad bipinnately compound
leaves 8 to 15 in. long. The numerous fine textured lush dark
green to blue-green leaflets contrast well with the coarse branching
pattern of its shrubby growth habit and the intricate red, orange,
and yellow flowers. Some of the select seed lines with strongly
blue-green foliage are even more handsome than the species type.
Growth habits and uses vary by region of the state. Pride-Of-Barbados
is sometimes planted as a barrier hedge as some of the older stems
develop stiff prickles, hence its use in the tropics as a showy
natural fence. Along the Gulf Coast and in south Texas, Pride-Of-Barbados
can be used as a semi-evergreen hedge or limbed up as a small
tree. A bit further north in El Paso, Austin, College Station,
and Houston it may serve as a herbaceous perennial returning from
the roots after mild winters. For the rest of the state it makes
an outstanding annual summer accent, providing flowers during
the hottest part of the year. Pride-Of-Barbados makes a great
summer replacement for transition season plantings or can add
spicy colors to mixed or single species patio or dooryard pots.
Culture is easy as all one needs is a sunny spot with about any
well drained soil. For nurserymen, the key to good growth is to
start plants as soon as possible in a warm greenhouse as plants
grow rapidly, but languish in cool temperatures. Also, avoid over-watering
to reduce the potential for root rots.
Regardless of your location in the state, Pride-Of-Barbados will
make your list of summer favorites as one of the most spectacular
of the Texas Superstar™ promotions. For a total listing
of Texas SuperStars, see: http://www.plantanswers.com/superstar_listing.htm
Prepared by Michael Arnold, 6/3/07
“Pride of Barbados”
A Great Heat Loving Plant and Future Texas SuperStar
Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima is a member of the
pea family (Fabaceae). It is referred to by other names including
Barbados Flowerfence, Peacock Flower, Mexican Bird of Paradise,
Dwarf Flamboyan, Caesalpinia, and Dwarf Poinciana. The species
name pulcherrima literally means "very pretty" and this
plant definitely lives up to the name. The blooms of Pride of
Barbados are incredible with terminal flower clusters showing
an orange-red with a tinge of gold on the edges. Each flower is
composed of five showy petals with very prominent six inch long
red stamens. This makes the Pride of Barbados one of the most
attractive heat loving plants for San Antonio!
Pride of Barbados is an evergreen shrub or small tree in frost
free climates, a deciduous shrub in zone 9, and a returning perennial
in zone 8. In the tropics it gets 15-20' tall and its ungainly,
wide spreading branches can cover about the same width. The cultivation
of Pride of Barbados in San Antonio is usually a semi-dwarfed
hardy perennial shrub to a typical size of 5-8' tall and growing
that large even after freezing to the ground the previous winter.
The stem, branches and petioles are armed with sharp spines and
the leaves are fernlike and twice compound, with many small, oval
leaflets. Pride of Barbados flower lives up to its name with incredibly
showy blossoms of orange and red. The flowers are bowl shaped,
2-3" across, with five crinkled, unequal red and orange petals,
and ten prominent bright red stamens that extend way beyond the
corolla. The flowers are borne in terminal clusters 8-10"
tall throughout most of the year in tropical climates and in late
summer and fall where frosts occur. There also are forms with
yellow and forms with dark red flowers. The fruits, typical legumes,
are flat, 3-4" long, and when ripe they split open noisily
to expose the little brown beans.
Pride of Barbados is believed to be native to the West Indies
and tropical America. It is widely cultivated and has escaped
cultivation and become established in tropical regions throughout
the world, including South Florida. The selection of Pride of
Barbados that we desire here in San Antonio is a smaller dwarf
compact selection named Dwarf Poinciana, Pride of Barbados. Local
collaboration of regional propagation sources will be increasing
adequate numbers of available plant material in the next two years.
Once suitable numbers become available, the Pride of Barbados
selection of the Dwarf Poinciana plant will be officially release
in the spring of 2008 as a Texas SuperStar plant. It obviously
meets all the criteria of a Texas SuperStar Plant.
Pride of Barbados is very easy to grow in alkaline to acidic,
well-drained soils. This is a fast growing, but short lived plant.
It is moderately tolerant of salty conditions. Pride of Barbados
flowers benefit from pruning, and can be shaped to tree form or
shrubby bush form. These plants prefer full sun to partial shade.
Pride of Barbados flowers bloom best in full sun. Also, Pride
of Barbados is considered drought tolerant once established.
Within the USDA Zones of 8 – 11, Pride of Barbados dies
to the ground following frost or freezing temperatures, but in
zone 8B, at least, it comes back reliable, albeit late, in middle
spring. Don't give up on it! Pride of Barbados has survived temperatures
as low as 18 F. It can be grown as an annual in colder climates.
Even under frost free conditions, Pride of Barbados may lose its
leaves when temperatures drop into the 40's. Pride of Barbados
is easy to start from seeds. Germination will be speeded up if
the seeds are nicked with a file before planting. Under good growing
conditions, Pride of Barbados will self sow and may even become
The striking orange red flowers are an attention grabber and
butterflies love them! Use Pride of Barbados as a specimen or
in a mixed shrub border. It has an open, spreading habit and the
branches sometimes get too long for their own good and break off.
Still, a row of Pride of Barbados makes a showy, fine-textured
screen or informal hedge. You can cut Pride of Barbados to the
ground in late winter or early spring to get a bushier, more compact
There are some 70 species of Caesalpinia in tropical regions
worldwide. They were formerly placed in the genus Poinciana, but
that genus name is no longer used. We all can't grow the tropical,
Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia), considered to be the most beautiful
tree in the world, but for gardeners in zones 8 and 9, the selection
of Pride of Barbados (a.k.a. Dwarf Poinciana) is a close second
and for sure a number one future Texas SuperStar winner here for
Prepared by David Rodriguez, Bexar County Cooperative Extension
QUESTIONS RECEIVED BY PLANTanswers.com
Question: What is the difference in the Pride of Barbados and
Mexican Bird of Paradise? All pictures that I can find look like
they are the same plant and flower.
Answer: The Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) is a small
shrub with red and orange flowers like those shown at
The Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) is a larger
shrub with yellow flowers like those shown at http://www.magnoliagardensnursery.com/productdescrip/Caesal_Mex.html.
The problem comes because many refer to the C. pulcherrima as
the Red Mexican Bird of Paradise.
Question: I have two Pride of Barbados plants in my yard. Nearly
everything else in the garden has leafed or budded out, but not
the "Prides." Should they have by now?
Answer: The Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) is slow
to return. Yours may or may not have frozen to the ground. If
so you can go ahead and cut it back, and it should return from
its roots. If, however, the stem is still green when you scratch
the bark, just be patient.
Question: There are lots of seed pods on my Pride of Barbados.
Can I use these to propagate new plants and if so, how? Should
they be removed from the plants?
Answer: Yes you can grow plants from the seed. For the Pride of
Barbados, you pick the seed pods from the plant and put them in
a brown paper sack and put them in the garage or some such place
to let them dry. They will pop open and spill their seed. You
can plant them either in containers or in the ground where you
want them to grow about ½ inch deep in moist soil. Keep
soil moist but do not saturate.
Question: I have a mature Pride of Barbados and would like to
know if I should cut the stalks back to the ground in winter and
at what point. i.e. after flowering, loss of leaves, etc
Answer: I recommend that you wait until after the first freeze
and then cut the Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) back
to the ground. If it doesn't freeze then cut it back to about
6 inches in mid February.
Question: Will deer eat Pride of Barbados?
Answer: At: http://www.plantanswers.com/radio_subject_matter.htm
under the heading of: #36: Deer and Pride of Barbados
Question: I recently bought a Pride of Barbados Tree. I had tried
to grow it from seed, no luck. My question is: In my area of Northeast
Texas (near Tyler), should I put it in a container and bring it
in in the winter or plant it in the grown and leave it. And should
it be in full sun. I have wanted this plant for a long time and
want to give it the best care.
Answer: To be sure that it will survive the winter I recommend
that you keep it in a container. It should be fine for several
years in a container about the size of a 5 gallon black nursery
container. It will bloom best in full sun but will do quite well
with morning sun. You should bring it into a protected location
when freezing temperatures are forecast.
Question: I have been working on getting Caesalpina liners to
sell for next spring. The variety that I thought was the smaller,
early summer blooming variety was the 'pulcherrima'. This week
though I saw some that the grower had bought seed marked pulcherrima
that grew 7 feet tall and didn't bloom until early Fall. What
can you tell me on this?
Answer: I checked with Greg Grant about this and his response
C. pulcherrima (Pride of Barbados, Red Bird of Paradise, Dwarf
Poinciana) is the showy one we grew at Lone Star Growers in San
Antonio, you tested acid scarification on at Petersons, and I
had in my yard in San Antonio (Seale Rd...). Showy BRIGHT red/orange/yellow
flowers. It can get seven feet tall but I have never seen it.
Wait until fall to bloom. The more heat the faster the bloom.
If frozen back, it will be slower to bloom.
C. gilliesii (Bird of Paradise) is the more hardy, more woody,
yellow (with a touch of coral pink in it) species. It could also
get seven feet but usually blooms before fall as well but is usually
a smaller plant than the other. Less showy, but more cold hardy.
AS FAR AS "the grower who bought seed marked pulcherrima
that grew 7 feet tall and didn't bloom until early Fall,"
either the grower got mislabelled seed or planted the seed in
late spring. Most of the plants sold in the summer are seeded
in January or February.
Question: Does Pride of Barbados attract hummingbirds?
Answer: It is listed at: http://www.plantanswers.com/hummingbird_plants.htm
as a hummingbird attractor. Calvin Finch writes: Poinciana, also
known as Pride of Barbados, is even more popular with butterflies
and hummingbirds than ‘Gold Star’ esperanza. It has
an airy, open growth pattern and glow-in-the-dark orange-red and
yellow blooms. Like Yellow Bells, poinciana blooms without summer
irrigation. The plant is not a favorite deer food but they will
eat it to the ground in some situations.
Calvin Finch also writes: Nothing makes a better show than poinciana
and ‘Gold Star’ esperanza planted together. The poinciana
(Pride of Barbados) freezes back every year and typically also
reaches about 6 feet tall every summer. Its flowers are glow-in-the-dark
orange. The butterflies and hummingbirds like poinciana and, unfortunately,
so do the deer.